Monthly Archives: March 2015

Sharing the art of type design.

Packing up late, waking up early, croissant on the way, coffee on the tube, another on the train… early March, we had the chance and great pleasure to visit the Plymouth School of Art and Design. Kamal Gohil, BA (Hons) Graphic Design Programme Leader, kindly invited us to give a talk about what we do as font developers and to run a workshop focused on font design for branding. At Dalton Maag we never miss an opportunity to share our experience, therefore we like to allow the time needed to prepare materials and give the students as much input as we can in a short time. The visit was split into two parts with an afternoon talk on the first day followed by a day of workshops.


The talk:

The talk took place in the college lecture theatre where students and teachers were welcome to join for a deep overview of some of our latest projects.

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Damien presenting Lush Handwritten. Photo credit: Tatsu Ishikawa

The lecture had four sections each one focusing on case studies that illustrate different aspects of our branding work. We started with two examples of corporate typefaces which differ on client size and functionality. We then showed how subtle modifications to our already existing library fonts can create a fully customised font bringing uniqueness to a brand. Lastly, we showcased some of our logo refinement jobs.

Eleni presenting Intel Clear. Photo credit: Tatsu Ishikawa

Our presentations gave the audience an overview of our entire design process; from getting to know the brand to the font engineering. It is valuable for students to understand how we approach a brief and design concepting and then the font development. The lecture theatre was booked for two hours and a half, which gave us time to emphasize the small details and to explain how we approached issues at every stage of the projects. We had time to engage in a discussion with the students not only about the presentation but also on our taste in type, inspirations, etc.

The workshop:

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Over 35 students attended the workshop. Photo credit: Allie Couch

The workshop was about getting hands on with logo design. Participants had to take the first 2 letters of their name and surname to create a 4 letter word and think about a possible meaning behind it. Therefore an initially completely random word becomes a product name, or an abbreviation for an institution. They could then either pick up a font of their choice and modify it or design characters from scratch, using this as a starting point for a wordmark.

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Some type basics and vocabulary made for the students. Photo credit: Allie Couch

Materials were available for them to refer to at any time, including type classification, type vocabulary and information about proportions and spacing; guiding them in the first stages of a type design project.

The students got into the exercise with efficiency, doing research, sketching and playing on screen with curves and shapes. We helped them focus their attention on type details, and guided them in the achievement of a consistent design in line with their respective brief.

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

One of our strengths at Dalton Maag is the method we have in place for reviewing each others work. Discussions and checks are part of our day to day work; a workshop is the opportunity for us to guide students on how to improve their work taking into consideration feedback, advice and critiques. At the end of the workshop, students have achieved a design that has come from their own decisions and that they are able to explain and argue.

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All designs ready for review. Photo credit: James Usill

The output:

The students headed into the practical exercise with good basic knowledge thanks to the talk: they learnt about the relationship between branding and typefaces, they learnt the ingredients of type.

Therefore, the workshop was an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of  type. With a little help and guidance they got to understand the functional and emotional qualities of a font choice. They learnt how to produce something that is close to a potential future task of a graphic designer. Last but not least they learnt through feedback and exchange of knowledge.

We left Plymouth with great excitement, thanks to the teachers, the students willingness to learn, and the great hospitality of everyone.

Eleni Beveratou and Damien Collot, Font Developers

Dalton Maag visits the Type Archive

It felt like a highly anticipated movie finally coming out, after a long period of teasers and trailers released to get its geeky fandom excited. As many people who live in London and work with typography, I had been waiting for years to visit the type archive. It was a daily tease, too, as as every morning on my way the Dalton Maag office in Brixton, the bus drives past a white sign, typeset in Albertus, with the words “The Type Archive”.

I almost managed to visit it once, while studying type design in Reading, but we couldn’t get the permission. Later, at Dalton Maag, we also tried and failed to arrange a visit. Needless to say, as soon as word got out that there would be an open night there, within minutes most of the designers in the London office had already bought tickets.

The event was to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of Aldus Manutius’ death this February, and a book launch about the history of Monotype. When the night finally arrived, 18 of us left the office at 6 and walked down the road together. The Archive is in a cobblestoned yard, with a cluster of very charming old industrial buildings. It is quite spacious, and although it was full of people, we were all left to walk around and explore. It was not a guided tour, but a chance to wander around open doors, while volunteers showed us the way, and in some occasions there were practical demonstrations of the machinery, or typecasting, and so on.

We started to explore freely, as the space was really big, with lots of rooms and different nooks and crannies filled with hidden gems. It was really a fantastic place, quite different from a museum: there was much more practical machinery than I had ever seen before, specifically designed to solve printing problems that had never occurred to me as having existed. While my working day is spent adjusting bezier curves on a computer screen, the Type Archive shows equipment from a time when type was a physical thing, and needed to be drawn and manufactured, enlarged and reduced, modified and reproduced, measured and transported, stored and catalogued, and so on, as a collection of solid objects. While I may have read about and studied the general process of designing or typesetting metal type, the variety of machines on display at the Archive prove that there were many more practical challenges (and sophisticated solutions) than what we usually study, especially after the industrial revolution.

It soon became evident that it was impossible to see everything in one night, so my approach was to relax and just wander around to whatever caught my attention, and exchange experiences whenever I ran into one of my friends along the way: “Do you know what this thing does?”; “Did you see the models for cutting Sinhala wood type with the pantograph?”; “Did you see the architectural drawings of buildings that look like letters?”; “Did you see that ligature?”

When we later gathered in a hall with food and drinks to wait for a short talk about Aldus Manutius, the atmosphere of curiosity and excitement was palpable. Nicolas Barker gave a great talk about Manutius and his contribution to typography and book design (that would be a subject for another post!), and Sue Shaw talked about the Type Archive and the history of the building. The cherry on the cake was learning the fact that that very building has once provided accommodation to circus animals, including two baby elephants and a baby zebra! Just when I thought this place couldn’t get any cooler…

This visit was definitely worth the wait. The problem is, one evening is not enough. I do hope they manage to do more of these events in the future.

Luisa Baeta