|Condensed Typeface Design Program
The Condensed Typeface Design Program at the Cooper Union is a five-week-long studio course that at first glance, simply teaches the basics and traditions of typeface design. In reality, it was an amazing and intense summer spent with passionate people immersed in the world of type. During the 12-hour days (with breaks!) we studied type history, calligraphy, different drawing techniques, and learned the process of designing and digitizing a font. Most of the program time was spent on a final project in which each of us created an industry-standard OpenType font.
This year we were split into two groups, each taught by renowned typeface designers. Group 1 was with Just van Rossum and Hannes Famira; group 2 with Jean François Porchez and Stéphane Elbaz. Sumner Stone was on hand with his expertise and knowledge of design history, as were other visiting designers and lecturers who rounded off the course. As a student it was incredibly enriching to be around these luminaries, and the diversity of our peers only enhanced the experience. The 29 students represented 16 different countries; most being graphic designers, and all sharing a passion for typography. Some of us came with the intention of becoming typeface designers, while others wanted to better understand type to become better designers. Experience levels were across the board: some had never drawn letters before, while others had published multi-weight typefaces.
The Final Project
How We Got There
Sketching & Exploring
We were taught to approach a typeface design by first experimenting, drawing by hand, searching for the right forms, and only then, when the design is cohesive and consistent, go to the computer. Instructors showed us Gerrit Noordzij’s approach to sketching letters, a method more efficient than drawing outlines first, as the focus is more on form and contrast from the outset.
Critiques & Lectures
Library Visits & Type History Talks
The energy and dynamic of the people involved (students as well as instructors) was really inspiring, and we were all incredibly sad to see the course come to a close. While five weeks is not enough time to learn everything about type design, this course makes the most of that time and does a great job of jumpstarting things. Anyone looking to enhance their graphic design knowledge or get into the world of typeface design would definitely benefit from this course. The program is now in its second year and is still evolving, so we guess it will only get even better.
|Space: The Initial Frontier
I have long admired Cyrus Highsmith, both for his type design (Benton Sans, Prensa, Zócalo, & many besides) and his wonderfully unique style of illustration and lettering. In his debut book, Inside Paragraphs: typographic fundamentals, he brings both of these talents to bear on a single topic, the paragraph. The book might alternatively have been titled ‘Space: the initial frontier’ for its principal focus is what goes on inside — not a book, not a page, but — a single paragraph of text — and as what goes on inside is mostly space, white space, or negative space, it is the ideal starting point for an introduction to the craft of setting type, to typography.
Usually I dislike books that are wider than they are tall. I find them uncomfortable to hold for extended periods of reading. However, Inside Paragraphs works despite its backwards proportions: it is light and perfect bound, happily folding back on itself for single-handed reading.
The typography is simple and precise: Ibis Text plus Scout (both by Highsmith), generous margins, white space aplenty, beautiful and practical illustrations. The writing is informal, incisive, and fluid; the tone never condescending. Inside Paragraphs is a TARDIS of a book, its 100 pages peppered with gems like,
phrases like ‘hierarchy of white space’, plus practical advice about everything from optimal and optimum parameters for H&J, and why all-caps settings require more space.
Too often introductory texts fail the reader by trying to cover too many topics superficially — like a whistle-stop tour of some great city, where you’ll be sure to see all the sites, but learn little of any substance about them. Highsmith might easily have expanded each section by tens of pages, but the book is all the better for its brevity and his abstemiousness.
To write more about this book would demand spoiler alerts, so I will wrap it up here in, appropriately enough, a single paragraph:
Inside Paragraphs should be required reading for everyone who studies typography and graphic design. It will also be of interest to anyone else wondering why typography matters. It costs about three Venti Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mochas ($ 15). Buy it.
|The Week in Type
It has been a while since my last roundup, so buckle up. For those interested, I recently moved 4322.8 km (2686.06 miles) from my home in Japan to my new home in Vietnam. After nine wonderful years in Japan, it was time to move on. The other day I read an interview with my friend and too-infrequent chess partner, Oliver Reichenstein, who pretty much describes my own feelings on reaching Japan.
I felt the very same way coming to Japan, and feel the same kind of naive wonder as an ‘illiterate’ newcomer to Vietnam. That’s quite enough about me; let’s move on to more important matters:
Rather than wear your heart on your sleeve, why not wear some of these — wherever:
See all of the ‘typographic’ Tattly.
An enormous and beautiful collection of Viennese Façades:
Idlewild, a new all-caps sans from H&FJ:
TypeManufactur’s wonderful revival of Georg Salden’s Daphne typeface of the same name:
Replete with numerous alternate glyphs and calligraphic swashes. Related: An interview with Georg Salden over at Typeradio.
Atlas Grotesk by Kai Bernau, Susana Carvalho, and Christian Schwartz of Commercial Type:
The delicious Filmotype Zephyr from Ale Paul:
Really enjoyed Stephen Coles’s Chromeography talk for Creative Mornings:
And be sure to visit chromeography.com
Celebrating 40 years of Pentagram. Beautifully done:
Support Uppercase Magazine’s crowd-funded homage to the typewriter, The Typewriter: a Graphic History of the Beloved Machine.
Spirograph, the animated typeface:
More about the project at animography.net
Erik Marinovich’s work is brilliant:
Nice use of Kris Sowersby’s Karbon Slab Stencil for bar and tea shop, Leaf on Bold St.
Still some of Seb Lester’s So Much To Do prints available:
The brilliant resource that is Fonts in Use is now open to the public. Now anyone can now add to the archives. What are you waiting for you?
Lovely redesigned portfolio site of Jean-Baptiste Levée:
Gridset app is looking very good. Be sure to sign up for the beta.
Some good work from the Type & Media Masters students, class of 2012:
Experiment with and combine over 23,000 web fonts with the Typecast app.
Frank Blokland’s blog accompanying his PhD research at Leiden University. Harmonics, Patterns, and Dynamics in Formal Typographic Representations of the Latin Script:
I have high hopes for this book, and have ordered two: Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals, a new title from Cyrus Highsmith.
Perhaps it could become the typography primer. Read Paul Shaw’s review over at Print Mag.
A new book from a brand new publisher: Lazy Dog offers Luca Barcellona’s Take Your Pleasure Seriously for pre-order. Books ships in October.
And it looks as though Codex magazine had a small part to play:
Stop, Think, Go, Do: How Typography and Graphic Design Influence Behavior by Steven Heller and Mirko Ilić:
Issue #2 of Codex magazine is coming next month (August). We have settled on a twice a year publishing schedule. Issue #3 will be available in March 2013.
Sign up to the infrequent newsletter to learn more.
ILT will be five years old come August 8. How shall we celebrate? Any favorite or memorable moments?
Hope you enjoyed this edition of the week in type. Have a stupendously great weekend.