Sans serif options

An impromptu Venn diagram to help explain a point about styles for a sans serif student project, from earlier today.

The three circles are Systematic / Elegant / Quirky. The typefaces fully in each are Univers, Ideal Sans, and MT Grotesque. The Systematic/Elegant one is Candara, the Systematic/Quirky is Capucine, and the Quirky/Elegant is Maple. Nothing in the centre.

Explaining typeface design

This morning Fiona, Peter Bil’ak and I visited the UBA to see some of the work of the postgraduates on the UBA course (see the Typography at Reading blog). One of Henrique Nardi’s images captured me sketching an aide memoire for the session, which is worth linking to here to have handy for the sessions next week.

The axes describe a simple framework for talking about typeface design projects. At the top of the diagram is the Designer, and at the bottom the brief (and the client, who represent the requirements of the users). The left of the horizontal axis represents the Functional requirements in the project, and to the right the expression of individuality and Identity through the design of the typeface.

TDi+ 2011 is now open

A number of people have been getting in touch about the 2011 TDi+ summer course. The main site will go live soon, but I’m posting the text here to get the basics out:

Diving into typeface design 

For over ten years the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication has been offering a world-class MA programme on Typeface Design that has redefined education in typeface design. In 2009 we launched a short course that took some of the strongest features of the MA programme and condensed them into five very intensive days. A year later we added an extension for people wanting to develop their projects further. 
This year we are repeating this format, aiming to work closely with a small group of people to build an understanding of context and perspective in typeface design. We will show how theoretical approaches and the historical context permeate typefaces, and influence every new design project. We will help you make informed design decisions, and how to identify quality in your design work. 
We aim to help you build a sense of context, understand the conventions, and get a feel for the scope for originality in typeface design. In other words, we are not aiming for you to just make a font in a few days, but to become a better designer in the long run. 

The background: why Reading?

The Department of Typography founded the first typography course within a research-intensive university, and boasts world-class collections and archives that support research and enable hands-on learning. From the theory of graphic language to research in perception and visual literacy, Reading has been at the forefront of developing the narratives that are helping typography mature as a discipline. 

We approach design from the perspective of the user, and integrate the wider context in the development of design decisions. In this environment, we approach typeface design at the apex of three aspects:
• typemaking tools, and approaches to designing typeforms; 
• the requirements of documents, as reflected in typographic specifications and the restrictions imposed by typesetting technologies; and
• the wider conventions for genre and style, at each time and place.

We use these perspectives to inform the designer’s seeking of originality and innovation, and to show how typefaces can be be useful, relevant, interesting, and exciting. You will be able to get an insight into the different ways that typefaces are successful, as well as why it’s not so easy.  

The people, the schedule

The first week is built around practical exercises, workshops, hands-on sessions with materials from our collections, and feedback sessions. Gerry Leonidas, Fiona Ross, and Gerard Unger (the core teachers on the MA programme) are engaged with the group all day, every day. We alternate some seminars and hands-on sessions, to ensure that every participant covers all material on offer intimately, and share feedback sessions in the studio. We usually round off the day with a presentation. There will be also additional sessions with other members of staff and visitors (for example, Martin Andrews on reconstructing Gutenberg’s press, Paul Luna on typefaces for dictionaries, Eric Kindel on stencil letters, and Dan Rhatigan on typefaces for mobile devices). We will look closely at typeface design for specific applications (such as newspapers, reference works, signage, and small screens), identifying suitable design procedures and testing approaches. We will deal in depth with the design issues surrounding the rapidly growing area of world scripts, highlighting the contribution of research to new designs. And we will address the critical balance of originality and utility in typeface design, the development of quality throughout an extended family, and the capture of personality in a finished typeface. 

The first week is self-contained, and includes as much learning as we can fit in the five days (and evenings…). If you have your own designs to bring to the practical sessions, we will use those to expand your skills. If you don’t, we will help you develop your working methods so that you can take first sketches to a typeface you can test. We will also introduce wider issues (such as how to approach a whole family) for you to explore later. 

During the second week we focus more on the development of practical projects, with Gerry Leonidas and Fiona Ross available as before, and some targeted sessions on development and non-Latin (e.g. by Jo De Baerdemaker on coding with VOLT). The second week will be particularly useful for participants with specific briefs to develop: single styles to be developed into families, or extending anexisting family across a range of scripts. We will have hands-on sessions with some of the most valuable resources for Arabic, Greek, and Indian typography. 
The second week is open both to participants on the 2011 TDi week, and those from the 2009 and 2010 weeks.  

We occupy a large studio and a seminar room adjacent to our collections (so we can have ready access to additional typo-treasures). Some of our sessions are built around flooding the tables with material, and discussing design developments over the original objects. Our feedback rounds are both in small groups (pinning things on the wall for all to see and discuss) and in one-to-one sessions. On both weeks, there’s no hand-holding: we will expect people to work quickly, be independent learners, and expect their questions to be answered with more probing questions. And there is no simplistic “this is how you do it”: we will give you the context, and the way to ask questions. 

Look at this!

Our world-class collections on typography and typeface design are used for teaching, research, and exhibitions (for example, the current Isotype exhibition at the V&A Museum in London). (See http://www.reading.ac.uk/typography/collectionsandarchives/typ-collections.aspx and http://www.flickr.com/groups/matd. We make frequent use of these during the week, depending on the seminar topics and the theme we are exploring. For example, when discussing Greek we examine original editions covering the full five-and-a-half centuries of Greek printing; and when looking at Indian typefaces we have access to the original drawings of the most popular typefaces for the whole of the continent. 

We also use our collections to inform wider considerations: imagine discussing experimentation and originality over the finest editions by Dwiggins, next to a table covered with the complete run of Emigre magazine, and you get the picture! 

Who should come? 

We expect that experienced graphic designers and typographers, and researchers in related fields, will benefit most from the course. Current students in other universities are welcome, but should expect a steep learning curve. Although people do not need to have designed typefaces before, we would welcome experienced designers who want to extend their understanding of the field, and extend their skills in an intensive environment. Intellectual curiosity is a must! 

How much will it cost?

The fees for the first week are £1,590 and cover tuition and materials, and five light lunches and coffee/tea delivered to the Department. The second week fees are £725, and include the tuition fees and use of facilities as before. Printouts and photocopies are included in both weeks.

You will need to factor in travel costs to Reading, and accommodation. There are several options, about which we can advise: get in touch before you make any bookings, and we’ll help you make the right choice. 

We suggest travelling so that you are in Reading by the evening of Sunday 10 July, so that we can get a good start on the Monday. We are planning an informal get-together on the afternoon of the Sunday.

What you should do now
Get in touch with the course director, Gerry Leonidas, to declare your interest. We will then proceed to make a firm booking with you, and help you with all other arrangements.