Week 1

We met Gerry who introduced us to our academic and practical projects. Through this term and the next, we will each present a book or collection of books to the class. I picked Robin Kinross’ Modern Typography: an essay in critical history. This book was also on our summer reading list and I had to be very patient with it. I found it quite dense in parts, and came dangerously close to giving up. To read it again will be great. He has also asked us to start thinking about what we’d like to do for our typefaces and prepare pitches that we could share with him and the class.

We had our first session with James Mosley, as well. He will give weekly lectures about the history of letterforms, and if this introductory one was anything to go by, these lectures are going to be absolutely amazing.

Wednesdays are free for us to work and do research, aside from seminars by visitors. This week we had Mark Barratt, who presented his talk about the accessibility of typography from the ATypI last month in Reykjavík. He talked about legislation regulating typographic choices (like type size) for public documents to ensure that everyone, including those with vision problems and the elderly can access them, and whether these rules actually help. The abstract for this talk can be read here.

Since I’m interested in designing a typeface for multi-lingual dictionaries, I spent most of my morning at the library looking at dictionaries, and reading Paul Luna’s essay on Latin dictionary design from Typography Papers 4.

Thursday was once again with Gerry. We worked on a short practical exercise (see photograph below). He gave us sheets with parts of the letters a/d/e/n visible and we had to complete all the letters. An exercise to make us think about how consistency and quirkiness are built into a typeface. The review where we also looked at the original designs was very useful in understanding this idea, and how it helps make a typeface work. The drawing on the bottom right is my rendition of David Březina’s Skolar.

We’ve been talking, again and again, about how some typefaces don’t seem to show a lot of consistency between the designs of every letter or have what one would consider badly-shaped or unconventional letters, and yet they work wonderfully well at text sizes because of the texture they produce when text is set in them.

Gerry also reviewed our summer work on Thursday, and gave us some pointers on how we should sketch. Advice that was also echoed by Rob today. We should be sketching not to draw beautiful and perfect letters, but to put our ideas on paper. We looked at our FontLab assignment too, and should be starting on some practical exercises on FontLab from next week.

A few of us handed in concepts for our typefaces, and I can’t wait to hear what Gerry has to say and discuss them with everyone in the group. There is clearly a lot of interest in the non-Latin scripts, especially in the under-represented ones.

Just like Wednesday, Fridays are left to us to make productive. I’m very glad I decided to go to the department and work because when I got there Rafael S. and Rafael D. were both doing some calligraphy, and that prompted me to ask for some help and get started myself. I worked a little with a nib and ink, and then switched to two pencils taped together. I’m not looking to become a master calligrapher this way, only to understand how tools affect the shapes of letters.

The Weekend
Plans for the weekend are quite simple—to draw and to read. I’m not satisfied with the progress of either at this point, but I believe I’m getting there. I’ve started reading Modern Typography again, and the assessment criteria for our seminars are proving to be good ideas to keep in mind while reading.

I’ve been feeling pretty torn about taking notes during sessions. I feel like the process of writing while listening throws me off track, but at the same time I’m concerned if I’m losing out by not jotting down what people are saying. I think what I need is a strict routine of recaping sessions on paper right after they end so I can get the best of both worlds.


Comments 2

  1. ravisha October 16, 2011


    what a fun read…would love to catch up with what you are upto like this ever week.

    have fun with the taped pencils…and do share pictures of the assignments in the future too.


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