Reading MA Typeface design 2009 typefaces now online!

clauses's picture

Dear Typophiles, I proudly present you this years typeface designs from the students of University of Reading's MA in Typeface design. You will find links to PDF specimens and 'Reflection on Practice' essays.

http://www.typefacedesign.org/2009/

There you will also find updated pages for the years 2000-08

Kind regards,
Claus Eggers Sørensen
MATD class of 2008-09

Juliann Wilding's picture

I really like Anglaise. it is like a sexy modified Motter Ombra. I have been working on my own customization of Motter Ombra for a personal project. so maybe i am drawn to this font for that reason.

I really like reading all the comments about style and method. I dream to design my own typeface and I will call it 'Wilding'. but I have a lot to learn yet.

satya's picture

Okay, this is becoming an unhealthier thread now. Let me clear a few things.

@David & Paul:
Please note, I am not commenting on Fiona Ross here at all. She is a great designer/teacher and I respect her for everything she has done. Also, the term non-Latin I used was to do with Indics only - sorry for not putting it clearly.

I was mainly here referring to the typos in the specimens only, and feel that it is also the part of it. Why there is no typos in Latin?

And otherwise also, I feel that the time you guys put into designing Indics is simply not enough for the amount of work you are supposed to render. Most of you guys focus only on your Latin designs and keep all your Indic secondary. May be you all do a lot of research but it does not reflect (at least) in your booklets. All the typefaces I have seen so far, only the Latin ones were completed. Also you will always make your Latin first and then force the Indics to go with it. Is that the correct way? If the intension is to learn, why not design a stand alone typeface?

I still stay on my opinion that the tyepfaces I have seen so far (except Malabar Hindi and Frida Tamil), lack a proper skeleton and hence not pleasing to read. No matter how refined they are.

Paul, I am not generalizing here anything, it's just a personal opinion. It all could be wrong.

Peace.

David Brezina's picture

The so called Reading style is in fact several styles. You can track threads of typefaces over the years inspired by Excoffon’s expresivity , Dwiggins’ pracical angularities, various stress experiments, … The website is a great resource to study how the students personalities project into typeface design, how people deal with the same inspiration differently.

Also note that we posted a lot of Reflection on Practise essays which describe the reasoning behind the typefaces and development of not-only-Latin typefaces. It is a great resource of meaningful and constructive writing on design process.

David Brezina's picture

Satya: Most of you guys focus only on your Latin designs and keep all your Indic secondary. … Also you will always make your Latin first and then force the Indics to go with it.

This is clearly not the case. The process is iterative and the design of Latin and other scripts is intertwined. The dominance differs for each project. Satya, do some reading before you claim something. Look at the RoPs at least. You are suggesting how the students work without knowing anything about it.

abi's picture

Juliann: I think it's doing Anette Schmidt's Anglaise a disservice by calling it a "modified Motter Ombra", Anglaise was quite clearly developed with different ideas in mind. I don't see much similarity past being both of them being bold high-constrast display types.

1985's picture

userone I think I am replying to you and maybe also fermello78

The similarity I am seeing (I'm too ill equipped to even describe it) is quite nuanced, house style was too strong a term! I was curious about it's presence without intending any judgement. I thought about one day studying in Reading and was hoping to glean something about the mechanics of the course by studying the output! So for example duration sounds like a big factor.

I like this thread, hat's off to all participants.

fermello78's picture

>Re. the similarity of some of the Latin designs. I think there is a bit of a default Reading style which involves a chunky roman text face with a broad-nib stress pattern with strongly-flavoured serifs.

Titus Nemeth's fault, probably.

kidding... :))

F

fermello78's picture

Sorry folks to continue the off-topic on Tamil.

Vikas:

>Fermello, please have a look at the fonts designed by students of NID, IDC, & JJ school of Art. I’m not sure if they’ve put up their work, but I saw their graduate show, and was quite happy to see some fonts designed by students. Fonts designed by CDAC, are very popular among Indian publishers, you can find their catalog online.

Couldn't find the student fonts you mentioned.

But I did find the fonts 'designed by CDAC' and can tell you that great part of them consist of digitizations of pre-digital display types that can be found in many old metal/hotmetal catalogues from Indian foundries which I had the chance to consult while studying in Reading. Also, note that the high-contrasted fonts TM Bharati and TM Kapilan, which I reckon, must be widely used for texts, are in fact 'undercovered' Monotype designs (some of them also appeared in several pre-digital Indian catalogues, sometimes with references to the numbers 280, 340, 580 and 708, notably the Monotype way of naming its Tamil fonts). And these Monotype designs are undoubtedly derived from the work of the American Mission Press in Madras in the nineteenth century.

F

paul d hunt's picture

'famous as a type designer'

hyuk, hyuk, hyuk, hyuk >^p

ebensorkin's picture

Indeed, famous and type designer don't really fit together that well.

Juliann Wilding's picture

Abi, I do not mean to discredit the work behind Anglaise by comparing it to Motter Ombra; perhaps my wording was off but I wasn't trying to say that she had simply modified the font. obviously I have no clue as to her design process.

nor was i trying to say the 2 fonts are identical but they do share some qualities, maybe most profoundly an indescribable feeling they leave me with; of course you do not have to agree.

but they would be in the same visual police lineup, so-to-speak. in *my* opinion.

paul.halupka's picture

i agree with some of the comments about threads of similarities among classes. if you choose to look at these as examples of progress and learning, that's not a terrible thing as they are clearly all well-researched. but i notice the argument of "if you look more deeply into the details" is brought up a couple of times.

here's my thought on that. the perspective of a designer who would want to use these in a project is rarely one that delves quickly into the details. it begins by the initial "feel" of a typeface, the gut reaction that one wishes to apply to his material... not all designers are type freaks.

so with respect i say congratulations to the students who have put so much hard work, research, and time into such a critically challenging and otherwise difficult craft. that said, i also feel rather critical towards the lack of top-level diversity between some — not all — of the typefaces.

that is to say... the technical, well-researched, objective qualities (that i may not fully appreciate) fall prey to the immediate subjective reaction i get when browsing a font menu or type specimen.

neverthless, impressive and badass work here!

paul d hunt's picture

“if you look more deeply into the details” that's not even a complete thought, let alone an argument. can you finish the rest of this sentiment that you're feeling so the rest of us can understand what you're trying to get at?

k.l.'s picture

"Looking more deeply" seems to refer to Eben's earlier post ...

ebensorkin's picture

With Karsten's cue, I should maybe explain what I meant by that. I think that if a type works well as a text face as designers we stop looking very hard at why it is working. Similarly we don't investigate why the water works in our house. If it does, we are happy and we leave it at that. It doesn't make us bad people. But as this is a type site some of us will be wondering... So I will explain what I meant.

Without meaning to beat anybody up ( see the text above!) I think it is fair to agree with Paul Halupka and admit that graphic designers do quite often lack the skill with which to assess a text face. Not all graphic designers set books or magazines after all. Some of us make logos or do other things. So some, even many, (most?) graphic designers will not be able to quickly assess the MATD designs, or to be fair, any other group composed of text faces. I have been a member of that group.

Where I disagree with Paul Halupka is that you have to be a font freak to see the difference once you set some text in a few different type faces. Even a long time logo designer, once they try setting text will suddenly see a great deal of difference. Even if they don't know why that difference is there.

And people who routinely make choices about setting text may not know in detail why they make their choices. But they are responding to differences in voice and weight and color. And if they are experienced they may also be making that choice based on factors like weight flexibility, glyph range, relationships betwen romans, italics, smallcaps etc. And in some cases because they know know how a type ( or formal charcateristic of a type ) acts on a given kind of paper stock when printed using a certain method.

So with that as a context; what I think is fun about this crop of MATD typefaces is that the ones which are meant to be text faces of one kind or another* work in some ways partly because formal characteristics such as tending to be relatively low contrast for instance, which in this case they mostly share, but also in spite of very different approaches to construction, levels of noise in their shapes so on. Admittedly these differences in approach are hidden under the skin of "working". But if you start to compare the letters shapes closely, or set texts in the fonts, I am confident that the difference in he fonts voice or feel and the differences in suitability to a given task will jump out at you.

*text faces come in a variety of sub varieties after all

Nick Shinn's picture

The majority of Reading student designs are low-contrast, semi-condensed, non-geometric, serifed text faces of conventional letter shape (e.g. all g's are binocular), with large x-height and ascenders that extend beyond cap height.

For differentiation from one another, they rely on styling details such as asymmetric serifs, which serve no function in a text face.

That doesn't make them dysfunctional, because they can still work very well with redundant features, although very few if any classic, established text faces have asymmetric serifs, which would suggest that it is not a good idea.

But the merit of any one face is not really the issue.
What does it say about a course in type design, that the majority of the faces hew so closely to a uniform template, year after year?

Students should be encouraged to become aware of what is informed by both convention and trend in their shared taste (and that of the faculty) and step beyond it, experimenting with the basic parameters of type form-- x-height, extender length, and contrast (both of stem widths and letter widths), perhaps even adopt non-conventional letter forms. Is the New Typography of the previous decade dead history?

There is plenty of time to be "contemporary" once one has graduated, but surely--notwithstanding a solid grounding in technical competence--design education should be more devoted to experiment with fundamental form than styling.

paul d hunt's picture

Is the New Typography of the previous decade dead history?

i hope so.

Nick Shinn's picture

Young fellow, you weren't around before. Things were turgid, to say the least.
While the Reading course is a necessary agent of maturity in digital type culture, the sameness that has been observed in its student output appears to be the result of excising the open-minded approach to type design that emerged during the digital revolution--at least if your reaction is anything to go by!

paul d hunt's picture

i assure you it isn't: my views are entirely my own.

eliason's picture

@Nick: Did you mean "century" in place of "decade," or am I missing your reference?

Nick Shinn's picture

Craig, the previous decade is 1990s, IMHO.

...i assure you it isn’t: my views are entirely my own...

Paul, you may have arrived at your views individually, but they nonetheless have much in common with other Reading students, if such views are borne out in the faces produced.

How do you explain that Grandia has many of the same qualities of form that Reading student designs of recent years have exhibited? (noted in my 11.03 post)

paul d hunt's picture

i can't speak for others, but Grandia was influenced by (as far as i can best identify) Menhart + Dwiggins + Unger + perceived constraints for printing at small sizes + the desire to harmonize with Devanagari (highly calligraphic influence) + my own design aesthetic. I'm certain that certain other students have also been inspired to varying degrees by the first three influences at least, still others perhaps have been fascinated with type for small sizes. Had I chosen Tamil, Telugu, Sinhala or a script based on pointed pen construction for my non-Latin portion, I would probably have done a modern face for the Latin. The style I chose seemed to me to tie together all the influences/constraints that I wanted to bring together.

Nick Shinn's picture

Tamil is a language, Devanagari is an alphabet.

Having once been advised by Gerry Leonidas, in a Typophile thread, that a Greek type of mine wasn't calligraphic enough, could it be that the hegemony of The Stroke at Reading comes from, first, the belief that many non-European scripts are inherently calligraphic, and consequently that multi-script types must therefore be calligraphic?

paul d hunt's picture

Tamil script, sorry.
Devanagari is better described as a abugida or an alphasyllabary if we're being pedantic.
My personal feelings are that any similarities that exist between the faces that come out of reading as student projects are based on the fact that many of the students likely have cultivated similar tastes to begin with and that in most every case, these projects are the first attempt of the students to produce a coherent typeface. The fact that students will be scored for their work may contribute to many students playing it on the safe side. That or perhaps young students feel that it's better to get some fundamentals down first and then experiment later. i can't say why there is such a high level of hegemony, but it is interesting to hear others speculate and criticize if a bit baffling/humorous/insightful/frustrating/humbling to hear the views of those looking from the outside in.

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks for the disinterested assessment.

paul d hunt's picture

disinterested? i'm anything but! if i were in Toronto, i'd be glad to have a long chat with you about all this over a pint or two. if i'm disinterested in having this conversation it's disinterest over the format and not the content. sorry if i'm coming across cross over the internet.
In fact, I feel I've been quite candid and honest and open about my own experiences at least. It seems that perhaps you're disinterested in hearing the perspective from the inside?

Nick Shinn's picture

Paul, disinterested means candid and honest--no axe-grinding!
I was paying a compliment. Candid would have been a better word to use, apologies for my cumbersome vocabulary.

Sure I'm critical of the Reading approach, because it's not the way I teach type design, and I'm interested to find out why it is what it is, by asking hard questions--hopefully in a disinterested manner. I will admit there's more than one right way to teach.

The commonalities of the student designs is a fascinating phenomenon, and your insights are quite illuminating.

paul d hunt's picture

doh! apparently i need to take more of those 'it pays to enrich your vocabulary' tests. i won't make that mistake again.

anyway, i'm in Buffalo in October, perhaps i can make it up for a visit and we can chat more about it then.

Nick Shinn's picture

Alright!

Bendy's picture

>Sure I’m critical of the Reading approach, because it’s not the way I teach type design

Nick, among those you teach do you find similarities of style?

Nick Shinn's picture

No. Quite the opposite.
But I teach a single semester course as part of a 3-year graphic design program, not a one-year MA.
A better comparison of teaching method with typeface design outcome would be comparing work designed at Reading with that done at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (KABK), and Gerard Unger would probably be the man to do it, as he teaches at both institutions.
The KABK work appears to have more variety, although quite a few of its student designs in the most recent year are also low contrast serifed faces with very small cap height and conventional letter-forms.

Perhaps it's just the contrarian in me, but I don't see why the criterion of readability in text faces has to be such a constraining influence on proportion and letter form. Last week I came across an advertising booklet from around 1930, which I bought, in part because of the lovely text type, with its small x-height, monocular "g", and Venetian "e", which I found to be perfectly readable.

Nick Shinn's picture

BTW Eben, note the contextual variation of double "l" and double "s"!

Goran Soderstrom's picture

I want to give my respect to Anette Schmidt for being the rebel in this crowd :)

ebensorkin's picture

I do have a contextual l (el) that follows where the 1st one is shorter than the second. I am have my doubts that either of these is really contextual though. Do you have better images?

Nick, some of what you are saying doesn't quite add up for me. Admittedly I have been here at Reading and I could have "drunk the cool-aid" as they say, but even if that's the case I think some of what you wrote needs closer looking into if only for the sake of accuracy. I have no doubt that Paul will sort you out. I may make an attempt at some point as well.

But while I can't spare the time for an in depth reply just now I did want to register my disagreement.

David Brezina's picture

The majority of Reading student designs are low-contrast, semi-condensed, non-geometric, serifed text faces of conventional letter shape (e.g. all g’s are binocular), with large x-height and ascenders that extend beyond cap height.

At first, I am not completely sure if this statement is valid at all. How many years do you include in your calculation? Did you do that calculation at all or is it just a feeling?

Second, perhaps the same can be said about contemporary text typefaces in general? So what does it say about the students’ work? That they understood the genre. The goal, for most of them, was to design a text typeface. Working text typeface. If somebody want to spend a year designing display type, that is their choice. The people usually aim bit higher, for dictionary typefaces, newspaper typefaces, … in order to make use of the academic year. So that is the reason why they chose to follow the way of "careful originality" or say "readable originality".

Third, non-geometric, low capitals, serif that is a must for a typeface usable in long texts. Large x-height, low contrast is a need for small sizes. Give me high-contrast sans-serif newspaper or dictionary typeface. The students just understand their brief.

For differentiation from one another, they rely on styling details […] which serve no function in a text face.

That is exactly the point! The styling has minimal function that would affect the readability. Much better option than originality for the sake of originality (venetian -e- or single-storey -g- for example). The problem is the differing understanding of what readability is. Where you go for subjective evaluation of what is and what is not readable, I would go for definition based on convention.

I would prefer if people avoided biased comparisons of the KABK and Reading. There are similar "inspiration threads" at KABK: Underware-like, Noordzij inspiration, … and at the same time there is some interesting stuff going on.

Type design is a craft at the first place. If you think you can teach being original… ehm. well, you can keep thinking that. That would be a pain to discuss it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Eben, having had a look through the rest of the publication, it seems that the contextuality is the result of bounce, rather than an alternate design of glyph. However, that's a legitimate effect.

I don't think I've said anything inaccurate about why the typefaces at Reading tend to be similar in appearance. Just some conjecture as to why that might be--Paul came up with a few theories too.

Nick Shinn's picture

Did you do that calculation at all or is it just a feeling?

Neither, it's an observation.

So what does it say about the students’ work? That they understood the genre.

That they didn't question the conventions, or the trends.

Large x-height, low contrast is a need for small sizes.

For agate, perhaps, but otherwise that is simply not true. Presently, large x-height faces appear to be in vogue for text, as they were thirty years ago. Is that a need?

Where you go for subjective evaluation of what is and what is not readable, I would go for definition based on convention.

It may be better, educationally, to try to achieve readability in a type design based on unconventional premises. But in my experience, when a student comes up with a set of premises for a type design, it's difficult to anticipate what the outcome will be, or what will be learnt. It may well be possible to learn more from attempting the impossible and failing dramatically. At any rate, I do not grade students by "subjectively" looking at the face and deciding how good or readable it is, or how "creative" the premise, I look at how well they have gone through the process of crafting it.

The journey is more important than the destination, and if you believe that, you will end up at the right place.

If you think you can teach being original…

I've never taught an MA in type design. But teaching type design to graphic design students, most of whom have no special interest in typography, they always amaze me with the variety of work they come up with.

paul d hunt's picture

Nick, is it possible to see samples of the work of your students? I'm very intrigued.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: disinterested means candid and honest

No it doesn't. Disinterested means unbiased, i.e. having no vested interest.

Tamil is a language, Devanagari is an alphabet.

Tamil is an ethnicity, a language, a script and an alphabet: the same term is used for all these things. Devanagari is a script, which is a superset of a number of alphabets, e.g. Hindi, Marathi and Nepali.

Nick Shinn's picture

...having no vested interest.

What I was trying to say, was that Paul's analysis was very objective for someone in the middle of things.
What would be the best adjective for that? Dispassionate?

...the same term is used for all these things.

Well yes, English, French etc. are nationalities as well as a languages too.
For all the things that Tamil and Devanagari are, they are not inherently device-dependent (i.e. "calligraphic") in their appearance, which IMO is a mistaken view, even though their letter forms may have originated with specific media, as did the Latin script.

...is it possible to see samples of the work of your students?

I've already asked the authorities if this would be OK, but haven't heard back yet.

David Brezina's picture

Nick Shinn: At any rate, I do not grade students by “subjectively” looking at the face and deciding how good or readable it is, or how “creative” the premise, I look at how well they have gone through the process of crafting it.

My point was bit different: from your subjective interpretation of readability arise your criteria on judging creativity/originality. Nevertheless, you made a good point in the last sentence and I agree with that. No idea why can you judge the course on the creative premise at the same time.

My impression from several remarks above is that people expect the students to come up with strikingly orginal design (as in display) while designing a text typeface. This seems mistaken. In my opinion, orginality is pretty much the oposite of readability of long texts.

Tim Ahrens's picture

Here's my two cents on this:

1. Execution is more important than idea/concept/originality, as we probably all agree.

2. Pure execution is impossible, however. You cannot just execute, you have to execute something.

3. People will always try to see that something, no matter how good the execution. If they don't find anything then they will be disappointed or confused.

With some typefaces I find it difficult to judge (for myself) whether it is convincing because I do not even see what it is that I should be convinced of.

Miguel Sousa's picture

> In my opinion, orginality is pretty much the oposite of readability of long texts.

Agree. Having done the Reading MA in 2004-2005, and watching Robert Slimbach's processes and struggles of designing text typefaces during the past 3 years, I believe that the level of originality in what we call a readable/legible typeface can only be about 5%.

Just look back to Jenson's roman type in De Evangelica Preaparatione from 1470. How much have things evolved since then? What significant events happened in 500 years? Quirkiness was tamed, x-height grew, and sans serifs sprouted. Anything else? Is this comparable to the shift from blackletter to roman type? The development of sans serifs may be, assuming we don't acknowledge them as mere roman type without serifs.

mjkerpan's picture

Very cool stuff. One thing I've always wondered is why student type design projects never seem to make their way into the world the way say, student Computer Science do. Instead, student type projects seem to either never become available at all, unless they get picked up by a commercial distributor. It would seem to me that even if students don't manage to get their fonts sold to a foundry, that more of them might either self-publish on the web or release them as freeware...

William Berkson's picture

Originality is a very difficult topic. But I do agree with Nick that a teacher can choose to emphasize helping the student to develop his or her individual voice and vision--or not.

And I do get the feeling that the emphasis at Reading is on producing the skills and understanding to get a job in the font industry. That they seem to be succeeding at this is an impressive achievement.

I do get the feeling from looking at the typefaces that they don't emphasize as much development of individual voice and vision. But it is very hard to judge this from the outside, as it is also a matter of which students choose to attend, and what those students want out of the year.

At TypeCon in Atlanta Gerry Leonides did say that he wants the students at Reading to do text faces, as these have additional demands that display faces don't. This seems to me a pretty reasonable point.

I agree it is harder to be original with text faces, but I don't agree that originality is impossible or unimportant. You have a narrower scope to express originality, but it can come out strongly still, if the designer has a strong and consistent enough vision. Just look at Goudy Old Style or Palatino. These are unmistakable, original text faces, even though they may vary less than 5% from the faces of Jenson and Griffo.

fermello78's picture

Nick Shinn:
very few if any classic, established text faces have asymmetric serifs, which would suggest that it is not a good idea.

Adobe Jenson -- can one be more classic than that? -- is full of asymmetric serifs (which I believe are not redundant to the calligraphic feeling of the type, in this case).

Some of Fournier's types have them as well. Apollo by Frutiger, too!

F

John Hudson's picture

Nick: For all the things that Tamil and Devanagari are, they are not inherently device-dependent (i.e. “calligraphic”) in their appearance, which IMO is a mistaken view, even though their letter forms may have originated with specific media, as did the Latin script.

My take on this is that every writing system is tool-influenced and insofar as these tools influence the development of the normative shapes of writing during the maturation and standardisation of the script, then they more or less limit the kind of modifications that can be made without undermining those shapes in ways that may affect both legibility and cultural acceptance of new designs. Of course, other factors apply in the latter regard, not least the relative adventurousness or conservatism of the individual culture. But the influence of tools and how those tools are used can't be ignored willy-nilly. As I've written elsewhere, I think the term ‘calligraphic’ is imprecise and misleading, so should be ignored, but is what Paul is saying is that the normative forms of Devanagari letters are influenced by the use of a broad nib tool held at a particular angle, and that other scripts such as Tamil are influenced by different tools used in different ways, then this is a sound observation. He's playing it safe in treating Devanagari as he has in his Reading project, but if he chose not to play it safe, then he would have to deal with the contrast between the influence of traditional tools and methods on the normative shapes and trying to treat those shapes in different ways.

Scripts are not device-dependent, but nor are they entirely device-independent.

John Hudson's picture

Miguel: I believe that the level of originality in what we call a readable/legible typeface can only be about 5%.

This always strikes me as a strange way to look at it, because if a typographer or designer is making a choice between two or more ‘readable/legible typefaces’, then that 5% that accounts for their difference constitutes 100% of the value that determines the choice.

William Berkson's picture

>then that 5% that accounts for their difference constitutes 100% of the value that determines the choice.

Well put!

Originality in type design is a weird thing in that it is so hard to pin down, yet there is a remarkable degree of commonality in response to it, at least with a design that is excellent as well as original.

For example Gotham is a revival and execution of traditional designs, yet people have widely responded to its freshness, particularly of the upper case. And even there it's hard to pin down what's new.

Also the truth about the impact of teachers is somewhat elusive. Here are two opposite sayings about teaching. One,from the movie The Karate Kid: "There are no bad students, only bad teachers." The other from a prospective guitar teacher for my son when he was a teen: "It's not the teacher, it's the student."

No doubt there's truth and exaggeration in both, but the magic of what happens or not between teacher and student is a bit mysterious.

Nick Shinn's picture

Fernando,as I said, very few of the classic faces have asymmetric serifs.
Frutiger has tried it (Apollo), and Carter (Alisal), more no doubt, but these are not their most successful designs.
Goudy did it best.
That most calligraphic of modern classics, Palatino, has symmetrical serifs, demonstrating that serif style is not bound to stroke style.

...tools...limit...cultural acceptance of new designs.

John: I think the opposite is true, much more so in commerce than academia. Members of language groups whose scripts haven't progressed quite so much as the Latin don't wish to be chained to legacy technologies. Art directors and graphic designers everywhere want their DIN. Enterprising type designers are addressing this challenge. Yara Khoury of Al Mohtaraf, for instance, has designed a number of monoline Arabic faces, including a "Univers".

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