A few weeks back I had the privilege of attending Work & Turn‘s Crafting Type; a 5 day intensive workshop all about typeface design. As soon as I heard about the program, I jumped at the chance to attend. For years I have been waiting for an opportunity to attend a type design workshop. I would longingly read reviews about the Type@cooper program in NYC, knowing full-well that I would never be able to afford the time away from work or family to attend such a self-indulgent nerdfest. Then out of the blue, a type design workshop pops up in Edmonton (EDMONTON?) of all places. My old stomping grounds! I could even crash at my parents place, borrow my dad’s car (Update: sorry about that photo radar ticket, Dad!), if I was lucky, maybe Mom would pack me a lunch (and she did).
Sure, it wasn’t the rigorous 5-week intensive condensed program in typeface design at the Cooper Union, but Crafting Type was no slouch. Kyle and Jeff (Work & Turn) brought in type heavyweights to do it right, three graduates of the MA Typeface design at the University of Reading; Dave Crossland (UK), Eben Sorkin (USA), and Octavio Pardo (Spain). Three guys that love all things letters, fantastic instructors that complemented each other well, and they each brought a distinct and well-balanced approach to type design.
The 37 participants started off by drawing individual letters (curse you letter “o”) and learning the proper technique for sketching letterforms. We also gained insight into understanding how and why letters are formed the way they are, and how type is related to, yet different from handwriting. At the end of the day I was amazed at how much I had learned, and it was only day 1.
After a full day of pencil drawing (my poor clawed hand), Dave introduced us to FontForge; an open source type design program, which happens to be free. At first I was skeptical, but after working with Fontforge for 5 days, I’m a convert. I will be utilizing FontForge for the majority of production on my next typeface project.
The remainder of the week focused on massaging glyphs in order to get them to relate to each other, mixed with lectures about letter spacing and kerning, multiple weights, italics, diacritics, ligatures, open type functions, and hinting. After day 5 most of us had only completed a handful of letterforms, but we were well on our way to developing new industry standard fonts. It was tough work and a whirlwind of knowledge, but there was plenty of lively discussion about fonts, tote bags filled with typography books and typographic freebies, coffee & cupcakes, and a great after-party to wrap the whole week up.
At the end of it all Crafting Type was 12 hour days fully immersed in drawing letters and focusing on creating a system of glyphs that work as a cohesive unit. I loved every moment.