Master's degree in typeface design - where to go?

Hi all!

I'm thinking of doing a master's degree in typeface design.

Three questions, please:

1. I know of four such programs: Reading, KABK, ESAD and ECAL. Are there other programs?

2. What are the pros and the cons of each program? I'm probably not the first person to ask this question, but I couldn't find answers on the web.

3. Assuming it's my choice where to go, and ignoring logistic considerations (tuition, geography, etc.), which programs are most recommended? Which one is most prestigious? Which one is most likely to help me reach my full potential?

I'd really appreciate any input.
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Comments

  • Hi Daniel, maybe this is somehow useful for you.
    Troy Leinster, one of my classmates at Type and Media wrote an article about his experience here:
    http://typographica.org/on-typography/undergrad-to-cooper-to-kabk-one-students-route-to-learning-type-design/
    and James Edmondson (also Type & Media), posted something here:
    https://medium.com/@ohno/so-you-want-to-apply-to-typemedia-4b00df2e95c
  • Hi Daniel, 

    Similar articles for the MATD program at Reading:

    Ben Mitchell http://ohbendy.tumblr.com

    Pooja Saxena https://poojasaxena.wordpress.com/category/university-of-reading/
  • Daniel LehDaniel Leh Posts: 5
    Thank you guys, I appreciate your help!
    Anyone else? What about ESAD and ECAL?
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 988
    edited March 29
    For 1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_institutions_offering_type_design_education is comprehensive

    For 2, this depends a lot on the individual

    For 3, the matd and kabk are the longest standing and most widely (world wide) respected, but they are so different that its hard to call one as definitively better than the other
  • Daniel LehDaniel Leh Posts: 5
    @Dave Crossland, thanks! That list is just what I was looking for.
    Could you elaborate on the difference between MATD and KABK, perhaps?
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 988
    edited March 30
    (This is just my subjective opinion as a 35 year old white English man who graduated from the MATD course in 2009, and doesn't represent the views of my employer or anyone else.)

    The University of Reading is an "old" red brick British university, where the quality of academic rigor is generally strong by international standards, such that any Masters degree from there carries some weight if you want to do a PhD anywhere else. It isn't an "elite" school (like Oxford, Cambridge, Ivy League, etc) but its a good one. That meant for me, back then, it was an easy choice - I wasn't able to study abroad, for me it was cheap and local, and all the academic requirements were easy for me. But its no longer so subsidized for Brits, and I think its roughly $22,000 for international (non EU) students; and for many the academic and English language fluency requirements, plus living in the UK for about a year without a job, can be a challenge. Not insurmountable, but still, I am aware that I had a privileged position from which to consider going there. It may be that after applying successfully you have to take a year or two to apply for grants and bursaries and loans and visas to make it to the first day. When it will be cold and grey and raining, and it will stay that way for 9 months, hahaa - but I didn't notice, that being my natural habitat, but it isn't everyone's cup of tea. 

    http://www.reading.ac.uk/ready-to-study/study/subject-area/typography-and-graphic-communication-pg/ma-typeface-design.aspx

    Fortunately however, or not ;) , the weather in the Netherlands is pretty similar to old England. I think KABK is around $8,000 for international students, and it is a (royal) art academy, not a (red brick) university. In the distant past the course was a post graduate certificate rather than a full Master degree, but that changed a while ago. Still, the KABK prospectus link below talks about "training" whereas the link above says MATD "combines practical and academic elements." 

    https://www.kabk.nl/en/programmes/master/type-and-media/full-description#content

    So the point is: What kind of type nerd are you? lol
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,442
    Also worth noting that Reading involves a research project and written dissertation, in addition to the type design project and process documentation. I believe that's not the case at KABK (although, obviously, research may play a part in any type design project); not sure about the other programmes.
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 297
    Does KABK have the same non-Latin focus as Reading? I thought that was a major distinguishing factor. (And one IMO in Reading's favour.)
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 204
    edited March 30
    Do type companies in the West require a diploma to accept newcomers in the team? Or does it sometimes suffice to have a solid portfolio?

    I do have a master's degree in type design from a local university, but am not sure it can be accredited, the state of the education here being what it is.
  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 214
    Dave, John, would you say that the research project at Reading comes at the expense of practical experience, compared to KABK?
  • Yªssin BªggªrYªssin Bªggªr Posts: 73
    edited March 30
    Look at the results from the different programs. I think one can see some pretty big differences in approach, style/taste and references, I would advise to use that as a main point to select the program you want to study at.

    ECAL has a modernist focus with a reputation for the quality of its graphic design and "aesthetical emphasis" (although i'm sure they would disagree or put it in a better way). It produces progressive and edgy designs that might upset the more traditional type designer, plenty of the grotesque sans-serif you would expect from a swiss school, and "modernist" serifs.
    There's been a big change recently, making it a proper two year type design MA (before it was an MA in Art Direction mixed with photographers). So it's hard to know where it's going exactly, but I think the goal was to make it more professional, with a lot of guest teachers bringing their expertise.
    http://www.ecal.ch/en/3074/studies/master/type-design/presentation

    TypeMedia at KABK has been good at departing from the "calligraphic heavy approach" it was known for and produces, in my opinion, the most diverse results (there's still some subtle underlying taste i'd say), putting emphasis on originality and students developing their own style. Then there's the whole technical approach with python programming, and being at the forefront of new technical developments…
    http://typemedia2017.com/
    http://typemedia2016.com/
    http://typemedia2015.com/
    and so on…

    Reading: I honestly don't know much about it from the inside. Probably the place to go if you're particularly interested in other scripts than latin. More academic and traditional? At least that's how it feels to me, because I find the results lack a bit in diversity, with a lot of "book-ish" serif typefaces (often with asymetrical serifs). It feels a bit disconnected from the market, and contemporary graphic design tastes.
    Still, the quality of the production is very good. I guess my personal taste bias shows here.
    http://typefacedesign.net/typefaces/

    Amiens: Also don't know much about it, but I must say I've been liking the production (pun intended). Certainly underrated.
    http://postdiplome.esad-amiens.fr/

    TypeMedia is one year, while Reading and ECAL are two years. Amiens is something in between I think. That was also a factor for me (KABK).

  • @Vasil Stanev

    I don't think foundries care that much about diplomas, more about the quality of your curves, and your ability to integrate into/learn workflows and work on the less fun parts of type design like completing character sets.

    Portfolio & personality >>> diplomas
  • Aaron BellAaron Bell Posts: 29
    @ybaggar Reading is a 1 year program. 
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,092
    ybaggar said:
    @Vasil Stanev

    I don't think foundries care that much about diplomas, more about the quality of your curves, and your ability to integrate into/learn workflows and work on the less fun parts of type design like completing character sets.

    Portfolio & personality >>> diplomas

    Certainly those other things are important to any potential employer. I do think that *some* foundries care about diplomas nonetheless. But the more experience you already have, the less important/relevant getting a master’s degree is.
  • >>work on the less fun parts of type design<<
    Everything about type design is fun. If you don't feel that way perhaps you need to find another line of work.
  • Yªssin BªggªrYªssin Bªggªr Posts: 73
    edited March 30
    @Aaron Bell My bad, I had heard differently, because of the dissertation I think. Good to know.

    @James Montalbano Typedrawers is fun, it balances itself out.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 988
    edited March 30
    I generally agree with what ybaggar said. The bookish thing comes from being a bookish place where bookishness is prized. Its a red brick university. If you are an anti-intellectual sort of type nerd, I don't think its going to be so fun... But then my impression of KABK folks is that they also want you to think about what you are doing, not only draw reflectively.
    Also worth noting that Reading involves a research project and written dissertation, in addition to the type design project and process documentation. I believe that's not the case at KABK (although, obviously, research may play a part in any type design project); not sure about the other programmes.
    Yep, that 10,000 words of academic English text (often on a subject unrelated or indirectly related to the major "practical" type design project) is why they have the high certified English fluency entrance requirement, which for some can be a heavy lift. 
    Does KABK have the same non-Latin focus as Reading? I thought that was a major distinguishing factor. (And one IMO in Reading's favour.)
    Not the same, that is one of the major distinguishing points. The link I posted above says "Non-Latin scripts are explored in drawing workshops for Cyrillic, Greek and Arabic" and the sister landing page says "While some Type and Media alumni have gone on to build a career in the design and production of non-Latin typefaces, the emphasis of the course is on Latin typefaces." What I read as implicit in that is that those alumni are (or tend to be) from places where Latin is a 2nd script, like Kristyan Sarkis. 
    Do type companies in the West require a diploma to accept newcomers in the team? Or does it sometimes suffice to have a solid portfolio?

    I do have a master's degree in type design from a local university, but am not sure it can be accredited, the state of the education here being what it is.
    No, if you check the About pages of any larger foundry, I expect you'll find a good mix of people who did or did not attend these courses. 

    I would say the following is very generally true, and also applies to type: A degree certificate is a shorthand (especially for institutions) for validating that a person has a certain level of skills and experience in some area. If you have that same level, and you can also communicate it quickly (eg, you have been working in the area for many years, you have won many industry awards, you accumulated a lot of capital, etc) then the certificate has much less value than if you can't communicate it quickly. For myself, having certificates from the institutions I went to (starting in grade school) has made discussions with the admissions or HR depts at later institutions (that I interacted with subsequently) more straightforwards. But I have had batchmates or colleagues who did not have the same incoming certificates, and having passed those institutional gatekeepers had no problems once inside; however, I have also seen people who have the same outgoing certificate as me, but not the 'actual' skills to follow through after graduating, not go on to achieve what they maybe hoped to achieve when they were going in. (I don't have anyone particular in mind when I say this, it is a very general observation.) 

    Dave, John, would you say that the research project at Reading comes at the expense of practical experience, compared to KABK?
    No. At least when I was there, the research project really gets going at the tail end of the practical project, so there's little overlap in which one could come at the expense of the other. 
  • Daniel LehDaniel Leh Posts: 5
    Thanks, new pals! I really appreciate all this input.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,442
    John, would you say that the research project at Reading comes at the expense of practical experience, compared to KABK?
    Many of the research projects and dissertations tend to involve aspects of the typography of the scripts that the student is working with in the design project, so it tends to complement rather than distract from the practical design work. Reading teaches a research-based approach to typeface design, especially when it comes to the extra-Latin scripts, and the department's collections play a major rôle.
  • off topic @ybaggar: this is a real names only forum, please respect.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 229
    James Montalbano: Everything about type design is fun. If you don’t feel that way perhaps you need to find another line of work.

    This seems to be a case of someone shooting the breeze. For instance, it’s no fun to have to check 60,000 glyphs in a big font family. Type design is a mixed bag, like most options in life.

  • >>it’s no fun to have to check 60,000 glyphs<<
    I love this part!
  • Yªssin BªggªrYªssin Bªggªr Posts: 73
    edited April 2
    @Andreas Stötzner See last lines in this post: http://typedrawers.com/discussion/comment/9794/#Comment_9794
    and this one: http://typedrawers.com/discussion/comment/9846#Comment_9846
    & http://typedrawers.com/discussion/591/change-to-real-names-policy

    Also, with the recent turmoils about privacy, I only feel more strongly about not having to make everything I say, think, or feel googlable for anyone. But if blind enforcement of rules is more important, feel free to kick me out.
    (Also, it is basically my name.)
  • ybaggar said:
    … if blind enforcement of rules is more important, feel free to kick me out.
    No one mentioned ‘blind inforcement of rules’ so far. However, the reasons which lead to the decision to make this a real-names forum were important, too. See it as a kind of community agreement. – Even if I were in te position to kick someone out (pray, I am not), this is certainly not what I would wish to do.
  • I guess I was being dramatic ;)
    Would you consider "AStötzner" to be "real name" ?
  • @ybaggar Please use your name and surname. We had to ask members to leave the forum in the past months for not abiding to this rule.

  • It may be out of topic but as moderator it is also my duty to tell ybaggar he must use his real name.
  • Dyana WeissmanDyana Weissman Posts: 220
    In the meantime, let's get back to discussing master’s degrees in typeface design. Any further off-topic discussion will be flagged. 
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