ISEA2011 WORKSHOP: Type Design with FontLab®

Type Design with FontLab® and the Most Important OS (ISType Workshop Series)

Workshop Leader: Alessandro Segalini

This workshop aims to introduce the craftsmanship behind all the steps that are taken during the design and production of a font – from the initial hand drawn sketches to the digitization process; from the establishment of the metrics architecture to the generation of a useable font – ‘passing on’ and instilling design skill and technique. I want to win attendees’ hearts and minds, fire their imagination and intellect, with discipline and freedom working in tandem. I will try to inspire fresh students and first encounters with enthusiasm, erudition, and technical veracity, to extraordinary heights of competence in the space of a single seminar as workshop. Type is the element.

In regards to education, I believe that knowledge is constructed by the learner through action; it is mediate, not immediate. Action initiated by the learner himself is the indispensable ingredient of the act of knowing, and art is with us to give structure to reality.

Paul Standard in 1947 wrote: “Geometry can produce legible letter but art alone makes them beautiful. Art begins where geometry ends, and imparts to letters a character transcending mere measurement.”

Herman Zapf a few decades later said: “A lot of mathematics and technical knowledge are involved in our work today. I would not call us artists any more. I think ’alphabet designer’ is more accurate, and our comrade is no longer the punch cutter but the electronics engineer. If the technician learns that he doesn’t have to work with a crazy artist, and the designer learns a little about electronics, they will make an ideal team. It is still teamwork as it was in the good old days of metal type.”

One of the great promoters of communication, typography invites us to meditate on, not only the form of letters but also on the vicissitudes of the cultural memory of the people. The opening provided by the rapidly extending design of digital fonts is forcing us to pay attention to the sounds that characterize our individual languages. “And there is the fact that content is always embodied in its form, and so to make form is also to shape content.”

Lettering is, in many ways, the opposite of type design. Whereas type design creates letters that must function under the broadest possible circumstances, lettering is created for the most narrow of applications. A type designer does not draw letters; a type designer designs words and words are structures that contain patterns of black and white shapes, form and counter-form. It is a game that deals with space and rhythm.

Typography is two-dimensional architecture, based on experience and imagination, and guided by rules and readability. The purpose of typography is the arrangement of design elements within a given structure to allow the reader to easily focus on the message, without slowing down the speed of reading.

The prerequisites for this workshop are two: the completion of a Graphic Design and/or Typography course, and a clear determination in lettering.

The required materials are: sketching and tracing paper, drawing pen and pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, a ruler; a laptop running Mac OSX or Windows OS – FontLab®, Adobe® Illustrator™ and Photoshop™; a digital camera and connecting cable; a mouse or a tablet.

The expected outcomes are – to be able to:

a) Describe the process of letter-making and system-making where each glyph is used in harmony.
b) Explore and create type drawings.
c) Design a method to generate fonts able perform in various applications and contexts.

We may conclude that a mathematical approach to the design of alphabets does not eliminate the artists who make them.

A clarification on the title – “the most important Operating System” pays tribute to Bill Hill for his document “OSPREY, The Magic of Reading” and his 2004 video online at MSDN Channel9 titled “Windows is not the most important OS” in which he comes to a very important conclusion: we all use the same OS in the end: Homo Sapiens 1.0. In this respect, type design and the mysterious state referred to as “readability” entirely depends on pattern recognition, i.e., the key to the development of language, and especially writing and reading systems.

Bio of the Presenter
Alessandro Segalini was born in Piacenza, Italy and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey. He is a communication designer who specializes in typography. Segalini’s design and research interests include linguistics, book and editorial design, information design, typeface design, calligraphy and lettering, visual identities and designing for multiple languages. In regards to education, he believes that knowledge is constructed by the learner through action; it is mediate, not immediate. Action initiated by the learner himself is the indispensable ingredient of the act of knowing, and art is with us to give structure to reality. Segalini studied design at the Polytechnic of Milan and visual communication at the University of Art and Design of Helsinki. He holds a MSc in Industrial Design from the Polytechnic University of Milan. Currently he is a faculty member at Izmir University of Economics VCD department focusing on typographic design and design education. He is member of the editorial board of Multi, the RIT journal of diversity and plurality in design. Hemingway™ designed by Alessandro Segalini was inspired by the prize winning novel The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Miller Hemingway. The typeface has been selected for the UK Creative Review Type Annual 2011 within the Display category.

Segalini is on Behance at; a section of his portfolio was featured on (02/2011) as a project that promotes new thinking in its industry. He is currently co-creator of the first Istanbul Type Seminars to be held in September 2011.

Posted by:  Ebru Surek