Some type design from Belgium

blokland's picture

From 10 September until 2 October 2011, Expert class Type design (EcTd) 2010–2011 students of the Plantin Institute for Typography will show their work at the famous Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp.

The applied illustrations here are coming from (in order of appearance): Wikipedia (user: Manfreeed [no typo]), FEB, Ann Bessemans (2x), Stijn Cremers, and Henrik Kubel.

The EcTd course also takes place at the Museum Plantin-Moretus. It spans ten teaching days spread over roughly eight months. In between the lessons the students have to work at home on their projects. As one can read at the website of the Plantin Society:
The Expert class Type Design given by the Plantin Institute of Typography examines the “secrets” of con­tem­po­rary repre­sen­ta­ti­ons of the Latin script (capi­tal, roman and cur­sive) in detail. The under­ly­ing har­mo­nic, pro­por­ti­o­nal and rhyth­mic struc­tu­res of cha­rac­ters and the typo­gra­phi­cal con­ven­ti­ons and rules deri­ved from them are ana­ly­zed and dis­sec­ted.

The type designs may be shaped in Antwerp, not all students come from Belgium though (although the majority does). Some students come from the Netherlands, and there was one Danish, and one English student this year. Their backgrounds differ from bachelor to master educations in the graphic field. Some of the students were experienced in type design already and used the course to refine their skills and to enhance their insight. Another one used the course to make a thorough start with a typeface, which is part of a PhD research at Leiden University. Some of the students are lecturing themselves at graphic courses. Above all, all students share a deeply rooted passion for type.

At the end eight students decided to take part in forenamed exhibition (participating is quite demanding). Of course, it is a unique opportunity to exhibit one’s work at the Museum Plantin-Moretus. Normally one has to be stone dead for ages to be allowed to present work at this sacred place for typography. So, the students work will be shown in the same building as where one can find the finest work of Gutenberg, Griffo and Garamont.

I will not state here that the Belgian students’ work is the first milestone in Belgian type design since the contributions by Van den Keere and Rosart, but it is at least a significant one. I include here the link to the invitation (PDF).

And for those who are interested, the EcTd course for 2011–2012 starts on 16 November 2011.

FEB

blokland's picture

As mentioned, participating in the exhibition De magie van het letterontwerpen | Van schets tot digitale letter (The magic of type design | From sketch to digital type) is quite demanding and not every graduating student is taking part. The students who exhibit are (in alphabetical order):
 
• Ann Bessemans
• Stijn Cremers
• Henrik Kubel
• Peter Van Lancker
• Jan Neyens
• Mario Schellingerhout
• Anne Verlent
• Jeroen Visser
 


During the course the students investigated the nature and origin of typographic conventions. Partly they did this empirically in the best tradition of Edward Johnston and Gerrit Noordzij, i.e. with pen and ink, as one can see on the photo above. Furthermore they explored to which extent writing was responsible for the shaping of movable type and which other factors played a role.
 
There is no discussion possible about the fact that written letters were initially standardized and eventually formalized by the Renaissance invention of movable type.
For instance Edward Johnston wrote on this subject: ‘The first printers’ types were naturally and inevitably the more formalized, or materialized, letter of the writer’ (Edward Johnston [Heather Child ed.], Formal Penmanship and other papers [London, 1971] p.43).
That being said, it is the question to which extent the effects of writing should
be (re-)applied or preserved by present-day type designers in a profession that was shaped not by calligraphers, but by craftsmen. For instance Nicolas Jenson was an engraver from origin and Francesco Griffo was a goldsmith, as were Claude Garamont and Christoffel van Dijck. Type was developed mostly independently from writing since the first formalization of letterforms, and the ideas about the sense of re-using writing as a basis for contemporary type design clearly differ.
 
In a reaction on an article on type classification by Gerrit Noordzij in The Journal of Typographic Research (Summer 1970), Walter Tracy states: ‘The fact that the prehistory of type design is to be found in handwriting is interesting but of little value in the practical affairs of typography and printing today’ (Walter Tracy, ‘Type Design Classification’, Visible Language, Volume V, Number 1, [1971] pp.59–66 [p.59]).
So, I discussed with the students the different theories and opinions on this subject, including my model-doctrine (see the illustration below).
 

In my opinion basically the grapheme systems in use are quite arbitrary. As soon as a grapheme system is set up, the further development (evolution) and consequently the related conditioning is defined by the applied structures themselves, and what is considered to be optically correct is only purely relative to (the conventions of) the models (it is unlikely that Jenson and Griffo did any legibility research before they developed their archetypes).
Conditioning is based on conventions and conditioning preserves conventions or even enhances them. Thus the snake bites its own tail; to be able to use one’s ‘eye’ like for instance Fournier advocated in his Manuel typographique (1764–1766), one has to be educated to look at type in the same way.
 
Come and see the students’ work in Antwerp!
 
FEB

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Some more samples of student work:
Plantin Genootschap Expert Class Type Design

Peter Van Lancker's picture

More on the LetterModeller which inspired us all in one way or another:
http://typophile.com/node/73818
http://typophile.com/node/48736

Peter Van Lancker's picture

Exhibition opened yesterday:
Type design Peter Van Lancker

blokland's picture

On The FontFeed Yves Peters just published an extensive and nicely illustrated article on the Expert class Type design course in Antwerp, and especially on the current exhibition at the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the opening last Saturday.

FEB

Henrik Kubel's picture

Antwerp_Promotional postcard

Henrik Kubel's picture

Antwerp_Exhibition panels

Henrik Kubel's picture

Antwerp_Type specimen pages

Henrik Kubel's picture

Antwerp_Announcement

Henrik Kubel's picture

Antwerp_Exhibition panel_A

Henrik Kubel's picture

Antwerp_Exhibition panel_B

blokland's picture

From 17 May till 31 August 2014 projects of the Expert class Type design (EcTd) students will be exhibited at the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp. The EcTd course is offered by the Plantin Institute of Typography, which operates under the umbrella of the renown Plantin Society. The exhibition comprises work of students who successfully finished the 2012–2013 course and a preview of the ongoing projects of the current 2013–2014 course. This is the third consecutive EcTd exhibition at the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the first one that is combined with the Expert class Book design course.

The displayed projects are as diverse as the students, of which many have finished (multiple) bachelor or master studies in graphic design or in related subjects, and who all share a fascination for type (design) and typography. The subjects vary from an in-depth study of a renaissance typeface produced by Geraert van der Leye (latinised into Gerardus de Lisa when he moved to Italy) in the fifteenth century, resulting in a revival that clearly deviates from the ‘Jenson-Griffo’ ones, to the development of a completely new present-day typeface.

In between a revival is made based on punches, matrices and type of Robert Granjon in the collection of the Musem Plantin-Moretus, a technically and aesthetically impressive line-for-line redrawing of one of the cursive ‘hands’ of Jan van den Velde, a Dutch master-calligrapher from the seventeenth century, and typefaces based on writing with the broad-nibbed pen and flexible pointed pen are developed for for instance display purposes or for application in children books.

The EcTd course is a tough one, if only because the students have to combine the study with their daily work, which varies from graphic designing to lecturing. To investigate historic material, to explore the influence of writing tools on the shape, contrast and contrast-flow, to draw type based on the outcomes of the research and to test different font tools cost a lot of time and effort. The quality displayed at the exhibition is therefore even more impressive.

Having the EcTd course under the roof of what can be considered the ‘Holy Temple of type’, i.e., the Museum Plantin-Moretus, provides not only the best possible atmosphere but also the very unique opportunity to make direct use of the museum’s exquisite collection of punches, matrices, cast type and prints for research purposes and revival projects.

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