To begin my research for this project that would merge my interests in typography and mobile platforms, I looked back through resources from my experiences in typography classes in design school. Fortunately, I took many photos in those classes, making it very easy to revisit many of the things I had learned, and how they were taught.
In the Typography-1 class, a class for beginners, we were assigned to draw the letter ‘g’ in several historically important typefaces, such as Garamond, Baskerville, Bodoni, Century and Helvetica. To do this, we used tracing paper and pen to trace outline of the letterforms and then filled them with a brush and black ink. Going through this manual process was really helpful in understanding and appreciating the artistically subtle design of typefaces and their designs’ evolution with time.
In addition to recreating the typefaces, we also learned the anatomy of typefaces, and were supposed to memorize important terminologies and various elements of the typeface anatomy. However, memorizing historically important typefaces was very difficult, because, as beginners, our eyes were not trained well enough to recognize the subtle differences of letter forms, especially in small size. We often had quizzes in class to identify typefaces, and I often had a lot of wrong answers.
To train our eyes for good letter spacing, we participated in exercises using letters on papers and tape. It was iterative process of moving around individual letters to achieve successful kerning and optical balance. As a visual aid, we would hang the letters on the wall with upside down in order to be able to focus exclusively on the letter spacing, without the distraction of identifying the letters as letters or words.
Experimenting composition with image and hierarchy of text.
It was not until I was in advanced typography class that we studied editorial design with more complex grid system. On this level, we focused more on the entire system, rather than focusing on the individual letterforms.
These are textbooks that we used in typography classes. One of the most important texts we used in typography class was ‘Designing with Type,’ by James Craig. It is one of the most widely used books in design schools.
From these experiences, I was able to list the components of typography study. In the beginner’s stage, we focused on learning individual typefaces and their forms, as well as gaining an understanding a historical context for them. In advanced typography classes, we focused on dealing with bulk text and how it is used with various types of images. In this stage, it is more about grid system and typography in a big picture.
As I described in ‘Motivation’ section, I loved to observe the form and detail shapes of individual letters. For me, one of the most interesting topics in typography study was the historical evolution of typographic forms, such as the change of contrast, axis and serif. Consequently, I started to focus more intently on the forms of typefaces and began to think about the questions such as: “How did I study type? How do designers reference it? What are the limitations of various typefaces – and the current methods for learning about them?”