A Digital Type Foundry & Academic Resource

Articles & Essays

The Design of Multilingual Type Families

Written by: Jonathan Perez
Type designers often strive for a new interpretation of letter forms, but Jonathan Perez seems just as interested in developing new design processes to better address an era of increasing multilingual communication and the rise in diversity of non-Latin scripts. In this article, he shares the strategies and decisions made while designing a typeface family in collaboration with a team of type designers specializing in different writing systems.

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Frederic Warde: New York State of Mind

Written by: Simon Loxley
The book and type designer Frederic Warde is little more than a phantom in most histories of type, known only for creating the typeface Arrighi, and for being the husband of the charismatic Beatrice Warde, author of The Crystal Goblet. Beyond that little is recalled, unless it is his short-lived and rancorous partnership with the British Monotype company’s Stanley Morison. Designer and author Simon Loxley took on the task of researching his story and published his findings in a book in 2009. In this article, he concentrates on the last twelve years of Warde’s life.

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Aesthetic Innovation in Indigenous Typefaces: Designing a Lushootseed Font

Written by: Juliet Shen
It’s still possible for a type designer to create a single typeface and have an impact on an entire language and culture. Juliet Shen did just that when she designed a Lushootseed font for the Tulalip tribe in Washington state. In this article, she outlines the various aspects of the project, her design process and the general role of new typeface designs in language preservation. The project even included a collaboration with the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

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Copte Scripte, Design of a Coptic Font for Science and Publishing

Written by: Jonathan Perez
The design of a typeface is often a solo effort – the result of the ideation and perseverance of a single designer. The aspect of teamwork usually appears only in type houses and foundries when font files are produced according to the designer’s concept and a “house-rules” protocol of digital production. In contrast, the design of Copte Scripte was a truly collaborative endeavor: a project in which two designers applied a carefully considered method that allowed for shared and equally divided responsibilities. Parallel to this, and every bit as fascinating, were the stipulations to be fulfilled in designing a font for service to the scientific community.

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The Scribe and the Silhouette

Written by: Mark Jamra
Rudolf Koch (1876–1934) was an artist-craftsman of tremendous capabilities and one of the great type designers of the twentieth century. As a scribe, he created works in blackletter of such breathtaking energy it could be said that the expressiveness he achieved in letterforms has never been surpassed. Much of this mastery is also evident in the types he designed for the Klingspor Bros. Type Foundry in Offenbach, Germany between 1906 and 1934. Less well known, however, is his amazing work in the art of papercutting, a folk art which enjoyed considerable popularity in the Victorian era and the first decades of the twentieth century. This article takes a look at some of Koch’s Scherenschnitte, created for Klingspor’s marketing efforts.

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Of What Consequence, Design?

Written by: Juliet Shen
This essay is an evaluation of how the Initial Teaching Alphabet was designed. Juliet Shen looks at the history and aesthetics of this curious “alphabet reform” which, amazingly, is still in use in the field of education. As the author herself states: “The appearance of i.t.a. on the printed page violates enough conventions of good typography to have piqued the curiosity of this writer at first sight. [. . .] How did such an anomalous typeface get designed and then selected for widespread educational use?” The story uncovered by her research contains an all-too-familiar interaction of ideology, business and politics.

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Hearing Type

Written by: Frank Armstrong
“Rhythm” and “tone” are words that occur frequently in descriptions of both music and typography. As the author of this article points out: “Music notation is directly comparable to typography – both are visual notational systems of symbols that represent elements of their respective acoustic languages.” Frank Armstrong presents the structure of his analogy between music and typography, and then proposes it as the foundation of an instructional method for understanding static and kinetic typography. (For an actual classroom assignment which utilizes his approach, educators may want to look at Armstrong’s contribution to James Craig’s website.)

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Searching for Morris Fuller Benton

Written by: Juliet Shen
The twentieth century went by with little being written about one of America’s most important type designers. The information on Morris Fuller Benton remained scant, partially because his work stood outside of most historians’ field of view and also due to the reticence of the man himself. Research on Benton has increased in recent years and Juliet Shen’s valuable dissertation fills a substantial void. After making assessments of the technological and commercial circumstances in which Benton worked, and thorough evaluations of seven of his typeface designs, Ms. Shen arrives at informed conclusions about his motivations and design strategies.

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The Monotype 4-Line System for Setting Mathematics

Written by: Daniel Rhatigan
The companion piece to Rhatigan’s Three Typefaces for Mathematics, this essay looks closely at the version of the Monotype keyboard and caster used to set mathematics. After years of development in the 1950s, the already complicated Monotype system was modified to accommodate the complex demands of mathematical formulae and ultimately established a new standard for math in print.

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A Comparative Study of the Development of the Gurmukhi Script (Part 1)

Written by: Emma Williams
This dissertation is an excellent introduction to the non-latin script in the Punjab region straddling the border of India and Pakistan. Emma Williams guides the reader through the historical origins and original intention of the Gurmukhi script, the elements of the writing system, and the development of Gurmukhi typeface designs through many centuries. Part 1 looks at the origins of the script and its system, as well as its handwritten forms and the tools used to create it.

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A Comparative Study of the Development of the Gurmukhi Script (Part 2)

Written by: Emma Williams
The second part of Emma Williams’ impressive dissertation on the Gurmukhi script continues with a look at the development of the printed character in text typeface designs.

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Approaches to Applying Spacing Methods in Seriffed and Sans-Serif Typeface Designs

Written by: Fernando de Mello Vargas
The spacing of characters in a typeface is clearly as important as their design. Without optically balanced figure/ground relationships, the character designs do not reach their full potential as artistically nuanced vehicles of communication. De Mello Vargas looks into the nature of these optical characteristics and then shows us an interesting experiment in which he compares the results of two different spacing methods.

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Thoughts on Type and the Digital Revolution

Written by: James Clough
A broad and engaging observation from a teacher, historian, typographer, lettering designer and calligrapher who has lived in Italy for the past thirty years. Clough looks from personal and historical points of view at the larger picture of the effects that computer technology has had on type, typography and society.

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Three Typefaces for Mathematics

Written by: Daniel Rhatigan
The most effective typefaces for mathematical notation are those that have been created or adapted especially for it, anticipating both the typographic and the technical issues involved. This extensive dissertation examines the development of three typefaces which shed light on different aspects of those issues, and how their designs evolved in response to the available means of composing mathematical work.

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French Type Foundries in the Twentieth Century

Written by: Alice Savoie
The value of this dissertation lies not only in what it imparts to the reader, but also in its rarity, since relatively little information on the recent history of type in France has been written in English. To people who are less than fluent in French, most information about the state of affairs in French type and typography is woefully out of reach. This well-written study focuses on the activity of French foundries, their fateful decisions regarding the adoption of new technologies and the evolution of French type design throughout the last hundred years.

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The Eszett

Written by: Mark Jamra
Every glyph in a typeface has its history. Some, like the Euro symbol, are mere infants when compared to letters of ancient Phoenician origin. The eszett, that most German of all contemporary characters, has a history that falls somewhere in between. This article traces its development from its emergence in the eighth century AD to its officially prescribed forms in the twentieth century.

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The Design of Rumba: Concept and Process

Written by: Laura Meseguer
Most typeface families are designed along an axis of weights ranging from light to bold, but what happens when a family is designed along an axis of expressiveness? Laura Meseguer’s graduation project in the Type and Media program at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (Netherlands) became an acclaimed typeface family with varying expressive qualities for different size applications. As if that weren’t complex enough, the special typographic demands of four specific languages were also targeted. This documentation contains the brief, method, process and resolution of her project.

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Father Truchet, the Typographic Point, the Romain du Roi, and Tilings

Written by: Jacques André and Denis Girou
Father Sébastien Truchet (1657–1729) is recognized as a mathematician (especially for “Truchet tilings”); however, very few typographers know that he is the real inventor of the typographic point or even that he designed the famous Romain du roi, which could be considered the first digital font! (Many thanks go to the authors and to Barbara Beeton of the TeX Users Group [www.tug.org] for allowing us to post this article.)

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Giambattista Bodoni: Biografia

Written by: Alessandro Segalini
A concise biography of one of the most prolific type makers and printers of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Here is Bodoni’s life in brief, year by year, in which his reputation as the “Printer of Kings and King of Printers” is illuminated.

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Type Rules: Basic Fine-Tuning and Tweaking

Written by: Ilene Strizver
This is chapter seven of Ilene Strizver’s book Type Rules! The Designer’s Guide to Professional Typography, second edition. Here, the author provides the reader with some of the basic tenets of typographic design regarding type size, line spacing (leading), alignment and rags – not to mention those unfortunate widows and orphans (the typographic kind, of course). Included in the chapter are many visual examples and some valuable technical tips.

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The Story of Perpetua

Written by: Tiffany Wardle
The story of the Perpetua typeface (and Felicity Italic) is one of ideology, politics, commerce and creativity. The thread which runs through it all is the collaboration between two passionate and headstrong men, the eccentric letter carver Eric Gill and Monotype's typographic advisor Stanley Morison.

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The Experimental Type Designs of William Addison Dwiggins

Written by: Tiffany Wardle
A thorough and interesting dissertation about the lesser-known type designs from the man who brought us Electra, Metro, Caledonia and the term “graphic design.” Tiffany Wardle provides us with a brief biography of W. A. Dwiggins before launching into an inside look at his design process through numerous development samples and excerpts from the correspondence between the designer and Mergenthaler Linotype Company's venerable type director, C. H. Griffith.

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The Golden Age of Hand Lettering in American Advertising

Written by: Nick Shinn
This article provides readers with a look at the period in early magazine advertising when hand lettering was prevalent. Influential lettering artists/type designers are considered, in particular T. M. Cleland who was perhaps the greatest practitioner of his day. The author presents revealing analyses of examples of Cleland's work, the inherent production process, the influence of modernism on the profession and the trends and technologies that led to its eventual demise.

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Technological Shifts in Type Design and Production

Written by: Malou Verlomme
The straightforward title might lead some to believe that this is a technical and rather dry dissertation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Malou Verlomme’s treatment of his topic is engaging, thoughtfully written and often philosophical as he delineates not only the economical and industrial aspects of type technology, but also considers its very human underpinnings. Verlomme provides us not only with a fascinating look at the processes behind the physical and virtual manifestations of type through the centuries, but also an enlightening breakdown of its historical progress and the various responses of those affected by it.

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Punch Cuts: The Modern Page, 1843

Written by: Nick Shinn
Through the example of Punch magazine, this article sets a frame for looking at the origins and characteristics of Victorian typography in an art historical and socio-economical context. Nick Shinn examines the layout and typefaces that combined to create the typical periodical form of the era, as well as the conceptual environment for creating the sans serif types of the early 1800s that foreshadowed their "modernist" successors a century later.

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Rhythm in Type Design

Written by: Alejandro Lo Celso
A thorough investigation of a fundamental principle in type design. Lo Celso begins with the temporal and biological bases of rhythm and moves through its presence in speech, poetry and visual language before exploring its significance in reading, typography and type design. Finally, various manifestations of rhythm and methods of creating it in the design of typefaces are examined.

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Problems Relating to the Translation of a Drawn Letterform to a Digital Typeface

Written by: Eduardo Berliner
A dissertation that looks at the difficulties of translating by means of a tool or machine the human qualities of the hand-drawn letterform. Eduardo Berliner takes the reader through the history of the artist-craftsman relationship from the early punchcutters to the contemporary digital type designer. Finally, he gives us a personal glimpse into the learning process involved in the design of his typeface Pollen - with all of the inherent challenges, frustrations, teacher interventions and revelations.

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Serial Type Families

Written by: Alejandro Lo Celso
An in-depth look at serial type families, also known as typeface systems or type superfamilies. Lo Celso provides us with a view of their history and development, both aesthetically and technologically, as well as the designer's intent and approach to creating these extensive systems.

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The "Revival" of Slab-Serif Typefaces in the Twentieth Century

Written by: Keith Tam
This essay evaluates the formal characteristics of slab-serif typefaces and focuses on the evolutions of their form and use. It begins with a short historical survey of the early development of slab-serif typefaces in the nineteenth century and then examines the reinvention of the slab-serif idea in the twentieth century.

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A Discussion on Type Design Revivalism

Written by: Alejandro Lo Celso
An extensive look at some of the major type revivals in the early twentieth century, the various approaches to reviving Francesco Griffo's designs and the controversy surrounding the revival of typefaces in general.

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Oldrich Menhart: Calligrapher, Type Designer and Craftsman

Written by: Veronika Burian
This extensive dissertation presents the versatile work of the great Czech calligrapher and type designer Oldrich Menhart in his most unique and interesting period between 1930 and 1948. (This is a large file – even with the numerous images at low resolution. You will need the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this document in its entirety.)

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Basic Character Spacing in Type Design

Written by: Mark Jamra
The first steps to lining up those letters you worked on for so long.

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Calligraphic Tendencies in the Development of Sanserif Types in the Twentieth Century

Written by: Keith Tam
This impressive dissertation explores the relationship between calligraphic writing and the formal developments of sanserif typefaces in the twentieth century.

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Jan van Krimpen

Written by: Doyald Young
The story of a personal encounter with the great Dutch designer Jan van Krimpen and a look at his first major typeface design, Lutetia.

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This Monkey's Gone to Heaven & If the Devil is Six, then God is Seven. Against Anti-Foundationalism.

Written by: Elliott Earls
After influencing a decade of typographic experimentation, Elliott Earls offers this personal and informed perspective on foundational visual training and its effect on letterform design.

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Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones but Print Can Never Hurt Me: A Letter to Fiona on First Reading "The End of Print"

Written by: Jessica Helfand
An essay commissioned for the second edition of David Carson's The End of Print and written by Jessica Helfand to her then-two-year-old daughter.

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Form and Proportion in a Text Typeface: A Few Guidelines

Written by: Mark Jamra
A few nuts-and-bolts tips on letter structure for first-timers.

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Some Elements of Proportion and Optical Image Support in a Typeface

Written by: Mark Jamra
Originally a chapter in Visual and Technical Aspects of Type,
Cambridge University Press.

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