Following the Annual Academic Meeting of the Plantin Institute of Typography at the Museum Plantin-Moretus Antwerp on Saturday 30 September 2017, the opening of the exhibition In de sporen van Plantin (‘In the footsteps of Plantin’) will take place. At this expo the 2017 laureates of the courses Expert class Book design (EcBd) and Expert class Type design (EcTd) present their projects. In case of the EcTd this is supplemented with a selection of work from two 2016 laureates, which has been made after the student’s graduation and that is based on the projects started during the course’s last year.
An important aspect of the EcTd course is the direct exchange of knowledge and experience between the students. This exchange is stimulated by a type-revival project, on which the students have to work together. The revival is always based on unique historical material from the renowned collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. This year the students selected the Gros Canon Romain attributed to Claude Garamont (ca.1510–1561) and cut before 1549, and its adaptation commissioned by Plantin named Moyen Canon Romain from 1570. For the latter Hendrik van den Keere (ca.1540–1580) shortened the ascenders and descenders: this way the type could be cast in a mould for a shorter body size. The image (from my dissertation) below shows historical foundry type of the Moyen Canon Romain (cast with ﬁxed registers of the mould) on top and the Gros Canon Romain as cast in 1959 (without ﬁxed widths).
I enjoyed this year’s choice especially because the Gros and Moyen Canon Romain played an important role in my research into Renaissance type-production standardization, as one can read in my dissertation (for the record: I did not inﬂuence the student’s choice in any way). The variable lengths of the ascenders and descenders make the Gros/Moyen combination a variable font avant la lettre. Whether the Moyen Canon Romain can be seen as a precursor of the ‘Goût Hollandais’ is open for discussion (as we did during the course). After all, the Dutch type from the Baroque combined an enlargement of the x-height with an additional condensing of the letter forms, which is in line with the space-hierarchy rules (less space within the letters makes less space between words and lines possible). It will not come as a surprise that the students made a variable font for the GrosMoyen, as they baptized their digital revival. This font also contains an axis for the ink squashes.
Besides taking part in the revival project, each student has to design a new typeface personally, whether completely from scratch or being a revival that is, for example, also based on material from the museum’s collection (this is not mandatory). At the exhibition a variety of projects can be seen, which includes a revival based on historical material from the punchcutter Ameet Tavernier (1522–1570), experiments with a color font on the basis of the Gros Parangon cut by François Guyot (†1570) around 1544, a revival based on William Addison Dwiggins’ Tippecanoe type from 1942, and everything in between.
I would like to emphasize here that the exhibition would not be possible without the very generous sponsoring by Agfa Graphics. This is already the sixth time that Agfa Graphics provides high-quality prints on Forex A0 panels, together with the nice cardboard-based installations for the Expert class Book design presentations!
In de sporen van Plantin runs in the Museum Plantin-Moretus from 1 October till 26 November 2017.
However I do feel formal education can potentially stunt the proper development of one's original voice […]
In my previous work, I could see a style developing and after graduation it was essentially erased.
Education as such should not be blamed if some tutors apply a sort of one-sided conditioning or perhaps even try to indoctrinate students. Of course, it is ﬂattering for an educator if students embrace his/her ideas, but the primary task of education is to provide a solid foundation for further development and for enhanced reﬂection. For type design this means that education should result in technical skills combined with knowledge of the historical developments in the profession (including the changing esthetic preferences during the different style periods) together with insight in (the influence of) technology.
By marking the historical and technological boundaries of the type designer’s profession and by stimulating a critical and analytical way of thinking, students should be able to find their own place in the profession and to develop their unique personal ‘hand’. Although craftsmanship formed and still forms the basis for the type designers’ metier and conventions deﬁne its boundaries, educators should always be careful that their training does not suppress the natural desire of designers to trespass IMHO.
Drawing by hand, at least when it is small, doesn't offer the crisp lines that digital design does, so it is more difficult to add subtle details like corners in curves and that stuff.
I think that this purely relies on the drawing skills of the type designer. The cover below is from a publication by Gerrit Noordzij on type designs by Dutch art-school students that dates from 1983. The size of the booklet is A4 and Gerrit used my letters 1:1 for the cover. These letters were made completely freehand, except for the straight lines.
And, of course, Gerrit Noordzij’s own type designs, which he applied on book jackets, were made by hand: he used brush and paint on polyester ﬁlm. I think these letters are pretty subtle and crisp.
I think the common element here is the importance of becoming skilled with the tool that you use. It's not so much the tool as the skill and experience of its user.
That would –correct me if I’m wrong– imply that every tool is ﬁne for whatever the job is, as long as the user is skilled. Actually I think that the job itself deﬁnes what the best tool is.
The thing that has that helped me the most with working with Bézier curves is to realize that it's not drawing. It's more like sculpting.
In some case drawing can be the more appropriate way to deﬁne the contours than sculpting, especially for making revivals. My experience is that it is pretty easy (and tempting) to copy letter parts in Bézier format but less easy to draw tiny and delicate differences.
In for instance DTL VandenKeere and DTL Fleischmann no serif is identical –on purpose. These details are easy to draw and to manually digitize. Hence, at DTL we normally draw revivals on paper, or at least we start that way.
Also I believe that being able to adjust one’s tools directly positively inﬂuences the quality and originality of the design.
For instance Elmo van Slingerland’s DTL Dorian is the result of digitizing letter forms made by a very skilled calligrapher who is extremely capable of drawing with pencil, pen, and brush.
In case of for example Hermann Zapf or Jan van Krimpen, I don’t think
that their type designs can be separated from their skills as
calligrapher and type drawer. Even if we take into consideration that the technology was different in the past.
As exponent of Albert Kapr’s school, Erhard Kaiser was thoroughly trained to design letters with pencil, pen, and brush. October 1996 the 7-years old Sebastian Kaiser made a special exercise book for his father’s 39th birthday. February 1996 Erhard Kaiser made his ﬁrst sketches for DTL Prokyon in this Arbeitsheft, and he proceeded in March 1997.
These sketches formed the basis for the initial drawings.
And, of course, the ﬁnal drawings were manually digitized using the IKARUS system.