Tag Archives: workshops

Eleni’s Greek Workshop

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.

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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.

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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.

DSC02544 DSC02546 DSC02557Taking 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.

 Matt Burvill

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Signing Off

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Entrance to Osborne Signs, where the workshop took place.

Outside the realms of the established typographic community are a handful of signwriters who ply their trade creating bespoke lettering in the physical environment. These are craftspeople who do not need to over-theorise their work, but just create beautiful hand painted signs that are fit for purpose.

Handmade lettering has been experiencing somewhat of a revival recently and a good number of us from Dalton Maag were keen to get our hands dirty. Departing at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning from Waterloo Station, we were bound for a signwriting workshop hosted by traditional signwriter and all-round top chap, Wayne Osborne, at his workshop in Midhurst, South Downs.

Armed with a standard sized brush, palette and steadying stick, our day began with basic stroke drawing exercises. We started with verticals, then progressed to horizontals, diagonals and finally, rounds. Controlling the brush and flow of paint takes time to learn, the objective being to construct letterforms in as few precise strokes as possible with a good even fill of colour. Mistakes whilst using the brush are not easily rectified, so the right balance of brush control and paint consistency are paramount.

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Hanna and Eleni learning the ropes

In practice, a signwriter has to be in absolute control of their chosen medium of mark making. Oil based paint or gold leaf is unforgiving and one awry movement could potentially ruin a commission. Difficult, large-scale surfaces add an extra level of complexity as work is often executed on rough render, brickwork and buildings of historical or personal importance. No such thing as command-z in this industry!

Following a very British lunch of ham salad sandwiches and Jaffa Cakes (or Bakewell tart for the more adventurous) we were into the afternoon’s activity of creating our own hand painted signs.

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Sketches of the soon to be painted signs

Selecting a plastic board from a random collection of sizes we proceeded to trace around the board and draft out our compositions in pencil on paper. Chalking the reverse side of the paper, the design is then transferred to the board by retracing the outline on the design side of the paper with the board underneath. Painting can then begin in earnest using the impression of the chalk lines as a guide.

Varying grades of sable brush sizes are used depending on the intricacy of the design, but the essential principles of patience, mark economy and hand-eye coordination remain. The results of our toils, in both groups who attended, were of a competent standard for a first attempt with some rather ambitious colour work taking place, alongside some beautifully delicate profanities (nice one, Bruno!).

It was certainly refreshing to escape the digital environment for a day and make more of a human connection with letterforms. My attitude towards the craftsmen and women who make a living out of signwriting is now certainly one of reverence.

Stuart Brown

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Stuart hard at work

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Riccardo performing a balancing act

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Kalapi flying the Dalton Maag flag with some non-Latin script sign painting

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The team with their finished signs.

Gujarati Workshop

We arrived bright and early on Saturday morning for our first internal workshop, an introduction to Gujarati, taught by Kalapi, one of Dalton Maag’s font engineers. We were, in fact, the test subjects for the workshop he will be teaching at TypeCon this year (in Portland this August) and ATypI in Amsterdam.

Kalapi is a native speaker of Gujarati and researched and designed a typeface in that script during his master’s degree at the University of Reading. He agreed to share his knowledge with whoever in the company was interested in learning a bit about the script (and there were quite a few of us there, including designers, engineers and even the big boss, Bruno). Aside from Kalapi, none of us had any previous knowledge of the Gujarati script (although a few of the designers present had previous experience designing related Indic scripts).

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The team get down to work on the day

It turned out that no previous experience was necessary. The structure of the workshop allowed us to gain some familiarity with Gujarati letterforms, first by writing down glyphs, then watching a slideshow of wonderfully varied examples of Gujarati lettering, and by the end of the day we were all designing our own glyphs in different display styles.

In the morning we were introduced to Gujarati consonants and vowels. Using different type specimens as a reference, we started writing individual letters at first, and then our own names – some people ventured further and even started writing other words in Gujarati or English. We used slanted markers which, when held at the correct angle, allowed us to see and understand the distribution of weight in Gujarati text (it’s similar to many other Indic scripts, but the opposite of the Latin script). We were then assigned 3 glyphs that we would develop further in the afternoon.

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Practising with slanted markers

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Using type specimens to learn the principles of Gujarati letterforms

After lunch, Kalapi showed us a fantastic collection of pictures with an incredible amount of variation and styles for the Gujarati script. By then, we could recognise several of the glyphs in the pictures, and Kalapi helped us recognise different letters whenever they strayed too far from the more calligraphic and typographic models we had looked at in the morning. The slideshow was beautiful, fun and really inspiring. We learned that the Gujarati script is incredibly flexible and can be pushed quite far in terms of stylistic variation.

Finally, we went to our computers and started drawing our assigned glyphs. By the end of the day, when we looked at what everybody had done laid out in front of us, there was a wide array of different display styles on the table.

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Taking the glyphs onto the computer

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Rough sketches, playing with the Gujarati glyphs

All in all, it was a really fun and informative introduction to this beautiful script. It didn’t seem too difficult or daunting, and we left really inspired to learn and design more.

Luisa Baeta

Tibetan Calligraphy

Tibetan Calligraphy Workshop held by Tashi Mannox,  February 9th – 10th, 2013, London.

Two full days spent with pens and inked hands, for once away from our monitors and for the pleasure of the eye. On Saturday morning, over a couple of hours, the teacher, Tashi Mannox, introduced us to the basic features of the Uchen style. Among several existing styles, the Uchen is considered as the traditional one and became the reference for long text, reading typefaces.
fig. 1 Cover of our Tibetan writing manual
Tibetan writing manual
As with the Latin script, Tibetan is written accordingly to the thickness of the tool you are using; the proportions are based upon a structure built from the pen in use. The angle is 45 degrees (more or less, without being too dogmatic). The upper part of the letter is 3 units high (a unit is made of two pen strokes), the bottom part is another 3 units. A 2 unit high area above will contain the vowel signs. The glyphs are drawn in a constant width of 3 units.
fig. 2 Character structure based on grid determined by pen size.
Character structure
One important feature to keep in mind is how the strokes are traced. Traditionally, the pen is cut from dry bamboo (stronger than the young and green bamboo). This kind of pen has a degree of flexibility allowing to create the characteristic shapes of Tibetan strokes. The pen is constantly twisted to draw a modulated line. The space within the letters must be managed carefully in order to create balanced shapes.
fig. 3 Sample of a letter, with its stroke order
Character stroke order
The Tibetan script itself, within its boundaries, is very flexible. A lot of conjuncts are showing consonants and vowels embedded into each other, like in most of the scripts of the Indian sub-continent. Eventually, Tibetan words are separated by a dot that stands at the height of the headline of the letter.
fig. 4  Samples of conjuncts

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fig. 5 Om Ma Ni mantra 

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For more images from the workshop see below.

Amélie Bonet, Pilar Cano, Eleni Beveratou and Michele Patanè