A short, intensive course in type design

By Dan Rhatigan

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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