I Love Typography

Type and Media Masters

A year ago, after the ten of us settled in The Hague, we started the Type and Media masters course—excited to begin our education in type design. Expecting to immediately start drawing letters, we were surprised to find that our first course was in Python programming. Though unexpected, it was an appropriate way to begin the semester, as we quickly learned that in type design you need to understand a wide range of different tools, adapting to and preferably making them your own. Understanding as many tools as possible gives one that added flexibility.

The Hague graduation posters

Over the course of the first semester each week was filled with a variety of physical and mental exercises, using tools which spanned the analogue and digital realm: from the swing of a hammer to the click of a mouse.

The week began on Monday with Just van Rossum, who taught us Python through an educational program he developed called Drawbot. This application visualizes the Python language, and was a good way for us to understand the abstract nature of programming through a concrete, aesthetic representation of it on screen. The fundamentals learned from Drawbot later helped us to understand the logic of scripting in FontLab.

drawbot poster

Tuesday morning was spent with Paul van der Laan, in which we were given an assignment to revive a past typeface. We first chose a book printed before 1950, and after identifying its typeface began the process of creating a digital revival of it. Since most of us had very little past experience with type design, it was a valuable exercise to acquaint ourselves with part of the process, using an existing typeface as a starting point. In the afternoon we had stone carving lessons with Françoise Berserik.

Through our weekly practice of carving a single letter to eventually a full word, we’d become the loudest band in school. Later in the semester, during a tea and typography afternoon at her studio, Françoise showed her work in book design. She also gave us a lettering tour in The Hague, followed by ice cream.

Wednesday was the most theoretical day of the week, with Gerard Unger in the morning and Peter Biľak in the afternoon. Gerard lectured about topics between type and graphic design. We met at both the Royal Library in The Hague and the University Library in Leiden for his lectures, and were presented supplementary printed samples. Peter Biľak gave exercises dealing with the design and logic behind multiple scripts, lectured about theoretical aspects of design, and discussed various ways of thinking. Every other Wednesday evening was shared with Petr van Blokland. We had coffee, tea and biscuits at his studio in Delft as he spoke about the design process, programming, as well as tips and guidance in starting your own studio, to name a few.

On Thursday morning Petr’s brother would take over. Erik van Blokland subscribes to Make magazine, which isn’t surprising, as he can explain how practically anything works. He would bring many printed books and treasures for a weekly show-and-tell. He gave demonstrations of two programs he developed with Just van Rossum and Tal Leming: Superpolator and Robofab; plus the font data storage format of a .ufo. Other programs included Feature Proof, Metrics Machine and Prepolator. He also taught us drawing, using TypeCooker a tool for generating type-drawing exercises, sketching methods and the basics of the pointed pen. From one stroke contrast to the other, Peter Verheul would teach the afternoon class, explaining the broad nib pen as well as contrast and weight modulation. The Thursday team also coordinated the class to make chocolate letters for an exhibition shortly before Christmas.

chocolate letters

On Friday we had the ability to sit in on undergraduate classes taught by Frank Blokland, dealing with the basics of letterform construction and design. Being all graduates who’ve studied at different schools, it was impressive to see the amount of letterform training undergraduates received in only their first year. A number of the current tutors — Frank Blokland, Erik van Blokland, Petr van Blokland, Just van Rossum, Peter Verheul — were taught by Gerrit Noordzij and they all continue teaching his theories from a personal perspective. Jan Willem Stas, the course supervisor, taught the afternoon by showing us his country through visits to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and made sure that everyone felt at home.

The second semester was mainly devoted to our final project, receiving weekly feedback from Erik van Blokland, Paul van der Laan, Peter Verheul, and with semi-weekly instruction from Christoph Noordzij. Lectures were also given by Petr van Blokland and Fred Smeijers every other week. Miguel Sousa from Adobe gave us a FDK one week workshop and later we had James Mosley visiting to share his knowledge of English Vernacular Type, Didot and the Low Countries. Frank Blokland came to the class to give a demonstration of FontMaster, and how DTL handles its library.

Breaks throughout the course came in the form of various trips outside and within The Hague. A visit to Enschedé in Haarlem, the Meermanno in The Hague, the special collections of the Amsterdam University library, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Plantin Moretus Museum and the Integrated conference in Antwerp, and lectures in Leiden by the PhD students of Gerard Unger. The ultimate distraction, a week in Berlin including Typo Berlin, came two weeks before our final presentation. There was also the yearlong distraction of an ongoing fussball tournament between countries.

bend it like blokland

Since Gerard Unger also teaches at Reading, and their class was visiting Holland, we were able to enjoy meeting each other over lunch and show some of our work. We were also lucky to have visitors from China and France, as well as Naima Ben Ayed, an exchange student from Ecole Estienne in Paris.

To celebrate our graduation and our friendships we decided to design a collective poster. The poster was printed by Jan de Jong, a passionate printer and publisher we visited during a class trip to Amsterdam. Though we’re proud of what we were able to accomplish over the past year, we’re excited in the knowledge that this is just the beginning, with many years of learning and practice ahead of us. Not everyone will end up being full time type designers, so it will be interesting to see how we manage to incorporate this passion into our chosen professions.

KINA Thin, Regular, Black, Black Italic

Francesca Bolognini (Napoli, Italy)


Extreme moments in life grab attention, demand reflection, and are remembered. What one person finds extreme another may not, but there are many things in the world that people agree are extreme. Extremes are interesting, and was a good place to start my design research!

Kina is a type family designed for magazines, packaging and general graphic use. Coming soon: the complete three weights in Italic.

POMME Regular, Italic, SemiBold, Bold
Alessia Castelli (Bergamo, Italy)

Pomme Regular, Italic, SemiBold, Bold by Alessia Castelli (Bergamo, Italy)

Pomme is a text typeface originally inspired by the proportions of newspaper typefaces such as Corona, Ionic, Excelsior, Times New Roman and Swift. Pomme is identifiable by its round curves, open counters, wedge serifs, and short ascenders and descenders (for setting with minimal leading). The final result is a typeface suited for use in magazines.

NELLY TEXT, Italic, Bold
Mathieu Christe (Geneva, Switzerland)

As a first try, I wanted a simple ‘typotoolbox’ with only a few cuts and substantial differences between them. The initial family tree contained four cuts: Text, Italic, Bold & Display (later dropped owing to time constraints). Nelly, as a small type family, also explores the boundaries of unity.

Roland Dill (Liestal, Switzerland)

Happy shapes and peaceful colours in order to spread the word and save the planet! Not more, not less ;-D

ALDA Light, Light Italic, Medium, Medium Italic, Bold, Bold Italic
Berton Hasebe (Honolulu, United States of America)

Alda explores how a typeface’s weight may be represented beyond the width of a stroke. By changing details specific to each weight, my intention was to emphasize each weight’s inherent characteristics, where the bold is robust and sturdy, and the light is delicate and soft. As letterforms reduce, so do these differences in detail, allowing Alda to function as a family at smaller sizes. The goal of this process was to produce a typeface family that is cohesive in appearance under smaller conditions, yet very expressive at large sizes through its variation in weight and character.

Thomas Klaui (The Hague, Holland)

An (upright) italic decorative display typeface with a few different styles: a regular version, a continuing script version, a stencil version and an illustrative version based on the regular version. The typeface is funky and quite bold, it has swing and short ascenders and descenders. The idea was in the first place to make a typeface for use in my own graphic design. It had to fit my illustrations, which are simple lined and absurd: tortured and dead animals, naked people and happiness in general. It is for posters, book covers, kebab restaurant windows and t-shirts.

DENDRA Regular, Italic, Bold
Johannes Lang (Bregenz, Austria)

Dendra is a typeface born from the simple wish to have a legible text typeface. It was designed to work for setting catalogues or similar text based stuff that needs hanging and lining figures with some small caps and other useful opentype features. To proof its usability it was tested in running texts from sizes 6 to 14 points. But the idea was to make it interesting enough to be used for headlines around 36 points as well. As a special OpenType feature it contains a set of tree silhouettes.

FOXTROT Hairline 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, Regular 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, Italic, Heavy
Ross Milne (Vancouver, Canada)

Foxtrot is a new slab-serif type family with ten matching weights designed to create equal stroke-widths at varying type sizes. For that extra-special punch, try Foxtrot heavy or italic!

VASINTO Regular, Italic, Bold
Jonathan Pierini (Urbino, Italy)

Vasinto was born in a small town in the middle of Italy in 1909. His parents, working as enlighted farmers, named him in honour of the first President of the United States, George Washington. Owing to their poor knowledge of English, the name was literally translated to the Italian Vasinto. Vasinto is also a contemporary typeface.

POCKET Regular, Italic, Bold Gustavo Soares (São Paolo, Brazil)

Pocket is a bookish type family.

About the Academy,the course, and students. TypeMedia.

Photos credits: Erik van Blokland, Kabk studio, Abi Huynh, & students.


  1. I absolutely love Caballero. Lovely looking typeface. Great Article.


  2. A fantastic insight into the course, and I love the imagery / photographs used.

    Thank you, Mathieu and Berton.

  3. this is awesome and very inspiring… i hope to one day do the course!

    thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow! I love those graduation posters! I wouldn’t mind having one or two of them adorning my studio walls!

    I never had a font-intensive course in my education, but I’m a bit jealous…I’d love to spend a semester or two submerged in type. Yes…very inspiring work!

  5. Oh my god, that sounds like an amazing year. I’m completely jealous and awed and incredibly happy just to know that a program like this exists. Great article!

  6. What an impressing list of teachers/professors. And what an even awesomer output. (I especially like ‘Caballero’ and ‘Pocket’.)

  7. Congratulations to this year’s class on continuing the tradition — your work is terrific!

  8. Amazing fonts graduates. Those are lovely.

    I wish I could go there!

  9. Caballero is absoltely incredible, amazing, stunning! I love this type.
    This blog is so awesome! Congrat.

    Daniel Campos

  10. Really good write up! I’m in love with Foxtrot and Vasinto. Thanks for presenting the article John-o.


  11. Kim

    Chocolate letters and fussball competitions?! Sounds like so much fun. I love the posters, calligraphy, level of dedication and different approach to learning typography. Great post!

  12. Thanks for posting this article, I enjoyed a lot reading it and remembering my student days. Congratulations for your amazing work, year after year I love to see the new typefaces resulting from KABK

  13. Diogo

    Just van Rossum is the brother of Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python. Nice teacher to have, since he is very recommended on both areas. He also made the typeface that constitutes the logo of the Python programming language.

  14. Fantastic work. Beautiful letter-forms. Inspiring, to say the least.

  15. TypoJunkie

    WOW! Great stuff; makes me want to try an MA again! (any sponsors out there?)

    LOVED the top left type and its ligatures on the “hamburg” image; although I didn’t see it as a finished font… what a shame.

    Great read too. Thanks Mathieu, Berton and John!

  16. I’ve been working on my typography portfolio this last year in order to apply to KABK. I must say that this post just boosted my morale (and it was already really high), this master seems absolutely perfect for me! Great work everybody, really beautiful letter forms.

    And on a completely unrelated topic, congratulations on your blog first anniversary John! I know I’m a bit late… but i took some vacations!

    Have a nice week!

  17. MaFa

    Very inspiring read!

    Just out of curiosity: what book are you using to learn the Python programming language?

  18. The proportions of pictures to text are just right in your post to make me feel the spirit of this year. When I graduated there was no Type[Media and I often wondered what it’s like. I am glad to see how high the level of understanding and craftsmanship is. Congratulation to all you guys.

  19. Very nice article, congratulations all around! The pictures—and the insight—are excellent. This is one of my favorite iLT posts.

    Johno, I guess that the pressure is on now for the University of Reading MATD class of 2008 to write up our own article :( Unfortunately, we aren’t finished with the course yet. So we would need a few more weeks…

  20. Dan
    You read my mind.

  21. Wow. I think I need to show this to my studio professors on Monday and see if I can convince them to restructure the entire semester around type design…

  22. Great work! I enjoyed so much this post! Congratulations to all of you! I liked Pocket very much.

  23. These posters are amazing. Want!

  24. Oo, wow! I can’t find my words. This sounds a thousand times better than the impressions you could gather from the KABK website.

    Thank you very much for the article, it helps a lot. I really want to go there and take this MA. But I will wait for the Reading type nuts to post their article first :)

    Congratulations to all graduates! Amazing work. I do have a question for you guys: how many hours a week, on average, did you dedicate to studying (including all those wonderful classes you talked about). This would be really helpful to the more financially challenged who want to take the course.

    Also, you didn’t talk about the admission process. It would be great to see some thoughts on that.

    Thanks and keep it up, there’s a lot of talent with the potential to make a lot of people jealous :)

  25. dan, i’d love to see what you guys do to! especially as i intend on doing your course one day! thanks

  26. carla

    can I buy the posters somewhere? they are amazing!

  27. seems like an amazing course, just the variety of techniques and processes they use and all in one year. Amazing. Lets see what Reading has got up their sleeve.

  28. awesome, I’ll bookmark it at our haus:


  29. i don’t know how i didn’t find out about this site sooner. great work - a superb blog. it’s the best type-related site i’ve seen on the net. i linked you guys over on my site.



  30. Vlad,

    The work load is intense to say the least. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine working at the same time. That being said, we’d be lying if we didn’t acknowledge the more-than occasional night out.

    Regarding admissions, Jan Willem Stas is the best person to ask as I know the program is growing and I gather certain admissions details change from year to year. We went through a pretty standard process of application, which involved a portfolio review, submission of cv, letter of intent, and so forth. Jan Willem’s email can be found on the Type & Media section of the KABK website.

    Don’t let any of these things dissuade you; if you can find the money through loans or grants, the costs (both financial and otherwise) are offset by the experience within the first few weeks alone.

  31. Really beautiful stuff. Great article!

  32. Oh those posters are jaw-dropping gorgeous. I wish there were more!

    What a sweet peek into the studies and designs of up-and-coming typographers.

    I don’t think I could say which was my favorite new font; they are all stunning. But if you absolutely made me, I think I’d have to say Kina. I like the flirty little dips in the characters (like the R and B).

  33. Fabulous, quick overview. As a potential candidate for this program having this kind of information is invaluable. Thanks.

  34. Impressive!
    And who won the fussball tournament?

  35. Congrats you guys! I really had an incredible and fulfilling time in Type&Media and in the few years since finishing it’s been exciting to see such great new work come out of the program.

  36. Fantastic. Sounds like a great class.

  37. I can hardly wait to start the course…!

  38. What an amazing program! The posters turned out beautifully.

  39. yairba

    I was looking at this and got a great idea. I read somewhere an article about security awareness, and now when I read this post I thought about it, what if in order to get better document classification my organization will use specific fonts for classified documents. I’m not sure about the technology, if it is something automatic or whether people should choose it, but in any case, if the document is classified and the font will be a font that is used only for classified documents, that would help the people think about it when they read it. Now, I’m not sure how this font should look like, but this is a different story.

  40. banafsheh azarmi

    how can i take that master course?

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