How can you design a typeface for a language you...
This is a question I’m often asked by people who haven’t come across type design before. Letters are unique in their use and quite unlike any other representational form. A seasoned type designer realises that one is not exactly focusing on the individual shape of each letter, though that does come into it, but more closely scrutinising how the letters set together. Each letter has to...
Between black and white
This week, the annual ATypI conference is taking place in Hong Kong. Unfortunately I’m not going to be attending, but its theme, ‘Between black and white’, has prompted me to think in more depth about how the principles of notan can be implemented in typeface design, not just as a curiosity, but as a pragmatic tool to enhance readability. One of the attractions of type design is...
The MA ends
Our fantastic year at Reading is now complete, and the class of 2012 has dispersed to make way for the incoming students — a talented looking bunch judging by some of the websites I’ve seen. The final weeks of term and the summer holiday flew past, with our typeface submitted towards the end of June, along with the Reflection on Practice that charts our progress and explains our decisions....
The Paradigm of the Stroke
Recently, we were visited by Will Hill, ex-Reading student and now Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at Anglia Ruskin University. His lecture touched upon something that’s been bothering me for some time… From printing’s beginnings, type has taken its cues from inscriptional lettering, handwriting and calligraphy. Over the next 500 years, type started to diverge from hand-tooled forms,...
David Březina (@MrBrezina) came to visit us last week, to talk through his career in type design and his award-winning, multi-script foundry, Rosetta, to critique our typefaces, and to ask us an impossible question. What he wanted to know was how we plan to create original work in our typeface design careers over the next ten years. A ten-year plan is not something I’d naturally sit down and...
It's May already!
The year has flown past at an alarming speed — not that it’s over yet, but as our project deadlines are in June, it feels like we’re very much in the final stretch. After our fantastic field trip to Antwerp, Amsterdam, the Hague, Haarlem and Bussum, the Easter break gave us some much needed breathing room to get down to some serious business with FontLab. My serif face now has the...
Finally, Burmese begins to click
Our Spring term has flown by, and progress on my typeface was honestly a bit disappointing. Perhaps I tried to tackle too many things and ended up spreading things a bit thin with unresolved attempts at Greek and Thai, or perhaps it was the packed timetable of workshops, visiting lecturers and assessment deadlines, but I was expecting to have achieved more by the end of term. I was especially...
AFDKO Workshop. Caution: geeky.
The Adobe Font Development Kit for OpenType (AFDKO or simply FDK) is a set of command line tools that Adobe makes freely available for font developers to help with production and testing. If, like me, you’ve struggled with FontLab’s glitches only to end up with incompatible font names, duplicate encodings or extra features you didn’t write, FDK seems like a better way to do...
The typographic tradition in non-Latin scripts
In Europe, the various strands of typography came together over centuries. Even before the arrival of printing, there were many styles (and sub-styles) of writing: the Greek and Roman inscriptional capitals and everyday ‘rustic’ letters, the Carolingian and insular uncials, and the textura and rotunda gothics to name only a few key elements. Printing types started in the fifteenth century by...
Designing the design
There’s a phrase that pops up from time to time in the department; it’s probably a Gerry-ism. ‘Designing the design’. My take on it is that before we start drawing letterforms and thinking about details like what style of serifs we’d like, there’s the important matter of how the thing should look holistically. Can I visualise the rhythm and texture on the page,...
On multidimensional balancing acts
I decided to take advantage of Gerard’s third visit of the year to finalise the relationship between my Latin serif and sans serif designs. Several people had remarked that the sans was looking too skinny, too small or too light, but I wasn’t really sure whether fixing it meant stretching the thing or redrawing completely. In the end it was an illuminating and actually quite easy...
Font Workshop with John Hudson
We’ve definitely moved up a gear or two this term as our timetable becomes filled to bursting point. My seminar on how designers respond to technological constraints was well received, with students enthusiastically remarking how interesting it was and with Gerry’s approval that I’d covered the salient points. The gist of the presentation was that successful type designs...
After a good winter break it’s now time to put our brains back in gear and prepare for a packed term. Our dissertation proposals are due at the end of next week; this is where we outline our topic, how we want to approach it, and where we’ll find information, resources or people to write about. I haven’t yet started mine, as I’ve been also occupied with writing my seminar,...
Puzzlements and Progress
Our first term is over, though it feels as though we’ve all only just settled in. The ten weeks have passed so quickly, in a flurry of workshops, conferences, seminars, critique sessions and typographic delights. I’m feeling lucky to be able to spend this year doing something I enjoy so much at a department with such a great name. Progress on my typeface is going well, I think. I had...
Week 8 was our second intensive practical week with Gerard, and with only two more weeks of term, it’s felt like time to really settle into a definite direction and concentrate fully on our typefaces. I’d already noticed in my print proofs that the stems were a bit dark, and dark patches were interrupting the rhythm on the arches of /m/ and /n/. I decided that the best way to reduce...
The last couple of weeks have felt a little more pressured, as we concentrate more on our practical projects, delve more deeply into the non-Latin scripts and start our core seminars. As well as classroom commitments, I have become the student representative for the class, which involves extra meetings both in the department and with the Students’ Union. The food situation near the...
False starts, confusion and learning
For the past two or three weeks I’ve been bashing out ideas for my practical project, the type family designed especially for Burmese dictionaries. As I blogged before (Thoughts on a Brief and Exploring Burmese), I’m aiming for a fresh, lively and cheerful design, in which the Burmese and Latin scripts harmonise well. My first scribbles with paper and pencil (above) looked like a...
Last week was taken over by Typo London, the first of the famed Typo Berlin design conferences to make it to the UK. Eric Spiekermann chaired the event, with his team of moderators, and the whole thing was nicely organised and had some fun bits. Despite the title ‘Typo London’, this is not a conference primarily about type. It’s more to do with graphic design and the...
Last week Nance Cunningham joined us in the Department to talk about the Burmese script. Nance works as a lexicographer, working on English-Burmese dictionaries, so is familiar with the difficulties of Burmese fonts. She stayed a couple of nights, which meant she could give me quite a comprehensive understanding of the Burmese letters and how they should work together. Burmese, like other Brahmic...
Thoughts on a Brief
Our first full week in the department has been lots of fun. I’m definitely seeing why Reading University is so highly regarded. Our teachers are really top class: enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fascinating. And it’s a sign of how fun the department is that there are so many ex-students still hanging around, doing research and working on projects, clearly showing no sign of getting...
Excellence in Type Design
What makes a good typeface? Does it just come down to a person’s taste, a subjective opinion? Can a design’s merits be quantified? In our first session, we uncovered some criteria* to judge and critique typefaces. *Whilst thinking around the subject, I’ve rejigged the criteria Gerry elicited hastily from our class. Originality Without much experience, a lot of beginner type...
Reflections on Modern Typography
Gerard said something along the lines of the above back in July when I was studying the TDI course here. Back then, I understood it to mean that aesthetic fashions and art movements through the ages have governed the stylistic proclivities of type designers — as a general overarching principle rather than a traceable set of technological, political and national variables evidenced in every work...
Our First Assignments
My last few weeks have moved really quickly, as I made my decision to come to the MA programme only at the start of August. Since then, I’ve had to finish off some freelance design jobs, sort out my enrolment and accommodation in Reading and get some vfb font files in good enough shape to send to the publishers (unfortunately no sign of a release date yet, as I’m going to need to...
Meeting the Type Bods
Michele (housemate), Giuliano (Elena’s partner), Jo (sister) and Elena (housemate) enjoying an English breakfast on Sunday morning. With a couple of weeks until term starts, I’m full of anticipation for the next year on the MA programme in Typeface Design here in Reading. I arrived in a van full of my things on Saturday with my sister, who helped me get everything here and...