Sketching from the inside (counters) out

hi folks! I was wondering if anyone knows of any resources around the practice and origins of sketching from the inside out (counters first).  I seem to remember hearing that gerard unger taught this, but haven't been able to find any drawings or process material to support this so maybe I am mis-remembering that. I believe cyrus highsmith may teach a method like this as well? 


  • Gerrit Noordzij discusses this, at least as a conceptual approach to understanding letterforms, in The Stroke and Letterletter.
  • In his Cooper Union video, Cyrus Highsmith demonstrates a method that works from both outer and inner space, shaping the letter as a negative form, often using unusual tools such as ink filled spunges to define the edge of a contour instead of the stroke, to learn, as Cyrus puts it, the shape of space.

  • Isn't this mostly a Fred Smeijers thing?
  • Isn't this mostly a Fred Smeijers thing?

    The first time I read about that concept was in Counterpunch.

  • Didn’t Tobias Frere-Jones do an experimental (and unreleased) typeface this way?
  • that video is excellent, thanks, john! looking forward to watching the whole thing

    I'll revisit counterpunch as well — thanks jasper and ray
  • A related exercise I enjoy a lot myself is sketching by erasing. Particularly easy with digital drawing, but also done it literally erasing from a flat penciled area or cutting black paper away with an exacto knife. The idea is the same, making you think about letter shapes in a different way.
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