Typeface design education

Cassie's picture

I'm wondering where one can go to learn about type design. I know there are a couple of university programs, but they seem to be really few and far between. I'm a graduating graphic design student, and I've taken a great interest in type design, but it seems like the resources for learning how to design properly are very limited.

I'm working right now on my first font ever (http://typophile.com/node/44909, any feedback would be awesome!), and used Karen Chang's Designing Type as a guide. I know there are other books (I think I'm going to go buy the Font, Logo and Lettering Bible), but I'm interested in finding out where I can go to formally study it, as type design and hand lettering really interest me. Any programs (although I'm not looking to go back to university at this point) would be helpful.

If there aren't too many suggestions for where to go to learn formally, how did everyone here learn to design type? I'd love to hear more about your backgrounds.



blank's picture

Go to Typecon. You’ll learn a hell of a lot.

typerror's picture


There is a Calligraphy Guild in San Diego. Go to cynscribe.com and look under Guilds.


.00's picture

Most type designers my age never studied formally, because there wasn't any way to study formally. We just started drawing type and looked long and hard for books and articles to help us along the way. I had the good fortune to take one of Ed Benguiat's Indicated Lettering classes at SVA in the late 70s, but that was about quick marker comp lettering, not type design. If you want to design type, just start drawing type and stop wasting your time looking for a formal program. The money you spend on a formal program is probably too much to justify, so why bother. Just draw type.

I wouldn't recommend Chang's book, but who cares, right.

Doyald Young's books are much better. Better to read a book by someone who can actually draw letters, no?

Cassie's picture

James P, I would love to go to TypeCon. I'm going to try to make it happen this year.

Michael, thanks so much! That's great, I'll look them up.

James M, That's good to know. I kinda figured as much since there seems to be such a lack of programs... so that's what I've done—just started drawing type! I think Cheng's book seems to be good for analyzing the little idiosyncrasies. But yes, I have all of Doyald's books, and have been in touch with him regarding a lot of my work—he's given me some great feedback. He is such a wonderful and talented individual.

I don't necessarily want a full program (as I'm finally done with 5 years of university!), but some sort of workshop or resource (other than a book) would be great.

Thanks all, keep 'em coming!

kentlew's picture

There are invariably a couple of pre-TypeCon workshops about working with FontLab, as far as the technical aspects are concerned, at several levels. Getting into one of these can be a great jump-start on getting over that initial technical hump.

But they fill up fast, so as soon as the website goes live and registration is open (soon, we all hope!) then you should jump on it.

Inspiration and learning about all sorts of other things will come from going to presentations, talking to practicing type designers, and just hanging out with other typophiles.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Going to TypeCon is a fine idea as a starting point. It's probably too late to apply for the fall semester at any relevant school anyway.

Both I (personally) and Adobe *corporately) have long been impressed with the MA Typeface Design program at Reading in the UK.

I believe that they do an excellent job of teaching both the basics and some advanced stuff. The quality of the work that has come out of that program has been surprisingly good. Quite a few Reading grads have gone on to rewarding careers at leading type foundries (Adobe, Linotype, Hoefler + Frere-Jones, etc.), or started their own foundries. Some of them hang out here on Typophile.

The other program worth mentioning is the KABK in the Netherlands, but I don't have as much personal experience of it, so I'd best let others comment.



Theunis de Jong's picture

Look at this page -- scroll down to the bottom to see the list of regular and visiting teachers at KABK!

I've had the privilege of working with Fransje Berserik a few times. She designed a couple of covers for the firm I worked at, and I was always impressed by her ability to draw in text in Smeijers fonts by hand ...

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