It takes far less time to read a text than it takes to write and edit it. This asymmetry of effort also exists in the basis of those texts: we can decode the symbols on the page in a fraction of the time it took to make those symbols. As readers we need only a basic understanding of letterforms. In order to design letterforms we must learn to look at the shapes, as well as their patterns and texture, in a far more analytical way.
Students at the Type and Media master do just that. They study contrast, weight, rhythm, proportion, spacing: in short, every aspect of the process of making type. They examine primary sources and original material at museums (Meermanno, Plantijn-Moretus) and archives (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, UvA Bijzondere Collecties).
Just as importantly, they learn to tinker with the tools: physical writing implements as well as digital and even algorithmic ones. The teaching follows a practical approach, in studio-based making and learning. They are taught to reflect on how the tools they use influence the creative process and the possible outcomes. And most of all they are taught the Type and Media mantra “When in doubt, draw”.
Our students come from Mexico, Korea, Germany, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Croatia, South Africa, Argentina, Finland, India, Poland and Spain. A shared curiosity about type brought them to The Hague where they all ran head-long into the reality of a demanding year-long program. Some sparks flew, but mostly it was stone chips, fooßballs and darts.
There were workshops in Arabic letterforms by Kristyan Sarkis, Cyrillic letterforms by Ilya Ruderman, and deep font technology by Frank Grießhammer, all TypeMedia alumni. We had a popup exhibition of the sketch and sample stones by letter carving teacher Françoise Berserik. In the exhibition (and video!) she showed how materials, light and location inform her design process. We went to a highly technical conference where makers and engineers from around the world presented ideas on math, line shaping and writing systems. A welcome distraction was offered by the Whispers project, a collaboration with the communication design students from Professor Indra Kupferschmid (8 BA students, 4 MA students) from the HBK Saar and TypeRadio.org.
Between the trips and workshops the students endured relentless feedback on their projects and assignments (spacing!) from lecturers Erik van Blokland, Paul van der Laan, Peter Verheul, Petr van Blokland Just van Rossum, Peter Biľak and Fred Smeijers. With Jan Willem Stas they visited culturally important sites and exhibitions. And there were guest designer visits from Pip Hall, Paul Barnes and Toshi Omagari. Dr. Catherine Dixon, Central Saint Martins, UAL, was our external examiner. Coordinator Marja van der Burgh made sure it all happened.
Perhaps a minor field in terms of its practitioners, type design is rich in history, and is the cornerstone of many cultures. And somehow it has become the center of hot technological development. We have done our best to prepare our graduates for this crossroad.
Erik van Blokland, Head of the Master Type and Media