So… My plan of updates twice a week (recapping two days each time) has obviously fallen by the wayside. Even after what I thought was a requisite amount of sleep (to say the least) after Monday of this week it’s been an uphill battle fighting off exhaustion. I suppose I’ve gotten used to the schedule but as it stands, it basically entails waking up, making/studying type, going home, passing out (rinse, wash, repeat).
Monday started our foray into the broad nib pen and calligraphic letterforms. Working off of a Poggio manuscript, we first copied the two magnified sheets we had, and then went on to perfecting writing lowercase forms with a fixed nib angle to create the thicks and thins present in handwritten text. I was never one for slow writing and never really thought I had the hand for calligraphy (although coincidentally my father practiced calligraphy during his college years as a means of some income on the side) but after watching Sumner’s methodical way of writing I ended up really enjoying calligraphic writing and seeing the forms that were created with a heavy influence of the tool at hand.
Tuesday was continued drawing for the main part of the day and ended with short meetings to discuss our main personal typeface projects. I was pretty stressed discussing my final project as choosing a style of letterform immediately dictates all the other decisions down the road. I loathe making these big choices and knowing that the next three weeks will be dictated by whatever I select now makes it incredibly difficult to narrow down the pool.
Wednesday completely shifted our thinking with a full day workshop with Ken Barber from House Industries. I knew his company well as I have purchased typefaces from them for freelance work as well as a poster for myself so to get to meet a core member of their team was really a treat. Little did I know that the exercise of custom lettering would prove so challenging for myself. Having to letter “Type @ Cooper” sounds simple enough, but for some reason after 2 days of calligraphy my pencil drawing skills seemed to have left the building. At least 2 dozen sheets of frustrated and scratched out sketches led me to a final idea come the end of the class, but I did not have enough time to complete a clean version in time for voting the class best.
It was a very valuable exercise and after focusing for the rest of the program on digitizing a consistent typeface I very much want to revisit custom lettering and more expressive, unbounded letter design. After watching Ken sketch so quickly and with such precision, I’d love to gain confidence with the pencil I feel I’m lacking at the moment.
Thursday consisted of tracing the individual strokes from our calligraphic letterforms and then scanning and digitizing those to have components with which to create consistent characters (that sounds complicated but really isn’t). A lot of time spent with my headphones on, toiling away on the computer and checking in every so often with Sumner and other classmates as the day progressed and finally ending with everyone printing out what they had so far and doing a quick critique. That evening we met with Andy Clymer (another member of the H&FJ team with Sara) and went over extreme details on font file structure and best practices as well as unicode values, opentype features, and capabilities when designing letterforms for other languages. Some really great information, but it was a bit dry (as very technical talks are ought to be) and after a long week we were all looking a bit run down when 9:00 pm came around.
On Friday we all trekked North to Columbia’s Butler Library where we were to view other rare texts displaying the history of the printed letter and even got to view cuneiform tablets from 2000 BC! Things of note included an original type specimen of Caslon, an original book on type design by Albrecht Durer, and of course the tablets mentioned before. The only downside to the visit was that it all took place in the one room in the library without air conditioning so come the end of the discussions we all looked like we had been through the wringer. Sorry in advance that most of the pictures are upside-down or at odd angles.