Day 4: Type Design, short course, Reading

We start the day with practical work interspersed with lectures. We are all making headway with our typeface design and the drawing software (Glyphs/FontLab). We’re all facing tough design decisions but being guided along with insightful advice from the staff and research from the archives. Here’s today’s agenda:

  • 09:30 - 12:00 – Practical work (plus Fitting lecture)
  • 12:00 - 13:00 – Erik Kindel: Stencil Letters
  • 14:00 - 15:00 – Alice Savoie: From Metal to Digital
  • 15:00 - 16:35 – Practical work
  • 16:30 - 17:00 – Vaibhav Singh: Wide non-Latin families
  • 17:00 - 18:00+ – Practical work

Gerard Ungar gave a lecture in the morning on type ‘fitting’ (NB. this is generally bundled into ‘spacing’ but ‘fitting’ is a much more descriptive word for this specific activity). Gerard suggests starting with the ‘n’, which is asymmetrical and obviously requires different about of room on each side. He runs us through his process of putting ‘nnnnn’ together and printing them at 16,12 and 10pt to ensure there is a good rhythm at each size.

He then places ‘onoo’ together and repeats the process of adjusting the side bearings. The letter ‘o’ is one of the few symmetrical characters (other than a san serif ‘i’) and so can have an equal amount of space. Repeating this process above with various characters will solve 90% of issues, the rest are then adjusted with kerning pairs which we also run through briefly.

Erik Kindel (with research partner, Fred Smeijers, in absentina) then gave the enticing presentation: Stencil Letters: What are they good for? Erik takes us through the history of stencil letters which first appeared in the 15th centaury. The examples are beautiful (we were warned in advance that this lecture inspires the desire to create new stencil typefaces!). We look at the spacing techniques that were developed with holes and slots and move through developments and designs until coming to modern stencils and graffiti work. After we look through Erik’s lovely stencil collection (see above images).

After a working lunch Alice Savoie, a PHD student in the department and MA graduate, presents “From metal to digital: the impact of technological changes on typeface design” This is a chronological overview of type development between the ’50s and ’80s. Hot metal type, photosetting and digital type. Like our historical overview with Gerry Leonidas on day 1, this does a great job to covering the gaps in my knowledge of the evolution of type in one simple narrative.

Then, between obsessing over our type design curves, Vaibhav Singh diverts us with a talk on Type families for Indian scripts: the problems and possibilities. Focussed on northern scripts and Devanagari in particular, we look at some of the things to consider when designing them, and some of the “sadistically” challenging characters that must be created. Issues arise with interpolation for heavier weights that must retain important character features without closing counters etc. This together with multiple lines of constructs often requires vertical growth. Research is required to understand where the boundaries can be pushed and innovations achieved. 

Now I’m off to push more curves around the screen…

Read the other reports in this series: