Starting the Font Design Journey: Victoria Neue

Isabelle Cordova is a sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute pursuing a custom major in User Experience Design.

Elaine Chen is also a sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, majoring in Computer Science and Professional Writing.


For a Visual Rhetoric course at WPI, Elaine and I were commissioned to produce an original font family for an upcoming interactive children’s book, Athena at Night. If our typeface is selected, we’ll get to see our work printed in a real book! 

Athena at Night is a pop-up book that follows a princess escaping from a castle. The main character, Athena, is described as being confident, curious, and hopeful, while the hand-drawn illustrations of the book are playful and relaxed. In designing our typeface, we hope to capture the whimsicality of Athena and the Steampunk-inspired illustrations.

Preliminary Research

The development of typeface and fonts stem from the perspective of how a reader views the words and the meaning behind them. While fonts should not distract from the words meaning and merely assist an individual’s understanding of a writer’s message, typefaces are used to create proper branding and form feelings that intertwine with intended themes. These ideas and arguments are supported through our class readings of Meghan Benton and Paul Gutjahr’s chapter Reading the Invisible in the book Illuminating Letters: Typography and Literary Interpretation. This chapter discusses the purpose of typography and how it is intertwined with how a reader interprets text.

The theme of Athena at Night has elements of Steampunk, independance, and the use of materials. Therefore, for our research we have found ideas revolving these elements and incorporated them into the development of our typeface.

Elements of Steam Punk

  • Growing technology of mechanical devices/steampower
  • Clockwork/mechanical devices
  • Victorian influences
  • Industrial/Retro design motifs 
  • Science fiction that incorporates technology and designs for the 19th century

Emerging Technologies of Mechanical Devices and Steampower

The steampunk aesthetic is heavily influenced by imagery of steam powered machines and other novel technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Associated with a new age of innovation and mass production, objects such as gears, piping, and clock mechanisms are all common features of the steampunk look.

Victorian and Industrial Influences

Designs of the Victorian Era consisted of elaborate and ornate visual features such as intricate line designs. Our type design could be inspired by these influences while still being legible and not overly-detailed.

Our font could contain characteristic of bold lettering, a slight amount of cursive, but still maintain an even amount of spacing and legibility that will hold a loose influence off of the Victorian Era. The Industrial and retroactive influences are also maintained by keeping a simplicity that enhances the elaborated ideas incorporated into the font.

Nineteenth Century Science Fiction

While science fiction has a broad range of ideas and themes, it is loosely used here through the development of our font. Steampunk has elements of development and industrialism that are present in various science fiction works, and specifically relates to Athena at Night due to her ability to use her intelligence and quick thinking to help her throughout the story. Science fiction consists of mystical objects and the make believe, which we hope to entail a sense of magic in readers, while also being aware of the intelligence and bright thinking that will be occurring throughout the story.


Working from the client’s concept, we were able to extract key elements of the tinker/steampunk aesthetic that we think could compliment the story and illustrations of Athena at Night. Upon synthesizing our research we brainstormed some distinct qualities that our font could feature:

  • Decorative elements inspired by ornate victorian advertisements, but simplified enough to be streamlined
  • Vintage serif
  • Bold lettering with complimentary characteristics
  • Grand curves and edges
  • Elements of Victorian type design consisting of various stroke sizes

Because our concept is rooted in Victorian aesthetics but with a simplified take, our tentative title for our font is Victoria Neue.


Below is a list of sources used in our preliminary research that support our arguments:

  1. Thank you for your thoughts, Andrew! We decided to stick with the color scheme of our original infographic, and the…

  2. Thank you so much Nicole! We’re glad you like the cones as we found them to add a more three-dimensional…

10 thoughts on “Starting the Font Design Journey: Victoria Neue

  1. Elaine and Isabelle,
    I really believe it will be useful to your final project to use all of these influencing factors( Victorian Era, 19th century, Steampunk theme), and i think explaining how they may influence your approach to the project has been very useful in understanding the entirety of the assignment. You have a done a great job of explain how you interpret each of these components and how it may be valuable.
    the conclusion paragraph very well summarized how these factors have been considered and how they could collectively and specifically contribute to your final project.

    This initial blog post was very well constructed, it doesn’t drag on, or feel like you are trying to fill a content requirement… instead you used a sufficient amount of data and interpretations from many sources to create a broad base to work as the blog, and your project niche narrows.

    If i were to make any adjustments to this initial post, i would considering adding some more visual components; it can powerfully explain or demonstrate how you have been inspired. using images can allow your to break up large portions of text, allowing the reader to understand a more complex idea in a different way; for example… someone not too familiar with the theme of steampunk could much easier understand the concept by seeing a visual representation and then reading your explanation of it… also i believe professor DeWinter asked us not to use personal pronouns such as I or we, be weary of using phrases such as ” __PARTNERS NAME __ and I” for this reason. Overall i think this post is an excellent foundation for the project and i look forward to reading updates!!

    -Edward N Hay


  2. I really liked how you guys went it depth with the ideas for your font. I think researching the Victorian era was a good idea because it broadened the creativity and direction you guys could go with this font. In the future, more images on your ideas for the font could add extra clarity.


  3. I really liked how you guys incorporated research on the Victorian theme because I think that could really broaden the horizon for creativity. The set up of you leaving blog was also really clear and I see a lot of potential In the design style you guys came up with. The only thing is that maybe some images would have made your vision more clear


  4. I liked how you analyzed the theme and meaning of the book to have it influence your font. Keeping in mind the target audience was also a good idea because little kids would not be able to read complicated fonts. By having multiple themes to work off of your font could take many different paths that all encapsulate the overall theme of the book.


  5. I like how you connected the readings to explain your initial thought process on the font design. I also think it was very helpful that you not only stated the themes you wanted to pursue, but explained what they meant as well. In future posts, I think it would be helpful to have some images of what Victorian era/steampunk styles look like, but they were very well explained. I am looking forward to seeing Victoria Neue!


  6. One thing that I appreciate about your blog is how thorough your research is with possible themes for your font to explore. Most blogs only really explore the theme that they’re exploring and might reference other themes very briefly. With how much you’ve thought about the prompt and possible paths to make, I’m sure that your font will be well developed. The only thing that I’d change about the post is that I’d include some pictures to show the reader the themes you’re exploring. While you do do a good job of describing each theme, I feel as though including visuals would elevate your reader’s understanding of your thought process.


  7. I like the amount of research and time you put into understanding steampunk and the Victorian Era and I think that shows in your font. I love the detail you font contains and how it connects to the theme of the popup book!


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