Day 3: Type Design, short course, Reading University

Drawing type, hand-written newspapers, Greek type and the Swift typeface. Here’s the timetable for today:

  • 09:30 - 10:30 – Lecture: Swift
  • 10:30 - 13:00 – Practical work (drawing type)
  • 13:30 - 14:00 – Collections session (newspapers)
  • 14:00 - 15:30 – non-Latin: Greek
  • 15:30 - 18:45 and beyond… – Practical work

This morning Gerard Unger took us through his creative journey in creating the Swift newspaper typeface. It has to be said that Gerard’s lectures are a joy, the information mixed with anecdotes and wry humour fixes the information in your head (one quote: "Here’s how to design type – and how simple it is! You just move the black stuff around and that’s it!").

His Swift typeface was derived from a sketch and the name, first penned in 1981. Matthew Carter once said the he’d rather design 10 typefaces than come up for the name of one, but Gerard had it from the start. A fast running face with a small width and x-height that managed to keep light open counters with higher shoulders and other subtle tricks.

The rest of the morning and lunchtime were taken up with drawing our own typefaces. Gerry Leonidas and Gerard move around the room discussing and critiquing. I learnt a lot. Gerry ran me through the stiff competition in the category that I was approaching and how to steer my designs towards something a little more approachable for a first-timer with more unique features. We looked at scaling characteristics to watch out for, by scaling down some of my characters on the photocopier then Gerard showed my how to match these characteristics throughout the face to achieve coherent feel. 

Next, we look through non-Latin (Indian and Arabic) script newspapers with Fiona Ross. We see copies before and after decent typefaces had been designed for them, showing the pronounced jump in clarity. We are also shown handwritten newspapers (above) – yes amazingly, this one as recent as 2009.

Greek: Gerry takes us through a history of Greek text. The importance of Greek characters is independent of the requirements of those living in Greece but, as throughout the past, anyone studying religious or classical text must use this text. The amount of Greek included in Latin typefaces is based on the typeface’s intended use but, due to the interesting loops and shapes, the characters offer designers the opportunity to be more inventive. Gerry run’s through the spread of Greek with migrants leaving the county during Ottoman occupation in the 1450’s, right through to modern use. We were shown very early printed manuscripts, Beautiful commissioned books from the 1550’s-‘70s for Louis XIV, a very old copy of Odysseus and even a modern Greek rip-off of USA Today.

More practical work. We focussed on drawing the characters in the word ‘adhesion’ and were then instructed to fill in our sketches with a black marker (using a fineliner for the edges) for photocopying to flatten out the colour. We then took photo’s of each characters (just with our mobiles) and started to place these into Glyphs (the recommended software) or Fontographer, to start digitising them.

Now I’m off to spend some more time on them.