Typeface design has been around in the West since the 1450s. Its history is well documented, with not only examples of what was made and how it was used, but the cultural context, motivations, and methods behind those designs. The what, why, and how will serve both as creative inspiration and motivation to create something new.
- [Instructor] Once in a great while a revolutionary artist arrives on the scene with a completely new way of seeing the world. For the rest of us, there is study and the truth is the revolutionaries study hard too. Typographic study begins with good models but finding those models can be a challenge for a new designer. Most libraries have at least a few books on typography and there are a few you should consult if you haven't already. The first is Designing With Type by James Craig. In this introductory text, the author introduces five basic classifications of type: old style, transitional, modern, slab serif, and sans serif.
Craig works hard to keep the topics simple and clear. That said, this is a beginner's book about how to use type and if you're a seasoned typographer, skip it and move on to something more advanced. Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton fits that bill. Ellen studied with James Craig at the Cooper Union and she has created a robust yet accessible introduction to type. The first section provides a careful narrative about the evolution of typefaces from the 15th to 21st centuries. Printing Types by DB Updike is not exactly the next stop but it is essential reading for anyone interested in a more complete account of the history of type in the West.
Updike provides an exhaustive and fairly exhausting account of typeface design and printing from the mid 15th century to the mid 19th century. It's two volumes of dense reading but a sort of rite of passage for the type designer. There are pictures but they're pictures of type. There are dozens of other books worth reading on the subject and I've included a list of one hundred in the notes at the end of this course. I've put them in order from must read to if you have the time. Throughout the 20th century typefaces were announced through printed specimens.
They typically included notes on the design, a complete showing of the character set, sample texts set in the font, and all of the available family members. The practice of printing specimens has all but disappeared. They've been replaced by examples on the web. Font marketplaces like myfonts.com allow you to set whatever you want in thousands of different fonts. Other sites like commercialtype.com and terminaldesign.com have downloadable PDF specimens.
There are hundreds of type foundries on the web and it can be difficult to keep track of them. Luckily, there are a few sites dedicated to just that. Ilovetypography.com is one. Not only does the site review recent releases, it also has a wealth of information about typographic history, form, and use. For a large list of foundries, visit type-foundries-archive.com. This site organizes foundries by geography which you may or may not find useful but you will be grateful that they've gathered so many foundries into one place.
The more you look and learn, the better you'll get at it. See what others have done and dedicate yourself to defining your own typographic vision.
- Why study typography?
- What makes a typeface great?
- Stroke angle, weight, and contrast
- Shape variations
- Finding good models
- Typeface vs. lettering
- Drawing the basic glyphs
- Producing a functioning font
- Printing, critiquing, and revising