I Love Typography

A short, intensive course in type design

This July, the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading is offering a week-long, condensed version of the MA Typeface Design course it has been offering for the last ten years. It may only last 5 days, but it promises to give a small group of participants a chance to spend all of that time getting some insight and feedback from the core staff at Reading — Gerry Leonidas, Fiona Ross, and Gerard Unger — along with some brief sessions with a few more of us who work with the department.

reading uni type design. photo by dan reynolds


According to the course description, “We will work very closely with a small group of people to build an understanding of context and perspective in design, both on the theoretical level and through feedback on participants’ work. Our feedback will concentrate on how participants make design decisions, and how they identify quality in their design work. There’s no hand holding: we will expect people to work quickly, be independent learners, and expect their questions to be asked with more probing questions.”

kerning and testing

It sounds intense, in a really good way. Those of us who have already done a year (or more) in Reading have all learned (the hard way, more often than not) that doing the MA is a very self-driven process that ultimately comes down to your ability to soak up everything you can and then figure out how to make sense of it all in our own work. That year was spent taking in the different perspectives of our instructors, our classmates, visiting designers and historians, and examining the treasure trove of specimens, books, ephemera, and artefacts that the department made available to us.

mathieu and gerard unger

A week-long course may not give you the same luxury of time to digest all that material and produce an entire typeface family, but it sounds like an incredible start, or an invaluable addition to what you may already know. (Luckily, you won’t need to write a dissertation, either.) At £1,540 plus food and accommodation for the week, a course like this is no frivolous undertaking, but the opportunity to get so much expert advice and to inspect the material in the department’s collections is easily worth it if you’re serious about type. I can’t claim total objectivity about this stuff: I’m tremendously grateful for the experience I had at Reading, and for all the things I’m still learning from the people there. Not everyone is able to take a full year out of their lives to get that experience, though, and this sounds like a great chance to take advantage of some of the most valuable parts of it.

There is more information about the course in this PDF overview, if you’re tempted to attend.

Dan Rhatigan is a typeface designer, graphic designer, teacher, and long-time blogger at ultrasparky.org. He received an MA with distinction in Typeface Design form the University of Reading in 2007, and he’s now working with the Typography Department to research and design non-Latin typefaces for Monotype Imaging.


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  1. This looks like a great week, but it is steep. That is quite expensive. I’d love if colleges thought like this.

  2. It´s crazy! Only five days and cost as much as £1540. I really would like to do that, but the price is crazy. Porchez was here two years ago and it wasn´t cheap, but was 500€ the same time.
    Next summer best luck.

  3. The fee for the course does NOT include food or accommodation, so those would have to be factored in as well. There are some accommodations on campus and some small hotels and guest houses nearby, but the folks at Reading can help people sort that out.

  4. Bill

    Wow,

    I’m a youngish designer who didn’t have the chance to go to Uni who’s just broken off and gone freelance fulltime and would LOVE to do this, as I live in Reading and The Elements of Typographic Style is my bible.

    What a ballache I just paid off for a holiday and now I have to rely on myself to make money, I can in no way justify this.

  5. Donald K

    Wow, sounds great. But my limited type design experience would mean that this would really be a crash course for me … I have a feeling in five days I would barely scratch the surface, I think it would be very beneficial for people who have maybe attempted more serious type design than I have.

  6. Parker

    For all those blogs that have drawings to give away design-related prizes: THIS. Who among us wouldn’t love to go, but can’t afford it? I hope any bloggers looking for a contest idea to attract readership will consider this idea.

  7. The expense of travel added to the tuition is steep but well worth it if you can afford it.
    I wonder how they decided it should be one week as opposed to two or 3?

    Wish I could do it!!!

  8. Some context: over the years we’ve had a steady string of enquiries about short courses from people whose professional obligations would make it impossible to take a whole year out. This course is for such people: experienced designers and typographers, or researchers, who will be able to learn rapidly in a short time — not people straight out of their first degree who would need time to cover the basics. This is not an introductory workshop, or an opportunity to discover whether you are interested in typeface design. Many people run such events in many countries: they are desirable and worthy, but this is planned at an entirely different level altogether.

    We thought carefully about striking a reasonable compromise between giving people enough exposure to people and objects, and keeping it manageably short. We decided a week-long course strikes the right balance, and does not eat too much into the European holiday season.

    As for the cost: there’s the equivalent of fifteen staff-days crammed in; if you do the math, you’ll see you are getting a pretty good deal. (I’ll add that such events essentially cover costs plus overheads — you wouldn’t go to all this trouble if you wanted to turn a substantial profit.)

    p.s. To Reading-based Bill: Look out for the Open Days, and visit. Next one in mid-November.

  9. Thanks for answering, Gerry! I hope I can make it one of these years!

    Chris

  10. It sounds good! Expensive for a latin american like me, but not completely impossible. Maybe a good deal for the next years.

  11. Well here’s hoping it IS successful and more courses of similar calibre pop up or travel around to different places. Typography has a world of pomp around it … sharing knowledge and expertise is a great way to break down the elitist barriers.

  12. Gabbi

    this sounds wonderful, I’m an ad designer from the US and can completely justify all the money to be spent on this, I spent a year in college learning typography and am ALWAYS hunting for someone to teach me more. thanks for the post <3

  13. I would love to go to this! This would be so inspiring and it would be very in depth look in into the art of typography.

    Too bad its out of state :|

    IDEA!
    Travel with this seminar to at least several states!

    Guaranteed it will fill up with each state.

  14. Anthony: we have thought about a “road trip”, but the only way to make it work would be to share the costs across many institutions. We also have a serious issue with moving fragile items out of the Collections: too much wear, and a high risk for irreplaceable items. It can be done, but it is not trivial.

  15. hello, good article!

  16. I have just designed a font for the business and new model trolley and it is proving to be a success, but a course like this would improve my skills no end but costly in terms of money and time.

  17. i wish i could go. maybe in the future. next year perhaps? will these be run only once a year?

  18. It’s amazing how people out there value typography. People should learn from these guys.

    I’ve been following this blog and been reading books on the topic, because we don’t have formal training in that subject matter in our whole country! crazy!

    Anyway, I hope I can join in some day…or better yet, offer them in our backwater nation!

  19. hey thanks a lot for this short but good course in type design!

  20. Crazy price £1,540.

  21. A little bit too expensive, but seems like a nice course.

  22. Great to see some detailled insights of a type design course.

  23. Ffred

    Been looking for something like this for a long time.

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