Digital Typeface Design

ART 256 001 #1182

WinTerm 2012: 01.03.2012 – 01.20.2012
Monday — Friday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. & 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Art Workshop:
Digital Typeface Design



Prerequisite: DES-220, DES-310


Introduction to digital typeface design, this studio workshop explores various aspects of font design and development for creative and expressive ends. Course will emphasize a conceptual approach to the design of modular typefaces, from an ideation process rooted in hand-lettering to digital development using Fontstruct, a web-based font creation application.


WIN12_ART256_ModularTypeDesign_005Typeface Design

FontStruct and other applications allow designers to create functional fonts that work seamlessly with standard software programs such as InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. The first step in designing a typeface is to define a basic concept. Will the letters be serif or sans serif? Will they be modular or organic? Will you construct them geometrically or base them on handwriting? Will you use them for display or for text? Will you work with historic source material or invent the characters more or less from scratch?


Customized letterforms are a frequently used tool which many contemporary designers use as a dynamic form of expression. This studio was created to study the systematic methodology of typeface design. The class will look at the unique history of expressive, experimental and modular typefaces in efforts to inform the design process. Restricted systems and predefined forms are an appropriate and approachable method for building letters. Type designs will begin with conceptual drawings examining the experimental creation of modular letterforms. Students will be creating a digital typeface through the web based font creation software Fontstruct. The Fonstruct palette uses a dynamic library of geometric modules to build letterforms. The program provides an alphabetic matrix that produces downloadable TrueType font suitcases used in Mac or Windows applications.

question: how can you push the medium of fontstruct? what creates a unique “letterform”? how much does an “a” have to resemble a letter ‘a’? what is unexpected, contemporary or ‘new fangled’? can you develop a new media, process, technique, or unique approach to fontstruct?


This course will require very little outside resources. The initial focus will utilize hand drawn letterform studies – applied to grid structures. This will require students to purchase and provide your own graph paper and writing implements. FontStruct is an online font creation software requiring no purchase of addition software programs or negotiating institutional license. Students must become registered users of FontStruct, allowing full access to the software and online community unique to FontStruct.


The criteria for judging competency of stated objectives are based on physical hand drawn concepts, ideation and refinement stages, using the blocks offered by FontStruct, the completion of a display typeface consisting of 26-letterforms and abbreviated punctuation set and numerals; including the creation of a type specimen sheet in the form of a booklet or poster. Students will be evaluated according to lessons, visual studies, concepts and preparation.


The class and instruction model is based on the curriculum at UWE. For the past several years UWE has introduced the methodology of type design exclusively using Fontstruct. Part one of the project will ask students to choose one word from a list of themes such as “Dynamic”, “Reflection”, “Chaos” or “Decay” to then create a display face of at least 26 characters plus a basic set of punctuation. Part two will apply the new type design, creating a type specimen poster, or multi-page type specimen booklet.



Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply type and lettering principles to the creation of typographic letterforms.
  • Develop concepts for using the “kit of parts” or designated modules to create innovative letterforms
  • Understand Fontstruct toolsets [blocks] to actualize their type designs
  • Encourage students to create strong design concepts off-line and confidently transfer their ideas into digital solutions
  • Understand intermediate digital techniques developing letterforms within the restrictions offered by Fontstruct
  • Understanding conventional structures within traditional letterforms
  • Develop concepts to promote and use their type creations in an innovative way
  • Develop critical thinking skills related to contemporary uses of digital font creation.


  1. History of letterform design
  2. Examining the differences of writing, lettering, and type design
  3. Studying the theory of a kit of parts and its application
  4. Digital tools and techniques unique to Fontstuct for creating letterforms
  5. Advanced techniques for grid application
  6. Advanced tools and techniques for creating digital typefaces (export, type files, AFMs,postscript type)
  7. Merging hand drawn concepts to digital solutions
  8. Creative self-expression and critical explorations in the creation of an alphabet
  9. Portfolio creation and presentation.
  10. Professional practices, legalities and ethics for fonts and typefaces (Permissions, copyright, fair use, appropriation and creative commons licensing)
  11. Business practices


February 10—16, 2012
Applied Arts 209
Student Gallery

Facilitated By
John P. Corrigan

••• — — — ••• — — — •••

Previous Posts: category/classes/dtd-digital-type-design/

••• — — — ••• — — — •••

WT12_DTD_AestheticFly_Cover_frontAesthetically Fly: Digital Typeface Design [link]
WinTerm 2012 | Digital Typeface Design

Available for purchase at
Viewable online at

Alexa Wellock, Leah VanWettering, Sean Rueter, Jay Miles, Katherine Forslund, Katy Verbrugge, Samantha Abramczyk, Allison Crosbie, Shanna Knueppel, Sara Koller, Nate Mallow, Daniel Thiede, Mitchell Pantzke, Melissa Pfingsten, Mikala Dale

Student Typefaces
2×40, Award Cirque, Bean Pole, Black Rage, Bloated, Bright Lights, Calvin, Chad Clean, Chad Field, Chad Square Clean, Chad Square, Chad Square Stencil, Chad Stencil, Chain Link Default, Chain Link, Chroma, Cirque Characters, Cirque!, Cloud, CNCD, Divide, Graffiti, Fiddle Stix, Fine Line, George, Holey Moly, Igantor, INDI-5, InterNate Alt., InterNate Regular, InterNate Upper & Lower Set, Isolate Psyche, Jail Bird, King, Light Plaid, Linked 2, Nomadic Rambler, Plaid, Pixilated, Quartz, Quick Response, Rachella, Rage, rose, Rush, Seahorse, Shitty Nineties, Slabotuer, Slenderley Blocked, Smudged, Solid Plaid, Stair Stepper, Stinger, Tight Squeeze, Treads 3, TRON, Tron, Tumbleweeds, Virgo