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This course is about typography, and if you really want to understand typography you have to look back to where it began, the human hand. Our alphabetic forms originated with handmade marks. History tells us that drawing came before writing. So first there were pictures and pictures became pictograms. We have evidence of them, etched in bone, drawing with soot on cave walls and carved into clay. But pictographs were limited in their ability to tell a story, so ideographs evolved.
Ideographs showed actions and ideas. Eventually ideographs were associated with certain sounds and their forms evolved into the precursors of letterforms. The letterforms were combined into what we now know as words. All of these alphabetic systems were handwritten. Today if we look hard enough at a typeface, it is easy to imagine the mark of the hand behind it. For hundreds of years before pieces of type became physical objects, every letterform was laboriously written stroke by stroke by hand on papyrus, on parchment, or on paper.
It's interesting that hand-lettering is currently enjoying great popularity. Actual hand lettering or calligraphy and type that has been designed to look hand-drawn has never been more popular. Perhaps it is a reaction to the computerization and mechanization of forms, but you can see it everywhere, on book jackets, packaging, advertising campaigns, it seems to permeate our visual culture. So it seems fitting that drawing is still at the core of type design. Every type designer still starts the same way with sketches.
Here are some examples of the sketches of typefaces in their early stages done at Cooper Union's Type Design postgraduate program. Students are using a variety of tools from pencils to ink, to markers to get their ideas down on paper before they take them into a digital environment. This is the beginning of a lengthy process that we'll talk more about later in this chapter. Whether you want to design a typeface from scratch or are simply happy to know that a couple hundred thousand typefaces are available for your projects, it's important to understand what goes into a type design.
It helps you see the underlying structure of the letterforms and how they are all interrelated and interconnected.
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