Lessons in Type | Part II of VI

Type@Cooper Part 2 Lessons in Type is a series of posts covering my time spent at Cooper Union's Type@Cooper program. You can learn more about CooperType here. Here's the first post in this series. Here's the second post in this series. Here's the third post in this series. Here's the fourth post in this seriesHere's the fifth post in this series. Here's the sixth post in this series.


The weekend between week 1 and week 2 of the program was basically spent in a flurry of preparation for my second week. I spent the entire time behind my laptop catching up and trying to get ahead on work for clients in the coming week. I worked late into the night all weekend and managed to get my laundry done too! I'll tell you, one of the 'skills' that helped me get through the intensity of the program combined with the needs of running a business was my yoga practice. I was already accustomed to getting up with the sun and that early morning time gave me a good hour to get a jump on the day before arriving at Cooper.

The first week taught me a good lesson about having parts of a typeface 'get noticed.' It can be a good sign, but it can be a bad sign, too.

In the first week, we all were still doing handwork producing letters on vellum in ink for the start of our typefaces. I had been playing with a funny serif and liked something about the effect it was having. I wasn't sure what exactly.

Basically every time someone came to look at what I was working on, there was a comment on the serif. Always. I remember feeling good because it was noticed, but also a little bit meh because I knew the serif probably was just not working. The attention it was getting was a sign that it was just not right.

I decided, though, that this was not what I came to Cooper to work on! It was fun playing with something like this, but I knew it was not a typeface I'd be developing all the way through.

This is what I wanted to work on:

Typeface Inspiration

And this:

Typeface Inspiration

And this:

Typeface Inspiration 3

That first week, I learned a lot about what's 'right' in type design. There is no right, basically, and that was very frustrating for me to start to wrap my head around. It's all relative, and all based on where you're coming from and where you're trying to go. If you're setting out to design a book face, then there are certain guidelines in place, sure, but even with that said, there's mostly free range.

I quickly learned that with type design, your best guide is the internal one. Just like yoga! ;) {I had to throw that in there....I love when there are parallels in my life because I strongly believe that everything relates to everything in one way or another.}

So, in this second week, I got my 'inspiration' approved (the above photos) and Jean Francois said I had enough to go on to do a revival typeface. A Revival is when you look at something, maybe old signage or something carved by hand in stone (in my case), and decide to create a typeface based on it.

Sumner Stone Virtual Lecture

We also had virtual lectures with Sumner Stone start this week! Sumner didn't physically join the program until the middle of the program, so until then, we had 30 minutes lectures several times a week. This is where we learned about more historical aspects of the development of the alphabet.

Typeface Source Drawings

I jumped right in to the process of 'reviving' my typeface. I enlarged rubbings to 7cm tall and then did simple tracings of a few letters.

Then, we all went out for drinks at McSorley's Old Ale House a short walk away from campus. McSorley's became one of our favorite spots.

Cole SketchingMy tablemate for the entire program (Kevin!) took this picture of me I made him take so I could post it here. Action shot!

First Letter Drawings

By the end of the week, I had a few dozen letters inked up on vellum. I loved the vibe of what I was producing, but I was getting frustrated too. I could 'see' in my head what I wanted, but my hands just were not used to drawing 7cm tall letters. What came out didn't always match up with what I was thinking. I longed to be in the software—I knew I could move so much faster. But this is the essence of the Type@Cooper program and the way Jean Francois and Stephane taught us. There are things we all learned in doing this in this way that we just would not have discovered behind a computer screen. In the above photo you can see a print out of the rubbings underneath the 'npr' letters.

It was in this week I bought a big 4" binder and started filing away all of my letters and notes. It was also in this week that I discovered why I couldn't find very many blog posts about this program from other students who had come before me.....I know why....they had no time! Condensed means condensed, people. It means you have no time for anything but this. And if you own a business like me, and are planning to go through the Condensed program, you really need to be able to almost completely leave all that behind during the program. In the second week I did not go to bed 2 nights that week. Little did I know that would be the most sleep I'd get until after the program was over!


Want to hear what others had to say about this program? Including the instructors? Or maybe you just want to see what my classmates were working on. The links below are for you!

Here's Jean Francois' Post on our First Exercise (Kevin and I are in the lead photo workin'): http://porchez.com/ateliertypo/697/coopertype-2012-first-exercise

Here's Jean Francois' Post on the end of our First Exercise: http://porchez.com/ateliertypo/698/coopertype-2012-first-exercise-final * I look bedraggled in the photo JFP posted...remember how I said I didn't sleep two nights that week? That's what that looks like.

Here's JFP's post on when we all presented what we were going to work on for our final projects: http://porchez.com/ateliertypo/699/coopertype-2012-personal-project