The Death of the Type Apprenticeship?

DanDA's picture

I was born in the wrong era. I cannot help but notice the lack of apprenticeships, especially in America. An ongoing search on the internet and through "inside connections" have led me to believe that the age of Master & Apprentice are thoroughly dead. Am I looking in the wrong closets or am I actually on to something?

Now, understandably, we could all toss it up to the laws of singularity, but maybe I am lost in dreaming that type design is still a romantic profession — or atleast the dreams I had after my Looking Closer III reading assignments. I mean, aren't most of the type foundries out there one or two man studios (i.e. Fountain, ThirstType, Orange Italic, DresserJohnson)?

I truly believe that any type-obsessed young entry level would give up everything and live in a 4ft x 4ft wood shack, brushing their teeth with muddy water, just to learn from the likes of Frank E. Blokland, Matthew Carter, or (my favorite) Fred Smeijers (in house/not university, that is).

I guess the real question (and the reason for this post) is: are apprenticeships really dead? and if they aren't how does one find a devoted master of the craft to teach them?

.'s picture

Dan, you will probably find that 90+% of type designers are not full-time type designers, and of the 10% who are full-time, 90+% of them work on their own. It's a function of the changes in technology in the last 30 years; type design no longer requires the backing organisation which was necessary from the mid 15th through late 20th centuries.

And even where many foundries publish the work of many designers, the majority of them will be independent contractors, much like authors, working on their own.

At one point Thirstype consisted of Rick Valicenti, Patric King, and myself sitting side-by-side in a room, primarily doing graphic design work, with some type stuff on the side. But the majority of the Thirstype designers were located far away, and were busy working at their own design firms doing the occasional bit of type work. I would imagine that the working arrangement at Fountain and many of the other small indy foundries is very similar. Underware is a group consisting of three gentlemen working in three cities.

The companies with design staffs are large companies which have been around for decades: Monotype and Linotype.

Another factor in the apprenticelessness of many type designers: they work out of their homes, and there is either not room for another person, or it would be awkward. (Personally, I live and work in a 425 square foot 2 bedroom apartment with my wife/partner and our two small dogs. It would not be feasible for us to have someone join us during the working day.)

So... Apprenticeship is not dead, and will never die; but it is not the only way to begin in the type industry. There are many ways which type designers now help each other develop and hone their craft, with this website being one such information channel.

Bald Condensed's picture

I think Chester nailed it on the head, really. The Critiques forum provides a place to have your type designs evaluated by your peers -- professionals and amateurs alike -- from the very first sketch till the finished design. And any other questions will be answered either here or in one of the other appropriate forums.

mrschwartz's picture

Forums like this one are all well and good, but there's still something to be said for working one-on-one with a designer you respect. I was lucky enough to go through a couple of internships that ended up being more like apprenticeships (complete with poverty and dodgy living situations), and my first 9 or 10 months on the Font Bureau design staff were a lot like an apprenticeship too. I learned quite a bit about drawing, spacing, and type production, which you could probably pick up here, or from books, or even by trial and error, but I don't think I could have learned about the business side - things like dealing with clients, and meeting deadlines - any other way.

So my point is - although graduate programs appear to be eclipsing apprenticeships as the way to learn about drawing type, apprenticeships do exist, so don't give up hope. I know Font Bureau always has an eye out for the next diamond in the rough, and I don't think they're the only ones. The important thing is to keep reading about type, and looking at type, and drawing type, so that when you find an internship, you have a good base of knowledge to build on.

Your profile says you're in Brooklyn, so feel free to contact me off-list for more info on type stuff going on around the city.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Only a few weeks ago I was re-reading Paul Rand's essay, Good Design Is Good Will, Yale University 1987:

    Even if it requires no extensive schooling, design is one of the most perplexing pursuits in which to excel. Besides the need for a God-given talent, the designer must contend with encyclopedic amounts of information, with a seemingly endless stream of opinions, and with the day-to-day problem of finding "new" ideas (popularly called creativity). Yet it is a profession relatively easy to break into. Unlike those of architecture and engineering, it requires no accreditation (not that accreditation is always meaningful in the arts). It entails no authorization from official institutions as do the legal and medical professions. This is equally true of other areas of the business world, for example, marketing and market research. There's no set body of knowledge that must be mastered by the practitioners. What the designer and businessman have in common is a license to practice without a license.

Apprecticeships (as similar to the old "Guild Systems") are still maintained by trades such as plumbing, carpenters, electricians, etc., and are strictly regulated from within in terms of level of accreditation as in tradesman to Master Electrician. Even the unions associated with typesetting, printing and newspaper publishing had maintained systems of apprenticeship as a way of teaching and regulating the skill sets of their levels.

But as mentioned by others above, we simply have to nourish these skills and share the knowledge via our community. It's really the MAIN reason I felt compelled to "resurface" in the type community, plus a true sense of DEBT that I owe to those who had taught me over the years.

Fisheye's picture

Apprenticeships are still very much alive at a few University Letterpress/Printmaking shops – masked under the guise of formal classes. I was a printmaking major who never graduated. Rather, I spent my time learning to set lead type from a master printer who liked to circumvent the system as much as I did.

You might think about enrolling in a University Book Arts curriculum where you'll learn not only to set type and operate old presses, but also to skillfully bind books and create wood type for titling. Usually, there are so few students enrolled in Book Arts programs that it may well seem like a one-on-one apprenticeship.

crossgrove's picture

Idea: sudent designers matched up one-to-one with working type designers, who give critique and advice digitally. No travel, overhead, or space considerations. The world of type designers is then available, instead of just the ones in your city. Mentors commit to 6 months or a year of monthly or weekly critiques and give recommendations for next steps. Each mentor can decide how many students to assist.

Daniel, you could contact Fred Smeijers and ask him if he would be willing to give you feedback over a period of time, while you develop a design (or designs).

Norbert Florendo's picture

This has been mentioned before, but there is definitely something to be said about manually composing type, adding spacers, coppers, lead, hand inserting ligatures, proofing and spot reading galleys prior to pulling proofs, in other words, getting intimate with tangible type.

It may have something to do with multiple synapse firing off during "hand-to-eye-to-hand" activities. It may have something to do with directly associating real three-dimensional space with spacing two-dimensional elements (and notan) and finally manipulating virtual space... though just a gut feel and nothing to substantiate the advantages of touching type.

It's like saying a "Master Typographer" could space type blindfolded by just running the hand over composed type... like Zatoichi, the blind swordsman slicing the wing off a moth in mid air.

dave bailey's picture

This is an interesting thread to read as I literally just put down my copy of The New Yorker with the article about Matthew Carter.

Randy's picture

Personally, I live and work in a 425 square foot 2 bedroom apartment with my wife
Dear Chester, thanks for the good news. I thought we were bad at 500sq ft for a two bedroom. I realize now that I take for granted the 4 inches between the bed and the wall.


PS. Openings available immediately for apprentices working in a well ventilated fire escape.

crossgrove's picture

I know a few graphic designers that set digital type blindfolded. >: (

Skills that are at least as important now as setting metal was then: drawing (letters, figures, cars, anything), and typographic layout. I think a type designer that doesn't use type has fewer tools to work with.

Diner's picture

Hi Dan,

This thread has been very interesting to read, thanks for your thoughtful post. . .

In general I think apprenticeship has gone by the wayside primarily because there haven't been any apprentices . . .

I say this primarily in part due to the fact that much information required to work or start a business in this field can generally be learned on ones own. By the virtue of this forum, type design books, Typecon, e-mailing other type designers, etc . . . There is a host of ways a self-taught font designer can acquire growing knowledge in this industry . . .

As a result of this virtual interaction, there isn't really an opportunity to be apprenticed but rather participate in the type design community at large and learn from asking . . .

That said, I don't think there has been anybody I've ever asked questions about the craft who hasn't been more than willing to help but the reality is that most of the time anybody who has the desire to run their own foundry usually will make the decision to start from scratch rather seek out professionals who do it for a living and apprentice . . .

So I still resolve that there is a shortage of apprentices who want to be apprenticed and rather turn their efforts to self-teaching . . . As you can see from the posts above, there is no shortage of opportunties to be apprenticed, just not many who wish to pursue them . . .

Stuart :D

Palatine's picture

Perhaps our internet, digitally-remastered lifestlye has something to do with this perceived lack of Master/Apprentice dynamic. It seems to still exist, but in a different form. You can, for instance, reach respected designers like Nick Shinn, Franta Storm and others by e-mail quite easily. Even on these forums there are practicing designers who (I'm quite sure) would work one-on-one with an "apprentice", perhaps by e-mail, during an exchange of specimen sheets or .psd files from computer to computer, seeing each other on webcam, etc. The critiquing, gentle admonishment, and patient teaching that seem to be characteristic of the (ideal) Master/Apprentice dynamic can still occur. It just doesn't necessarily involve sitting in the same room, hunched over design tools.

It's simply happening all at once, at lightning speed, in cyberspace. We're all connected now, to use a tired cliche.

N'est-ce pas?

TBiddy's picture

I think Daniel's onto something here. It does seem very difficult to break into the type industry. As Chester pointed out, over 90% of type designers are not full time type designers. It is very difficult to balance the time to do something that requires so much of your time and a way to bring home the bacon (or the daily bread if you're a vegetarian).

If more designers could find it as a viable source of income, you would find more designers involved in type design. It really is a starving artist field, not to say that there aren't quite a few success stories, but I'm willing to say that it might be harder to make a living as a type designer than as a fine artist. That's saying a lot. Lucky me, I happen to be interested in both. :)

The tools are certainly here on this site for finding a "Master" and honing your craft— the knowledge here is invaluable. The tools that are missing however, are how to parlay that knowledge into a career. Is this even possible?

dezcom's picture

"how to parlay that knowledge into a career"

I guess if 90% of type designers can't make a living from it, they have not figured out how to "parlay" either (myself included).


PS: Gee Christian, do you ever get down to the DC area to talk to old CMU design grads? :-)

TBiddy's picture

I guess if 90% of type designers can’t make a living from it, they have not figured out how to “parlay” either (myself included).

I was thinking specifically of you when I was writing my comment, Chris. :)

Bald Condensed's picture

> I know a few graphic designers that set digital type blindfolded. >: (

Indeed. :^/

Norbert Florendo's picture

There is another aspect of learning which can neither be "just taught" nor can be self-learned. It has to do with direct one-on-one interaction within physical proximity and then gradually at a distance from one another.

I don't believe it always requires a long period of time, in fact, I don't sense that the passage of time is an actual factor as opposed to a skill, knowledge or awareness that develops at its own rate.

This may not be what typically is associated with being an apprentice or student, but it does have something to do with the way one acquires certain forms of knowledge or understanding. During the early stages and at certain critical points, one needs to be directly observed, guided and evaluated before one progresses to the next area of development.

I can't seem to think of any examples in Western civilization, but for the Chinese, learning to be an approved practioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine is about as clear an example I can think of. There is a certain body of knowledge (massive, actually) which must be absorbed, and then there are several "skill/awarenesses" that must be developed and mastered. (Like sensing if a patient's Chi is sufficiently unblocked by acupuncture or if another technique is required.) There is no instrument for sensing Chi. You can't learn Chi or acupuncture from a book, and even when it's taught, it's not easily learned or understood.

The Chinese call this level of teaching/learing "transmission" which suggests that there is something more being imparted to the student than just knowledge. I feel that's true about typography as well. (Though, thank goodness, not too many people that I can think of have been killed or maimed by poor typography.)

I've never been an actual "apprentice" but I have been lucky enough to have had a few mentors, none of whom "taught" me anything directly, but whom I have learned from through their occasional guidance, from my direct observation, and from just spending periods of quality time together, listening, asking question, talking about life... and, oh yes, drinking wine (when with Aaron Burns) or beer (when with Ed Benguiat or Otl Aicher).

crossgrove's picture

That's what TypeCon is for....

; D

jim_rimmer's picture

I think that Rod MacDonald and John Downer would both agree with me that type designers come to be through a twisting trail tht is not alway in the form of instruction and mentorship. Both of these fellow came into type deign by being sign painters, and very good ones!

My backgrpund has been a six year structured apprenticeship in the composing (1950-1956) but it taught me nothing about designing type and not a lot more about appreciating it. I am grateful that is has dovetailed with what I have been able to teach myself: how to design typefaces.

I am trying to say that type design to a large degree comes from what's insde the individual, and the amount of motivation that person has.

Get what training you can, but above all, look a lot and draw a lot! I believe there is much to be learned at the intersection of a pencil point and paper.

If you a crazy about letters, you are a good part of the way there.

Best wishes in your quest.


DanDA's picture

Wow, thank you all. I was forced to take notes just for this reply.

Norbert — Beautiful references. You are finely tuned in to what I am saying. (Schwartz, as well.) You must be an asiaphilliac like me. On the subject of phenomenal arts — have you seen the Kôdo documentary? The drummers have to cut their own drum sticks and make their own drums and flutes. (They also run around the whole island they live on every morning, and their resting breath is spent playing the flute.)

That transmission is sort of what I am looking for. That is what you get at college, and the main reason why students fervidly pay $20k a semester instead of signing up for DeVry online.

Through a program, online pairing, or conventional "internships" the learning feels cold and commercial. Or at least with my experience it has (which was not specifically in "type" design but magazine publication, and then identity refurbishing and web). It's like that dreaded question Liza and Donald always ask on Typeradio: "Does money make the world go 'round?”

Stuart — How many young fresh graduates went to TypeCon in New York? Sadly, I couldn't make it. I'd imagine there are many others like me in the same situation. All wishing they could have a real world teacher. It is sad to think that this could all be because no one is interested in learning from someone who has already done it before you, but I just can’t wrap my brain around that. I think many designers my age have lost faith in this whole Master & Apprentice dream (or else they really enjoy the massive ad firm idea).

I guess the big thing is, I don't want to start on my own. What I am really dreaming of is a grandfatherly master teaching me conservative roman type as he scrapes the pencil across some rough Arches Rives BFK. It seems like all the successful and current designers have interned or apprenticed in Basel :) or The Hague or Sweden.

Chester — I agree. It would be incredibly awkward coming over to someone’s apartment to work. Their life completely exposed to this stranger.
And I do understand that custom type projects are far and few in between. But I have great type setting skills. I also have two chubby Lithuanian hands that are great with emptying trash and comping. Why would someone turn down an apprentice willing to dust his employer’s blinds?

I will definitely try the Critique forum, though. Thank you all again.

DanDA's picture

Also, does anyone know anything about the M&H Type apprenticeship in San Francisco (Arion Press)? For instance, is it any good?

Sorry. I guess I should've included this in my repost, but I forgot.

TBiddy's picture

does anyone know anything about the M&H Type apprenticeship in San Francisco (Arion Press)

I do. Here's what I was told from Andrew Hoyem who is in charge of Arion Press:
We occasionally take on apprentices in the type foundry and bindery, rarely in the printing shop, and these are for commitments of two to four years, starting at very low pay.

I went to Arion Press a few months ago. While I think you could learn a lot about printing there, I don't know how much you could actually learn about type design. Their thing isn't digital type at all. That's a whole different animal.

TBiddy's picture

I second Carl's comment on TypeCon. I've met a lot of people who I would now consider friends and mentors by attending last summer.

Daniel, another thing I've noticed as of late is that there isn't a lot of time or patience to really have a Master/Apprentice relationship. Many "Masters" are far too busy to be able to devote their time to send a reply e-mail, let alone instruct. Alas there will always be more willing students, then there are masters to teach them.

Norbert Florendo's picture

> You must be an asiaphilliac like me.

Nope... not really, unless that includes having fantasies of Kung Fu fighting with Michelle Yeoh ;-)

I used the acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) analogy because most people, even western medicine, believe that it does work... just not certain about the how or why. Most people also accept the fact that if you were to seek treatment, you wouldn't go to someone who got their training from a book or via the Internet, would you?

Having studied Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Quong for nearly ten years, and Tui Na (Chinese healing massage) and foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine on and off for three years with two Chinese Masters has nothing to do with my choice of analogies. I could have used Yoda teaching Luke Skywalker how to use the Force instead. ;-)

Master Yoda hopes to speak at TypeCon 2006.

John Hudson's picture

The apprentice model of learning type design has largely disappeared because the manufacturing processes and businesses that supported it have disappeared. The days when Matthew Carter could go, as a young man with his father's recommendation, to learn to cut punches by hand at Enschedé are gone because that highly skilled manufacturing process has disappeared, as have the mechanical versions of the same. They have been replaced by digital production tools that pretty much anyone can learn to use with some modicum of skill, and which have user interfaces that have much in common with non-specialist digital art and design tools, meaning that basic skills can be learned from a readily available books or courses.

I think it is important to realise that apprentices derive from manufacturing processes, not from design processes. Historically, most people learned to design type by learning to make type, or came to it through related activities of calligraphy (e.g. Hermann Zapf), stonecutting (e.g. Eric Gill), or sign painting (e.g. John Downer). Very few people ever apprenticed specifically as type designers. They apprenticed as drawing office staff producing production drawings from other people's designs, or as mechanics operating cutting or casting equipment, or they learned through the training or apprenticeship models of those related fields (e.g. David Kindersley, who apprenticed as a stonecutter with Gill, and after establishing his own career as a stonecutter took an interest in the spacing of mechanically reproduced lettering and type design).

One of my favourite stories about how someone became a type designer, which I think I've told here before, is that of Tim Holloway. He was hired for a junior management position by Walter Tracy at Linotype, and set to spend some time working in each othe various departments in order to learn how the whole business worked. When he got to the drawing office, he discovered that he had a natural talent as both a draughtsman and a designer. He never took the management position, and stayed in the design department. I consider him among the greatest living type designers, right up there with Matthew and Hermann, although he is overlooked by most people because almost all his work has been in non-Latin type design.

These kind of practical apprentices have disappeared because the people who design and make type don't really need apprentices to help with the making bit. If you need someone to help you manufacture fonts you don't need a beginner, and if you need help you're not in a position to teach anyone else: you need someone who knows more than you do. So the kind of 'entry level positions' that foundries are trying to fill is for people who already have good technical skills and experience, e.g. people like Tom Grace who went from the MA programme at Reading to work with Jeremy Tankard and is now working for Jean-François. I know that when my colleagues and I look at the graduates from places like Reading, we're not necessarily looking for the best designers, but for people who can do Python scripting or other programming, or who have good proven skills in being able to work with the tools, understand the font formats, and can produce robust fonts. In other words, we're looking for people who are already past the apprentice level.

In this situation, even the old economic model of apprenticeship -- having someone work for you for little or nothing, or even having them pay you for the privilege -- isn't attractive to potential employers/trainers. I simply don't have time to train someone, and I doubt if many of my colleagues do.

Some of the larger companies have intern programmes, which is as close as you are likely to get these days.

Nick Shinn's picture

Great posts Chester, John, Norbert.

I had the great fortune to work for a year as a junior art director for Raymond Lee, who I consider (in retrospect) to be my mentor. Ray is one of the "Big Idea" creatives who came to the fore in the 1960s. I have never done a piece of art direction since I left him, without him standing at my shoulder, so to speak, and I don't even have to ask myself "How would Ray have done this" because any time I stray, it sucks.

Another big influence is newspaper designer Tony Sutton. Tony is a meticulously un-fussy typographer, if you know what I mean; for instance he has no use for old style figures. So he's kind of an exemplary benchmark -- I design faces with him in mind, either for him, or in spite of him.

I'm a self-taught type designer, so there's no one like Ray or Tony there. But Oz Cooper is my virtual sensei.

vinceconnare's picture

>Nope… not really, unless that includes having fantasies of Kung Fu fighting with Michelle Yeoh ;-)

Michelle Yeoh is currently on the cast of Sunshine, a movie soon to be released from Danny Boyle. The site blog is run by one of my clients Gia and it's here:


this is Gia:

BTW: Dalton Maag anually has one or more interns that are trained in the traditional methods of drawing letterforms to digial font production. Through application and interview only.

Giovanni Jubert's picture


Thanks Dan for your posting and to everyone for your great answers.
I specialy thank this posting because it could have been me who posted something very similar to what you said. This meaning that i do understand your feelings and hear your pain.

The answers are great.
I'll tell you a story not to repeat all that has been said... (which nailed the subject)

My girl walks by my shoulder while im reading this posting and says,
"you have virtual friends..."
and I answer,
"Yes, somehow, but you know this is my second school, and those guys my mentors"
She smiles and leaves...

It's true, in my personal crusade to learn as much about type, letterforms and type design,
this are some of the most valueble tools i have.
My books, my hands, my eyes, little time, and typophile (together with plenty other great websites we all know...)

I do personaly pay mayself a master program in in NY and believe me, coming from a foreign coutry this can be hardcore, mostly when you do not find in it what you expect. I am not blaming the education, that could be better, of course, what i am trying to say, is that what pushes me forward is my will to learn more and more about this passion that we all here share. My commitment is to learn more, and for this, going to typecon helped greatly, but typohile and you guys are what encourage me to keep going, and keep learning.
I encourage you Dan to keep looking for your way, and it will happen.

Good luck!


DanDA's picture

Thanks. I was afraid that the real reasons would've been because of how John explains them, but it just makes sense that way. From strolling around in the Critique forum, I could see how easy it would be buried in my beloved copy of Dansk-Norsk Ordbog and checking up on posts.
Thank you all for your time, and hopefully I'll hear from you when posting up my type sketches.

hoefler's picture

I think the problem is the notion of "apprenticeship" in the first place. It's a very beguiling word: Dan's romantic notion of chisel-edged pencils and handmade paper is so seductive that I would like to apply for this apprenticeship myself. I can see myself spending a year with an Old Master, sharpening pencils and fetching pots of tea, while quietly taking in a body of received wisdom. I'm not exactly sure why an Old Master would pay me to do this, though; I suspect I'd have to pay the Old Master. In which case what I'm describing wouldn't be an apprenticeship, it would be grad school.

Almost all of the accomplished type designers I know -- certainly all the designers of my generation, and everyone younger -- learned on the job. This is a twofold process of learning established tradecraft, and developing your own techniques out of necessity. In my experience, this environment is unique to the commercial pressures of a professional setting: as Christian points out, this does not happen with FontLab & a web browser in your spare bedroom. That's good too, but it is different.

The workplace can be an amazing crucible for developing new skills, and sharpening the ones you have. It requires that you learn quickly, think on your feet, and demonstrably improve every day. It also, as John Hudson points out, demands a real facility with a range of abilities and interests, from drawing outlines to writing code. Its upsides include a paycheck, a collaborative environment, access to practitioners of the craft, and hands-on experience with real-world projects. Its downside is that it's real work, and very little real work involves lofty discussions about the echt Imperialness of an inscriptional roman. Also, some of it will be tedious, and most of it will be hard.

Think about what you really want out of an apprenticeship. If it's something that you think could be satisfied in the workplace, send out some portfolios. We're always looking for good people (, and I imagine that the folks at Font Bureau and House Industries are as well. If you think you'd rather take the time to focus on learning for learning's sake, consider a graduate program. Reading and KABK have strong programs in type design, and Yale, CalArts and Cranbrook have much to offer here as well.

DanDA's picture

Jonathan - That was exactly the advice I needed. I actually emailed Kevin Dresser about any openings at his small studio, and if he knew of anything open at your studio, as well.
Oh, how I would love to attend Reading or Royal Academy (I actually applied to Royal my senior year of college) — but, alas, everything comes back to finances.

Working (not apprenticing) would be better for my cause, but many studios, like John explains, want someone who isn't entry level at all. I guess the moral of the story is to spend three years with a pirated version of Fontmaster, a notebook, lots of pencils, a dark room, and a freelancing job – and now Typophile.

Thank you.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Another situation that makes any viable "on-the-job" training difficult is the sheer lack of type-aware businesses to seek employment at.

Though I am not a type designer, my typographic "on-the-job" training took place over the course of years at several printshops, a small book publisher, a daily newspaper, all of which had "seasoned pros" who were typographers, metal and photo composers, lettering artists, and ex-sign painters. I also spent time at type shops (those musty old warehouse establishements that ran 3 shifts setting type 24x7) watching type directors/typographers markup and edit galley proofs.

Prior to the mid-eighties, you could find such companies in virtually every mid-sized town to large city... all busy making a living doing something knowledgeably with type.

By the time I got to Compugraphic my typographic portfolio got me a spot as their Art Director in charge of type related promotional material and specimen books. Another 14 years gave me the opportunity to learn and collaborate with some of the best known and respected typographers and type designers around the globe.

Here are the current results from "SuperPages-Yellow pages" search for "typesetting" in New York City:
Display Options: Within select miles25

The Imaging Group
Imaging Systems & The Imaging Group are industry leaders in the graphic arts community. Keeping up with the latest equipment.
From Services: Typesetting

Bestype Imaging
Digital & Offset Printing: high quality, short-run, full color, fast turnaround
From Services: Typesetting

Color Seps
Complete prepress, drum scanning, large format film output, proofing, mac and PC platforms.
From Services: Typesetting

Results 1 - 3 of 3

John Hudson's picture

Its upsides include a paycheck, a collaborative environment, access to practitioners of the craft, and hands-on experience with real-world projects.

And access to books and specimens. Or don't you let the junior staff handle the books, Jonathan? :)

The closest thing I had to an apprenticeship was having free run of Gerald Giampa's specimen books and Lanston archive when he was based in Vancouver.

jim_rimmer's picture

I still draw with a flat pencil in designing my typefaces. It's something I picked up from my very small stint of art school, and it served me well in a longish career of design and layout.

It averages out to about twice a year that people come here from wherever and spend a few days picking up whatever part of typemaking interests them.

There have now been eight or so students that have been willing to work hard for three to five days. There is no cost save their own travel and keep. I do this because I want to pass on some things that I have picked up over the past 55 years, and it's a thrill for me to see their reactions to their own efforts.

I had precious little to do with it, other than a bit of direction; but one young man here in the Vancouver area has taken up cutting wood type. Here's another example of a very indirect path to type design. Incidentally he sold a font to Eric Spiekermann. Neat!

One young man cut an entire set of 14 point brass matrices here which he then cast and printed That's something I was happy to be a part of.


dezcom's picture

I am getting my flip-flops ready for your Vancouver Winters. At 62, would I be the oldest apprentice in the Guiness book? :-)


PS: In my youth, I would tie 2 pencils together with a rubberband and draw letters as if I were using a flat pen but very big.

jim_rimmer's picture

62 ????

Man, you're just getting broke in!

And it's been warm here, but wet beyond imagining.


jim_rimmer's picture

I forgot to mention that in public school we used to try to get away with tying two or three pencils together to do "lines" which were given to us as punishment. You know the kind of thing: "I will not ever again" etc.


dezcom's picture

We had to do it at the chalkboard for all to see Jim :-)


Nick Shinn's picture

...tying two or three pencils together to do “lines”

In the Jarrold Printing Museum in Norwich and they have an old machine which produces ruled paper. It is quite literally a set of evenly spaced pens, which paper is rolled past.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I think I agree with most of John's thoughts on apprenticeship, and what the large type foundries are needing today.

At Adobe, we have once or twice talked about the possibility of taking on an intern, but we agreed that even a six-month placement of somebody truly novice would be more of a drain than a help, in the final accounting.

I feel very lucky indeed in having Robert Slimbach, whose work I admire a great deal, as my mentor in type design. At the same time, in many other (related) areas I wish I had somebody I could mentor as part of my work. But that's just not going to happen, I don't think. :(


John Hudson's picture

I forgot to mention that in public school we used to try to get away with tying two or three pencils together to do “lines” which were given to us as punishment. You know the kind of thing: “I will not ever again” etc.

I've seen Tim Holloway using two pencils taped together -- with one edge of each shaved down to reduced the space between the points and to make the whole more stable -- to sketch the basic contrast of an Arabic letter before refining the outlines, making optical adjustments, and inking.

In the Jarrold Printing Museum in Norwich and they have an old machine which produces ruled paper. It is quite literally a set of evenly spaced pens, which paper is rolled past.

There is a huge old wooden ruling machine in the lobby of Benwell Atkins printers in Vancouver, of the kind used to rule large ledger folio pages. Rather than having pens, it has fine, taut threads that are inked and then lowered onto the the paper (very similar, in fact, to the string-slapping technique used by ancient Egyptian wall painters to make the straight vertical lines between columns of hieroglyphs). It looks a lot like a kind of loom, and the strings could be raised or lowered individually to produce different line spacing configurations. Sadly, the machine is no longer in working order.

If you are in the Vancouver area, I recommend dropping by B/A on Great Northern Way to take a look at this wooden beast of a bygone era.

a2z's picture

i was an apprentice (briefly) at M&H. the low pay was really a problem--i couldn't afford rent without a second (and at times a third) job, which really cut into the time i was able to spend learning useful things there. i spent most of my time there melting lead from used type... i really wanted to learn casting, which i didn't.

i have to say i did learn alot though, and really miss having PHYSICAL contact with letterforms. the exposure to original artwork by amazing artists certainly didn't hurt either...


hrant's picture

{Disclaimer: I haven't read every word in this thread.}

> I’m not exactly sure why an Old Master would pay me to do this

There is one good practical reason: if he's swamped with work, and he can make more money by saving time on the menial stuff.* The question becomes: how many of even our top type designers are actually swamped? That's not a rhetorical question - I frankly don't know - in fact you could say I'm asking. :-)

* Think of Reubens.

And then there's a good impractical reason: wanting to pass
something on. I think this must be Jim's reason for example.


nickshanks's picture

"together with plenty other great websites we all know"
I don't know them. Would you mind sharing?

Also, I'm in Hertfordshire; If there's anyone here nearby who wouldn't mind a young-un looking over their shoulder as they work, I'd be interested in observing how a professional works. I have no formal type education (I did astrophysics at school and computer programming at home) so it would be a new experience for me.

Giovanni Jubert's picture

“together with plenty other great websites we all know”
I don’t know them. Would you mind sharing?

+ all the foundries websites
+ any website from anyone who writes something interesting in this blog

Diner's picture

Late last evening something occurred to me about this topic I thought I'd share . . .

Historically didn't an apprentice have little to no experience in a given trade who wished to learn it?

It seems to me that I feel I could easily become an apprentice to a carpenter or mechanic and learn most of all of my knowledge from the ground up from the teacher rather a primary education followed by a pseudo internship to hone skills . . .

That's not to say there is one way to learn but the more I got to thinking about things it seemed that it would be much easier to teach a person with little or no experience in type design rather than somebody who already has a working knowledge of the entire craft and has already created some fonts . . .

Stuart :D

dezcom's picture

Perhaps you are getting at the master-apprentice relationship. Typically this relationship ends when the apprentice has either learned enough of his master's wisdom to go on his own, or there is a tenson developed where apprentice questions the master's ability to overule him (or the master thinks his apprentice to be a dolt).
I think the relationship has to at least start with the acceptance by the apprentice that knowledge is coming down to him/her and that this is not a colleague relationship. Maybe what you are saying is that you would not see peoplewilling to be subserviant if they already felt they had achieved some resonable degree of knowledge and skill?
I think this also varies with the type of task being taught. Learning how to cut a punch or make a casting is more akin to your carpenter example. Learning to design one's own typeface would be another story. Here there are far more avenues to take and plenty more room for dissagreement on form.
The technical part of the craft has changed to more of the software knowlege including FontLab and VOLT, as well as hinting, scripting, and OTF feature construction.


Diner's picture

Thanks for your reply Chris . . .

I do agree with many of your points but would clarify my point being that an apprentice with far less knowledge of a given craft would have greater desire to learn . . .

Stuart :D

dezcom's picture

" apprentice with far less knowledge of a given craft would have greater desire to learn"

Absolutely true.


Norbert Florendo's picture

One thing to remember about apprenticing in the Black Arts was that it was originally born of the Guild System, specifically the Printers Guild. You didn't simply "learn" from a Master, but worked for a specific guild (Printers Guild of Padua, Italy) and received additional training as the guild saw fit. Guild and trade secrets were (and still are in certain professions) kept highly guarded.

Today, Printer Guilds still exist, but more in light of preserving the craft and as a means of educating. (The Yale Honorable Company of College Printers, the world’s oldest continuous student printing guild.)

To a lesser degree, the same holds true with Typographers Guilds. IMHO, certain "secrets" of the Black Art can still be learned (the wisdom of the "Typographic Eye") and experienced but only by DOING, not by reading or talking with someone about it. Get up close and personal with a private letterpress shop that does fine printing.

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