Letters in to Type workshop

July 17, 2010

I just finished a week-long workshop with Sarah Soskolne from Hoefler & Frere-Jones about typeface design. it was AMAZING! Offered by SVA continuing education. I’ve highlighted important nuggets of info and included links to references that were mentioned.

Day 1
On the first day Sarah did a presentation on the history of type up to Futura. She referenced James Mosley and many more. After lunch we experimented with a selection of writing tools (markers, calligraphy pens, different sized nubs, something that looked like a hollow shoot of bamboo).

Day 2
The second day Sarah gave us a demo on using type tool. I had never used the program before and found the interface confusing (by the end of the week I felt comfortable with it). Sarah helped me choose a type specimen to work from- my original idea of creating a gothic alphabet from found wood type had been done before. She guided me in the direction of a face with a set of lowercase, since these are harder to create. In one of her type books I found a friendly roundish specimen called Canterbury that I decided to revive and customize.

Chester Jenkins came later in the day to talk about the work he’s doing at village, a boutique foundry in Brooklyn. I fell in love with Arbor, which he originally created for the NY Times magazine. Check out the counters in the lowercase e, o, a. I’m usually not a fan of the western-looking fonts, but this one has a retro 60’s feel to it. In the yellow shirt Tom is pictured, working away. I sat next to him and he helped me with a ton of little annoying questions i had throughout the week (thanks Tom!).

Day 3
We’re really getting into it. Here is a brief list of steps for making the font:

1. Scan in source material at a high resolution.
2. Bring image into Photoshop or Illustrator and begin tracing your letterforms with the pen tool. Start with the control characters, lowercase n,o,p or uppercase HOMD.
3. Bring your traced letter into Typetool. Paste it in the glyph box that corresponds with the letter.
4. Refine your letter, using the pen tool and bezier curves. and more bezier curves. they are your best friend. You can also copy and paste your original specimen from Photoshop into the background of your glyph window and use this as a guide.
5. Once you have control characters that you are pleased with, use them to create your other letterforms. the p can be the starting point for your b, q. From the o you can make your c. from your n you can make your m. Etc….
6. With your glyphs partially done, generate the font file, install, and test your font in various sizes with InDesign.
7. PRINT your font in all sizes. It looks much different on screen. use adhesion text to generate the letterforms you complete as you go along.
Tip: Remember to think of a typeface as a system. Focus on the whole rhythm and pattern, not just a single letterform.

Day 4
Work, work, work. Pictured is the proper way to set up your windows/toolbars. The more letters I did the better I got at the program and started to feel comfortable. I took the serifs off of my original type specimen and shortened the ascenders and descenders. I even began to tackle the uppercase.

Day 5
Last day of the workshop. Worked busily throughout the morning and Tobias Frere-Jones came by later to critique our fonts. You can see a glimpse of what some of them looked like. Pictured, Tobias talking to Juan about his font. I can’t wait to finish my typeface (more uppercase to go). It becomes addicting once you get a taste for it.

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