Typography Summer School (University of Antwerp)

For those who cannot attend the ATypI Tokyo conference: Typography Summer School at the University of Antwerp from 2 till 6 September 2019. An intensive 5-day program on the value of research for a better understanding of type and typography.


  • For the Typography Summer School at the University of Antwerp eight speakers have confirmed their cooperation (in arbitrary order):

    – Jan Dries: head of the Communication department of the University of Antwerp
    – Guy Hutsebaut: specialist in type-casting techniques at the Museum Plantin-Moretus
    – Dr. Goran Proot: book historian and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Udine
    – Lara Captan: type designer specialized in Arabic and graphic artist
    – Walda Verbaenen: graphic designer, teacher and alumna of the Expert class Type design of the Plantin Institute of Typography
    – Dr. Jürgen Willrodt: font-technology specialist and long-time (since the early 1980s) software developer
    – Patrick Goossens: historian, specialized in 19th-century printing presses
    – Dr. Frank E. Blokland: type designer/font producer, software developer and senior lecturer

  • Today everyone who uses a computer is practically a typesetter and typography is hardly considered a specialism anymore. Conventions are automatically maintained: practitioners of typography –professionals and amateurs– base their typographical decisions on what is considered common. The legibility aspect, for example, seems easy to control by selecting type that is generally accepted, without the requirement of knowledge of what legibility exactly comprises. As a consequence the conventions and related conditioning are basically never questioned.

    Art historian Ernst Gombrich notes that the stimulus patterns on the retina are not alone in determining our picture of the visual world, and that its messages are modified by what we know about the ‘real’ shape of objects. In other words: ‘One cannot see more than one knows.’ But what exactly do we know of type and typography and what do we consequently see? What forms the basis of the typographical conventions and how solid is this basis anyway? Could research, whether scientfically based and/or empirically oriented, tell us more about this basis? Furthermore, would the resulting knowledge be useful for the practitioners of typography?

    This summer school will investigate and discuss the value of research for typography. The five keywords are ‘Perception’, ‘History’, ‘Convention’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Legibility’. Answers to the related research questions will be, for example, distilled from the study of artifacts in the collection of the illustrious Museum Plantin-Moretus. After all, the typographical conventions were fixed with the invention of movable type (and related technical constraints) during the Renaissance.

    Present-day font technology is developed with the same conventions and even Renaissance technical constraints in mind still. Hence, during the course also the focus will be on how digital font technology has developed since the early 1970s. The technical possibilities for Latin and non-Latin scripts will be further investigated, theoretically as also practically, in relation to the typographical conventions.
  • Additional information on the Typography Summer School can be found on AEPM’s website.
  • When we started to organize the Typography Summer School already more than half a year ago, we actually had no idea how much interest there would be. After all, this is the first course of its kind at the University of Antwerp. However, already we have 16 registered participants (there is a maximum of 20 seats), who come from all over the world. The list includes, for example, scholars, teachers, typographers, and, not surprisingly, type designers. No doubt, the last four remaining seats will become occupied shortly too. Understandably, I am quite pleased with this result and I very much look forward to the course!
  • Will there be support for non-Latin typography?
  • Hi Hrant, you can find the program outline here.
  • edited September 2019
    Last week the first edition of the Typography Summer School took place at the beautiful historical city campus of the University of Antwerp. The course was organized by the Plantin Institute of Typography in cooperation with the university.

    It was an absolute privilege and a real pleasure to work together with renowned colleagues and to guide, together with the unsurpassed institute’s secretary Jan Van der Linden, a nice group of 15 highly motivated students from all around the world. It was also an intensive week with a program fully packed with lectures and excursions. For example, the course included a demonstration of foundry–type casting by Guy Hutsebaut at the Museum Plantin-Moretus. For this, Guy used a set of matrices of Granjon’s Ascedonica Romain together with an original mould from Hendrik van den Keere (fixed registers, of course!). A couple of days later Patrick Goossens demonstrated, among other things, engraving with the Benton pantograph at his more than impressive workshop. The photos below give an impression of the course.

  • Reflections on Type and Typography [Related Matters] is a booklet that I wrote last summer with the Typography Summer School 2019 at the University of Antwerp in mind. On this course the value of research for typography was investigated and discussed. The five keywords of the course were: Perception, Convention, Legibility, Technology, and History and these are largely covered in this concise publication.
    Reections on Type and Typography Related Matters
    The booklet is meant as basis for further discussion (and was used as such at the course) and one is, of course, free to (completely) disagree. Perhaps some will consider the booklet’s content sometimes slightly heretical, or even that it will befog the readers’ minds.
    From: ‘However, one can apply legibility research on type in use today, but it is very unlikely that Jenson and Griffo in particular, did any legibility research before they developed their archetypal models for roman type.’
    To: ‘ Despite these advantages, I notice quite some hesitance by type designers and teachers to embrace parameterized spacing, even after proofing that results are as good or even better as what is done by eye. The constraints are in this case not technical but mental, which undoubtedly is interesting fodder for further investigation.’
    …and a lot in between.
    Reflections on Type and Typography [Related Matters] is available now from DTL’s small online bookshop. It is the ultimate Christmas present for type designers and typographers, I reckon.
  • Hof van Liere  Universiteit Antwerpen

    The first edition of the Typography Summer School successfully took place in 2019 on the beautiful historic city campus of the University of Antwerp. Unfortunately, the 2020 and 2021 editions had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. This year, however, the summer school will take place from August 22 to 26.

    The Typography Summer School Antwerp includes an intensive five-day program on the value of research for a better understanding of type and typography. The five keywords are Perception, History, Convention, Technology, and Legibility. The target group consists of bachelor and master students, but also professionals in the field of typography and related technology. Furthermore, sociability after an intensive day full of lectures, discussions, and excursions is, of course, an indispensable part of the program. The historic city center of Antwerp is undoubtedly a perfect place for this.

    The course stands for three ECTS points. For this, the participants have to write a paper with answers to the research questions (see the program schedule), an evaluation, and a personal reflection on the five keywords.
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