Typography I

This course celebrates the rewards of using type to effectively communicate. Typographic principles combined with general history, both aesthetic and technical, will be presented. This class covers every aspect of Western Typography, from the single letter to layout on the page. The terminology of type use combined with all the essential principles of using type correctly will be explored through the study and application of historical examples and modern practice. This class provides a comprehensive foundation to what is at the core of all communication design: type.


Type you like
A deck of types
Type comparisons
Kerning excercise
A set
A chapbook

Type you like

This week, find a piece of typography you enjoy, then bring it in to share with the class. Come prepared to discuss this piece of typography, and, if you can, provide some insight into how it was made, what typefaces were used, why you like it, etc. Use your imagination: posters, shopping bags, receipts, books, magazines, or even clothes are all fertile places for typography.

A deck of types

Purchase a pack of 36p x 24p (6 x 4 in.) notecards, unlined.

  1. On one side of the notecards, draw (in pencil first, then black ink) each of the entries in “Appendix A” (pp. 271–286) of The Elements of Typographic Style as they appear. Make the drawings as large as possible. Then, synthesize Bringhurst’s notes about each of the entries on the other side of the notecards.

  2. Select a letter of the alphabet, excluding Ii, Jj, or Ll. Select a typeface and draw (in pencil first, then black ink) the upper- and lower-case letter you’ve selected on one side of one of the notecards. Be creative: type is everywhere. There’s inspiration in class readings, discussions, or simply your visual environment. On the back of the card, write some details about the typeface: who designed it, the year it was designed, other typefaces related to it, outstanding features of the typeface, some aspects of its history, etc. Over the course of the semester, try to add about five cards per week to your deck. At the end of the course, you should have a total of 50. Students who extend their research beyond Bringhurst’s basic catalog will be rewarded.

Type comparisons

Purchase a pad of 108p x 144p (18 x 24 in.) drawing paper, pencils, and black tempera paint. Listen to the introduction to each of the related typefaces. Then, select five of these faces to study. Excluding Ii, Jj, or Ll, draw in pencil the contours of the same upper- or lower-case letter for each of your five faces as large and as accurately as possible on the 108p x 144p drawing paper, being careful not to distort the proportions of the letterforms as you go. Complete as many of these drawings in-class as you are able, and finish them outside of class if necessary. When you’ve finished the drawings, fill the pencil contours in with black tempera to make a solid, black letter.

  1. Garamonds: Jannon, Adobe Garamond, Garamond 3, Berthold Garamond, Stempel Garamond, Sabon, and Galliard. (PDF)

  2. Classes: Albertus, Centaur, Fette Fraktur, Berthold Baskerville, Bauer Bodoni, Snell Roundhand, and Clarendon. (PDF)

  3. Sans Serifs: Frutiger, Monotype Grotesque, Akzidenz Grotesk, Univers 55, Helvetica, Syntax, Futura. (PDF)

Kerning exercise

The handout (PDF) for this project shows the letters for the words “art school” and a lower-case “i” (used for spacing) set in 136pt. Scala, a digital typeface designed by Martin Majoor in 1991. Set the following three versions of “art school” centered top-to-bottom, left-to-right on separate 84p x 66p sheets of tracing paper:

art school Art School ART SCHOOL

All three versions should be completed in black ink.

A set

Begin collecting items that are part of a set. Items should be three-dimensional. The governing principal of the set should be formal. No items in the set should be a set on their own. No items should be purchased for inclusion in the set. The entire set should be easily transported.

  1. Bring in the first item for your set and be prepared to discuss it.

  2. Bring in a total of seven objects for your set and be prepared to discuss them.

  3. Bring in a total of fourteen objects for your set and be prepared to discuss them.

  4. Bring in between 20 and 30 objects for your set.

  5. Display the set somewhere in the classroom. Items in the set should be numbered for display. Evaluate each of the sets on display. Nominate any necessary items for removal in writing. Give these nominations to the owner of the set.

  6. Remove items based on your classmates’ nominations. Replace these items if necessary. Add to the set if necessary.

  7. Classify each of your classmates’ sets in writing. Use a single system for each of the classifications. Share these classifications with the class.

  8. Classify your own set in this manor.

  9. Visually document the set using an appropriate medium. Design a poster for the set. The poster should display the entire set. The poster should display your classification system. Only one typeface should be used in your design.

A chapbook

CHAP’BOOK, n. (See Chap, to cheapen.)
1: Any small book carried about for sale by chapmen or hawkers. Hence, any small book; a toy book. 2: A small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts.

Set Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Library of Babel” in book form.

The book should not exceed 16 pages, including cover. The book should not be larger than 36p x 54p. The book should not be set in more than one typeface. All text pages should be numbered. All other pages should not be numbered. A running head or foot may be included if appropriate. The book should include a title page and colophon. The cover should be purely typographic. The cover should reflect the book’s internal grid. The text should open on the right with a blank facing page. The colophon should be on the left of the final spread. The book should saddle-stitched.

  1. Design a sample text page for your book on tracing paper. Pay special attention to typeface selection, copyblock proportions, alignment, orientation, leading, kerning, and copyfitting. Bring multiple settings to class if necessary, along with annotations detailing your specifications.

  2. Using the revised sample text page as a base, flow the text you’ve selected into the book. Design an appropriate opening page based on your book grid.

  3. Design an appropriate title page and cover for your book. Fabricate the book.

Readings are listed in the order they are assigned.