Learn Font Design: Introductory Workshop, Portland, March 16-17-18!

Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,389
edited March 2013 in Events
Crafting Type is coming to Portland, March 16-17-18!

A 3 day intensive class, morning to evening and Saturday-Monday, for anyone wishing to start designing type or to quickly move their existing skills forward.

Instructors confirmed are @tphinney, @davelab6 and Octavio Pardo, with @ebensorkin and @vadams

Pacific Northwest College of Art is hosting the event, and its priced low for students ($300) and professionals ($500) with good discounts for AIGA/ATypI/TUG members ($400)



  • "Instructors confirmed are @tphinney, @davelab6 and Octavio Pardo, with @ebensorkin and @vadams lined up to keep the student:instructor ratio low if a lot of people sign up"
  • I am very excited to teach intro type design again. I really enjoy the opportunity to pass on a bit of what I have learned over the past couple of decades. Having an intern last year really reminded me of that....
  • Dave forgot to mention that we are also offering that same discount for SoTA members. :)

    With TypeCon coming to Portland in August, we will certainly mention that in the workshop, and put up a slide about it.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    I read your post on I Love Typography, Thomas and was wondering why you chose to leave out Robofont from your list of “supported” software, or Fontographer? Is it because you think the former is an application solely for professional designers? I mention these two because I find them particularly easy to draw in for beginners.

    Eben expanded a little about the content of the workshop. I’d be especially interested to learn more about Dave Crossland’s variation on the Noodzij method. What exactly does he stress or alter?

    I didn’t study at any of the schools offering MA’s in typeface design, but I offer similar (free) courses myself, incl. Noordzij’s ideas and an overview over current software, so I’m always interested in how other people approach this. I never managed to pack all this into just three days though.
  • I second Indra’s questions. There are certainly are more and more short-term workshop options available for students and designers interested in learning about type design than was the case five or ten years ago, although these opportunities are not equally spread out, geographically.

    I’d be interested in seeing an impartial comparison of workshops like Crafting Type with Type Camp, the CooperType Condensed program, Underware’s workshops, Type Together’s workshop, Workshops at German Universities like those from Martin Flor or 26plus-letters, etc. (I’m sure that I’m leaving plenty of names out in this short-list…).

    Also, I suspect that FontForge is used in these workshops both from a cost-saving point-of-view, as well as an ideological point-of-view. Some sort of workshop licensing option may be worth it for FontLab/Glyphs/Robofont/etc. to considering, to fill in this gap.

    In my own type design courses, I’m sometimes able to get the university responsible to purchase enough licenses the software for their labs, and sometimes I’m not able to make that budget argument. Still, in a short-term class or workshop, the trial versions of FontLab/Glyphs/Robofont/etc. may offer enough options. Participants can always license full-versions of the software on their own after the workshop or course ends, if they want to continue working on font-related projects. Or use FontForge, I guess.
  • I support I didn't think to suggest adding them when I reviewed Thomas' draft because I've never seen anyone bring Robofont or Fontographer to a workshop.

    My variation is to use a soft pencil's tonal range and minimise the use of an eraser to manifest the proportion, contrast, weight and negative spaces, to arrive at a conceptual sketch rather than a precise specification; and to redraw the concept on screen rather than scan and trace.

    I've made FontForge easier to install: http://fontforge.github.com/en-US/downloads/mac.html
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    edited February 2013
    I fear I don’t really understand what you mean, Dave, but that is probably my limited English. We usually don’t use erasers much, just pull off a new piece of tracing paper and sketch a new letter on top of the old one. These sketches are never really precise but, like you say (I think), more about trying out a design idea or concept. You can either scan them or just try to recreate them in the computer from scratch. Drawing over a draft is sometimes easier.

    I guess I think of Noordzij’s ideas in a more fundament way, like how to think of different types of contrast and form model, and not so much about what kind of tools exactly to use for sketching.
  • Dave, your variation on Noordzij is about erasers and pencils? Surely there is more?
  • For context, Indra's mentioned Eben Sorkin's comments, which he posted on the ATypI Member email list. Here's Eben's email to that list:

    "One of the key ideas behind the Crafting Type is to break the sense that type design is impenetrable. It certainly complex and rich and takes a long time to master but the tools to get started are free and so anyone who is interested can start. The main barrier may be that of having some help starting. We provide that help.

    Although most students don’t want to be type designers we hear from architects, UI/UX designers, people who work in identity and branding and of course graphic designers that the process of learning how to make type has given them new insights and helped them to be better at what they do because they see it in a deeper and even more analytical way afterwards.

    We emphasize the idea that designing type is more question of designing characteristics that are applied to forms than it is a process of designing letters one by one.

    We introduce the practical skill of using an iterative process to make decisions about these characteristics.

    Students are given a variety approaches to rapid sketching to capture the expressive aspect of letter design: the Johnston double pencil method, the Noodzij volumetric model, we discuss the Reading approach, and finally offer Dave Crossland’s variation on the Noodzij method.

    Time in course is split roughly in two between lectures and hands on work with a small number of key letterforms.

    Lectures can vary with who is teaching at a specific location but always cover how to recognize and control characteristics as well as optical illusions and compensations. Letter history, and what we know about the science of reading are usually covered as well.

    Time is split fairly evenly between lectures to provide information and theory that may be applied in class or afterwards and hands on experience making and testing fonts.

    Because we keep the student to instructor ration low we are able to work with a range of skill levels as well."

    Indra, the 'volumetric model' that Eben attributes to Noordzij is scoped to simply about mark marking; perhaps calling it a model isn't accurate, maybe its more a sketching _method_. Erik's video at attributes the sketching technique to David Gates' "Lettering for Reproduction," but I attribute it to the first few pages of Noodzij's The Stroke, as that's where I can find it in my personal book collection. I have no idea who I first learned it from, as likely from a KABK student on a napkin during one of my trips there as from Gerard Unger in a tutorial moment at when I was at Reading. shrug :)

    Erik, the somewhat more abstract deconstruction of pen stroke forms which is so closely tied to Noodzij's name isn't focused on in the workshops. So I don't have an explicit variation of that deconstruction.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    I’m confused (again, might be a language problem) – Noordzij’s ideas boil down to a mention in connection with surface sketching?
  • EbenSorkinEbenSorkin Posts: 23
    edited February 2013
    I think the main questions that people have about Dave's variation are likely to be:

    - How similar/different is it?

    I would say that Dave doesn't explore the Noordzij method as a tool for describing a shape in a deep parametric manner. This would mean going deeper than he has to at the beginning. Instead he uses the side to side technique to show how you can rapidly create a sense of overall volume, shape and proportion. It is a "dumbing down" to a purpose. It creates very rapid access for a beginner.

    - What if any advance or improvement is there?

    In some ways as I have suggested already there is a kind of decline in the sense that the full depth and power of the Noordzij theory are not explored. There is however an important procedural improvement.

    This is how it works: Dave encourages students to begin making fairly faint or light marks and then to go over that same drawing again while using a slightly heavier pressure. Depending on your skill you can do this 4-7 times in a row before the sketch becomes to heavy to build up any further. The nice thing about this technique and the reason I think it is so useful is that it gives a tracing paper like process without the need for fancy materials and perhaps more important it allows the students to keep working in an iterative process without interruption. It is a very organic method. Students are able to build up increasing precision while maintaining the primacy of overall volume, and proportion. In contrast, if students sketched using outlines they would probably get lost in details.

    Indra's comment that "Drawing over a draft is sometimes easier" is very much the idea here.

  • Re: Dan's request for an "impartial comparison" I suspect that such a thing cannot exist although I would be just as interested if there was one.
  • About Robofont: We are happy to support students that want to use Robofont. My personal observation is that of the students that have brought in their own software the ones who use Glyphs seem the happiest. That said, many students appreciate that Font Forge is cost-free and improving very rapidly. It may be that students who are beginning will be equally happy with either option in a year or less if Font Forge keeps improving at the rate that it has been for the last 6 months.
  • Whatevs.
  • Imagining a letter form, sketching out the forms' areas first, then contours, then filling them in, is a process which I attribute to Noordzij, because its described in Chapter 1 of The Stroke. We can't really say this is boiling down his canonical ideas; its simply not covering them.

    First things first. Sketching area is what I think is the most important first thing; people default to drawing outline contours, and its not as useful at manifesting the shapes because it requires iteration over sheets rather than iteration inside the drawing process on a single sheet, which slows things down.

    By stroking the pencil back and forth with a fixed amplitude and direction, we can mimic the contrast forms from broad nib or pointed pens. If students want to draw such forms, then this is how to do so quickly. When students want low or no contrast letters, I show them how a spiralling line creates area with a different kind of stroke control.
  • RE: Whatevs I have not seen any students with Robofont yet. They might be the happiest. I have no idea. Just reporting on what I have seen so far.
  • I think 'Whatevs' is on the "Surely there is more?" thread; having confirmed that "there is no there, there," I guess Erik is disappointed. Erik, you've always encouraged me to level up and push for more solidity and depth. How much of Noordzij's stroke model do you think one can practically exercise in one day?
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    I can explain the whole thing in 30 minutes.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    I can also do it in 5, but then it’s really just an intro to the world of typefaces.
  • @Indra Yeah, I give people a 5 minute version. Its more Reading 'imaginary pen' than KABK 'stroke model.' What I show people is that there are 2 pens types from european calligraphy, they make these forms, here's the attributes of the forms, here's a method to fake them with a pencil. I cover the Noordzij stroke model is more or less detail depending on the experience of the group; I believe the experience of drawing is more valuable to total beginners than the stroke theory, which is only useful later when people are able to make use of it; most people at the workshops have no confidence in drawing/sketching, and I think building up that confidence comes first. We use about 120 minutes for 4-6 rounds of drawing.

    You wrote, "I mention these two because I find them particularly easy to draw in for beginners." What is it that makes them easier to draw in?

    I think I've seen RoboFont has by default bigger point and handle widgets than FL, which are tiny, but then I saw a screenshot of RF recently where they were smaller.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    edited February 2013
    I just always think people should have an idea what to draw before they draw.

    2. The simple interface and the intuitive, easy drawing of a curve. You can adjust the size and appearance of points and handles in all applications.
  • While my own students tend to prefer FontLab or Glyphs, Indra has a point about RoboFont’s ease of drawing, I think. RoboFont’s interface is much more reduced than FontLab’s—there are less options to distract the user. One can really focus on drawing, because there aren’t that many other places for the eye to wander. I’ll admit it: I do love the simplicity of RoboFont’s interface.
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