Dalton Maag Font Developer, Eleni Beveratou, presented a Greek type design workshop recently at our studio. Eleni is a native Greek speaker and reader, so I decided to attend her workshop to better understand the nature of the Greek alphabet and to help break some of the bad habits many font developers (like myself) have acquired through a lack of understanding. We started out with some basic handwriting exercises where we learnt about the proportions of characters, the correct way to draw them (where to start and finish the stroke) and some of their alternate forms. It was interesting to hear that whilst the alternate forms appear to be very different to each other, they are regarded as equally valid, and equally legible, shapes for use in both handwriting and type design.
We then learnt the correct pronunciation of the characters (‘Vita’, not ‘Beta’’ for example), and from this we all had a go at transliterating our names. This was surprisingly simple, especially after learning how to build sounds from combinations of letters.
It was clear that we were here to glean a basic understanding of the Greek Language as much as how to draw the correct shapes, so only after raising our hands and having our handwriting marked by our teacher, did we start sketching Greek letters to compliment some of our Latin designs. This came quite easily to everyone after having such an insightful introduction to the alphabet.
The first thing was to identify the key character of our Latin typeface and how to apply that correctly to the more cursive nature of Greek. As a group we all sat around with our tracing paper and pencils, and once we had an idea of the direction of our Greek typeface, we got busy with the beziers.
Taking the sketches into FontLab, we all went through numerous iterations of our characters, with Eleni giving us each lots of pointers on how to achieve the correct proportion and texture for our font with lots of print-outs along the way.
The final stage was a group crit, where we all laid out our designs on the floor and took a step back to view the fruits of our labour. There was lots to learn from everyone’s designs, some ideas to remember, and others to remember to forget.
Overall, I’m confident that we all have a better understanding of the Greek alphabet, the language and some of the typical mistakes to look out for.