Course Syllabus

This is a distribution of the course topics into a general syllabus and resources.

We mainly use Henestrosa, Cheng, and Unger as the main bibliographic references. But many more books, such as Mediavilla, Clayton, Knight, Samara, Bringhurst, Beier, Ahrens, Coles, or Campe are also invaluable resources we use on an almost daily basis.

Additional references such as Quelhas Ph.D. or even websites such as Microsoft’s documentation, Fontlab, or Glyph’s online manuals, and video tutorials are also very important.

The full bibliography, semester schedule, and online references can be found on the academic system page, and on the e-learning platform.

Course Syllabus

This syllabus assumes the current three-hour class per week duration in a 13 to 15-week long semester. Between classes, students are required to read from the selected bibliography references, or practice type design and font production.


The introduction module is the most theoretical-intensive module of the semester. It continues the program of advanced studies of typography and aims at providing a conceptual and historical baseline for every student.

These contents are usually distributed over a period of two weeks.

  • Writing origins & evolution of the Latin alphabet writing (systems of the world);
  • Typography origins & evolution;
  • Classification(s) & historical specimens;
  • Typeface anatomy;
  • Type Design basics (process & steps).

Foundation calligraphy

Doing or learning (better) typeface design does not depend on the knowledge or previous experience in calligraphy. Nevertheless, knowing the tools and gestures that produce the strokes helps to understand the letter shapes better. So, we always try to include the basic information and practice in a [humanistic] foundational hand, as it is the base for the current latin script:

Yet, when the course semester schedule allows for it, we also try to provide additional classes or workshops on additional styles/hands.

  • Gothic (Textura Quadrata);
  • Italic (Arrighi’s Chancery);
  • Copperplate (Bickham’s English hand);

Up until 2022 we have covered these specific hands during workshops held either in the masters’ classes — we cover the basics of the foundational hand every year within classes — or in open to attend workshops. In the near future, we aim to complete these important writing models with:

  • Capital Roman hand (AKA Trajan);
  • Block Letter model (AKA Neuland);
  • Gestural Cursive (AKA Folded Pen or Brush Scripts);

Rustic, Uncial, Bastarda, Rotunda & Fraktur Gothics, Flemish Cursive, French Ronde, Spencerian or Madaraz Scritpts, and Contemporary Gestural Scripts (and many, many more!) are also important to know as they inform and provide the grounds for relevant type designs. But these may and should be the subject of further research & practice after covering these “foundational” models.

SLOType speculative design workshop

Together with Ana Catarina Silva (and with the help of Julien Priez and Eduardo Napoleão over the years), we have been developing this induction to letterform design into a educational workshop and support application.

This class usually takes place in a very intensive three-hour session of sprints. During the COVID-19 pandemic, activities were held either in a hybrid or an exclusive online mode, and took almost two full sessions to complete.

  • Gerrit Noordzij’s “The Stroke” theory;
  • Agile workshop with the SLOType app;
    • Formal relationships (Type genealogy, letter groups)

This workshop takes into account that most students don’t have the basic knowledge or practice of historical calligraphic models. Nor we have the time to practice formal calligraphy with them previously. Hence it is designed to kickstart their type design education using a series of design sprints, oriented by specific creative briefs and supported by pedagogical materials.

Even if students haven’t had the chance to practice the foundational hand, this workshop is the minimum required practice to jump into font design and development.

Type Design induction

Type Design induction contents are usually distributed over a period of four weeks (two classes and two one-to-one sessions).

The introduction to the software usually takes between one and two classes to demonstrate. And then, students are required to explore these contents, design a test keyword, and submit the characters in a functional font in three weeks.

  • Designing a display test keyword (e.g.: “Raphesion123”)
    • Test keywords (from “adhesion” to “hamburgerfonstiv);
    • Design and develop a one-axis / two-masters (min.) variable font;

This is a very intense four-week module. It is designed to introduce students to the technical aspects of letter shape design, and type design (production). Afterward, it is expected that they are sufficiently proficient with the software to learn or research what they need to implement their designs.

Type Design production

The final module of the course program is usually distributed over a period of six to eight weeks. During this module, students are encouraged to work in groups.

They are required to design a text typeface based on a revival of their choice. But they are required to produce a full Opentype Std Character set and implement it in a functional variable font (with a minimum of two masters required).

We start this module with a lecture on the role and importance of Type Specimens. And then, throughout the classes the following topics are covered:

Some important issues are to be addressed autonomously by students, either during this course, or in future opportunities such as the dissertation/project:

  • Digital issues:
  • Design issues:
    • Size-specific issues (wayfinding/signage, caption,…);
    • Legibility and reading issues;
    • Additional scripts and languages (different models from Arabic, Indic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Coptic,…)
    • Calligraphy and gesture influences and models (see Abel Martins’ dissertation report);
    • Historical models research, or Contemporary writing and graffiti forms;
    • *Designing Color Fonts;
    • *Motion and/or Interaction Design enhancement through animated [color] fonts;
  • Media specific issues:
    • Emerging media requirements such AR or XR adaptative designs, contextual responsive typography,…;
    • Stone carving or epigraphy;
    • Volumetric representation;
  • Distribution [models]
    • Printed and Digital Specimens
    • Finishing Fonts/ Preparing Font Production
    • Creating a business model / foundry
    • Publishing/releasing through third-party foundries/online markets

Online references and resources

  • Samsa (Variable Font Inspector);
  • Adhesion Text (Dumy text generator, based on selected letters);

Other Syllabus and Type Design Programs/Courses

These are some of the programs and courses we follow closely, and that have their results available online (and sometimes during these last couple of years also host their final presentations online publicly):

Additional important reference programs we also follow closely, due to the work of our close friends and colleagues are:

For a more comprehensive list of type design programs and courses see Jan Middendorp’s list on Wikipedia: