This is a distribution of the course topics into a general syllabus and resources.
- Course Syllabus;
- Bibliographic references:
- Online references 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.
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).
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.
- Introduction to Type Design production software:
- Software interface & IDE
- Basic vector drawing
- Node types (Corner, Tangent, and Curve/Smooth)
- Placement (there are *ONLY* 5 rules to know)
- [on-curve] nodes at extremes,
- [off-curve] handles’ at 1/3 curve length [rule-of-thumb, or ~58% curve tension],
- curves in arches (2 on-curve and 2 off-curve points please),
- curvature or curve handles on the same side of the curve for each arch (either inside or outside of the shape, but tunni-lines, or the imaginary line that connects the off-curve handle points must not cross the curve),
- keep curve handles/off-curve points orthogonal whenever possible (this applies especially to the extremes!)
- Contours and direction, curve types & curve tension / curvature, tunni-lines, remove overlap, operations (clean-up, balance & harmonize), simple guides, sliding nodes);
- Units & Dimensions
- Em square,
- x-height, cap, ascender, and descender heights
- Bearings (overshoot/blue values)
- Metrics and basic spacing
- Letter set width and/or glyph side bearings,
- Linking and binding metrics,*
- Expressions and operations;*
(*sometimes we see this here, but usually we address it again in further detail later during production)
- Font Info
- Introduction to Variable Fonts and working with variations
- Optional advanced vector drawing and software issues:
- Drawing adjustments: Servant, Smart & Genius nodes, stem nodes, nudge, and power-nudge;
- Optical compensations: overshooting, waist and joint compensations, inktraping & blunt corners ↗, and overall color adjustments;
- Smart, Loop ↗ & Unlink corners;
- Fine-tuning curve tension: interior and exterior curves, preferences and short-guides rule-of-thumb;
- Measurements: advanced measurement, and “short-guides”;
- Suggestions: stems ↗, and distance ↗;
- Power-guides ↗ ;
- Evaluating technical aspects with Font Audit
- Font Properties (naming conventions);
- Font Properties (Dimensions, Stems, Alignment Zones,…);
- Addressing the side bearings calculation with the Measurement Line –> in Fontlab 8, the Measurement Line is now called the Metrics Line: https://help.fontlab.com/fontlab/8/whats-new/whats-new-06-metrics-kerning/
- 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:
- A revival of a text typeface:
- Font production:
- Sketches, Keyword & Family DNA/parameters;
- [Latin] Character Design [standard] Patterns
- Spacing & Kerning
- Opentype features
- Adding glyphs
- Contextual and Stylistic Alternates
- Character Positions
- Positional Forms
- Rotation & substitution;
- Using classes and the custom features
- Naming features (Stylistic Sets) and special names for features (Readable in InDesign panel): https://help.fontlab.com/fontlab/7/manual/OpenType-Features/#descriptive-names-for-stylistic-set-ss01-ss20-features
- Evaluating overall quality;
- Specimen design;
- Presentation & Distribution
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
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):
- KABK Type and Media Program:
- Reading Type Design Program:
- PXL-MAD Readsearch:
- ESAD Type:
- ECAL Type Design:
Additional important reference programs we also follow closely, due to the work of our close friends and colleagues are:
- https://letterformarchive.org/type-west-online (https://letterformarchive.org/education)
- Postgraduate Certificate in Typeface Design (Type@Cooper): http://coopertype.org/
- MT-UBA, Maestría en Tipografía
- Curso de Pós-graduação em Tipografia
- École Estiene, Paris: http://www.ecole-estienne.paris/formation/dsaa-design-typographique/presentation/
- ANRT: https://anrt-nancy.fr/en/presentation-en/
- Tipo-g: https://tipo-g.com/
- SVA Type Lab
For a more comprehensive list of type design programs and courses see Jan Middendorp’s list on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_institutions_offering_type_design_education#Specialized_type_design_degrees