Thanks to the breakneck pace of visual culture, it’s imperative for professional graphic designers to keep honing their mastery of tech and developing their creative skills. Typography remains one of those enjoyable basic competencies that is never fully mastered, requiring a lifetime of study and refinement. Fortunately, there have never been more educational options for working professionals to refine and expand their typographic knowledge. (In the interest of full disclosure: the author is a founder or co-founder of the School of Visual Arts’ TypeLab and The Complete Typographer offerings.) Programs at a range of price points and time commitments, from weekend workshops to full-year certificate programs, online and in person, are widely available to study typeface design, digital typography and traditional letterpress typesetting, both in the United States and abroad. Exploring the nuances as well as the nuts and bolts of typography in a course of focused study is guaranteed to inject a little sunshine into any designer’s daily grind of client meetings, presentations, revisions and deadlines.
Typography Summer School
Typography Summer School, founded by graphic designer Fraser Muggeridge in London in 2010, also hosts a New York school in partnership with graphic design firm Other Means. This five-day program (£425) is a hub for recent graduates of graphic design who’d like to investigate the role of typographic design across mediums, from books to websites, in a think-tank atmosphere. Students will enjoy daily talks from visiting design professionals, individual and group assignments, seminars and tutorials, and advice on the different career paths they can pursue within the type industry.
Type@Cooper Public Workshops
The Cooper Union’s typeface design certificate program, Type@Cooper, founded in 2010, offers public workshops in lettering, type history, typeface design, technology and production. Held on Cooper Union’s New York City campus and open to anyone wishing to further his or her design knowledge, the workshops require no application—simply sign up. There are full-day and weekend workshops, as well as multiweek workshops held on weekday evenings. Past subjects have included Mechanics of Typography with curator Alexander Tochilovsky (Saturday–Sunday, $485), Grid Systems: Eight-Hour Type Spa with curator and educator Ellen Lupton (Saturday, $320) and Hand Lettering with type designer Lynne Yun (ten Tuesday evenings, $800).
The University of Reading, a traditional, research-intensive university in the United Kingdom, is home to a small design school offering one of the globe’s few master’s programs in typeface design. For those looking to study typeface design and typography within a shorter period of time, the school also offers a two-week summer course called the TDi, now in its twelfth iteration (£2,780, 2020). The program, led by Gerry Leonidas with exceptional tutors such as Fiona Ross and Fred Smeijers, best suits experienced graphic designers and typographers, web designers, educators, researchers, developers, and people who work with type designers; current students or recent graduates are welcome but should expect a steep learning curve.
Typographic Summer Program
For typographers with an interest in letterpress printing, the Typographic Summer Program, founded in 2016 by graphic designer and letterpress printer Da Kühne, offers two two-week summer sessions in Näfels, Switzerland. Intended for international graphic design students and professionals, the sessions develop typographic skills through an intensive study of letterpress printing, bridging the gap between analog design and production tools and contemporary typographic posters. It’s more or less a complete immersion, consisting of eleven nine-hour workshop days, plus talks, excursions and discussions. (The 2020 fees range from 1650 CHF for early birds to 1850 CHF for late applications.)
Tipo Cibo Vino (Legacy of Letters)
The Legacy of Letters, also a letterpress-focused program, has the singular distinction of enabling participants to study the history of the Roman alphabet in its place of origin, while also enjoying the cuisine and wines of Italy. The program was conceived in 1996 by type designer Garrett Boge and revived in 2010 by designer and design historian Paul Shaw together with publishing consultant and translator Alta Price. Past tours (prices have ranged from $3,600 to just under $4,000) have focused on cities in the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions, but future tours may include other locations in Italy. An intensive workshop portion enables students to learn letterpress techniques while collaborating on the creation of a unique project, such as a bound book.
In New York City, the School of Visual Arts offers TypeLab, an intensive summer residency for professional designers. Founded in 2015 by graphic designer Angela Riechers, the program gives participants the opportunity to study with typeface designers such as Tobias Frere-Jones and Ksenya Samarskaya. The first session, Typographic Contexts ($2,000), serves to sharpen a designer’s eye for type, from letters in the environment to historical styles and uses, and is a prerequisite for students wishing to take the second session, Original Typeface Intensive ($2,000), focused on digital typeface design. The two consecutive two-week sessions may be taken together, or students may take just the rst session. Lectures and field trips round out the immersive typographic experience.
The Cooper Union in New York City offers two versions of Type@Cooper, Condensed and Extended, which both award postgraduate certificates in typeface design upon completion. Students learn the tools and principles of digital typeface design through a step-by-step process from instructors including Hannes Famira, principal of FamiraFonts, and Just van Rossum, renowned type designer, educator and programmer. Guest critics, speakers and field trips to notable typographic institutions in New York City augment the program. The Condensed program ($5,150, 2020) packs 162 in-class hours into five continuous weeks over the summer, four to five days per week. The Extended program ($2,795 for each term, 2020–2021) spreads the content over three ten-week terms that begin in the fall; classes are held twice weekly in the evenings, as well as on some weekends.
Type@Cooper West began in 2015 as a partnership between Type@Cooper and the Letterform Archive, a San Francisco–based nonprofit center for typography and lettering. In 2018, the nonprofit announced that it was launching an independent program called Type West. This year-long postgraduate certificate program in type design ($2,695 for each term, 2020–2021) is meant for graphic design professionals who are interested in creating original typefaces, with core classes in type production that focus on the history and theory of type design. Over three ten-week terms, students practice hand lettering, calligraphy and drafting as they master the digital tools necessary for making fonts. Core classes, which are held on two weekday evenings every week, are supplemented by two weekend workshops per term as well as guest lectures, and students also have access to the Letterform Archive’s vast typographic library and resources.
This five-week program (€4,600, 2020), launched by type designer Jean François Porchez’s Typofonderie team in 2015, is located in the heart of the Bastille area of Paris, France, and covers typeface design, calligraphy techniques, type history and modern software practices. Content is geared towards a varied group of students: the experienced graphic designer, typographer, web designer or design school typography teacher, as well as recent design school graduates eager to deepen their typography skills and knowledge. Students will receive 340 hours of instruction over the five weeks, as well as 160 in-class hours, and visit the collections of notable French institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale.
The Complete Typographer
The School of Visual Arts offers a two-part typography program through the Kadenze online education platform. Launched in 2017 by Steven Heller and Angela Riechers, the Complete Typographer I delivers a package of three courses, on typographic history, hand lettering and making typeface families, while the Complete Typographer II offers two courses, on using typography in graphic design and how to sell and protect your typefaces. Students can access the lecture videos and forum discussions with a free Kadenze membership, or earn a Specialist Certificate by signing up for a premium membership ($20/month) and paying the course fees ($500 for Typographer I and $400 for Typographer II). Premium members also submit and share assignments, receive grades and feedback for their work, and collaborate with other users, among other benefits. Instructors and guest speakers include type designer Nina Stössinger, art director Claudia de Almeida and type designer and calligrapher Yomar Augusto.
Formerly Lynda.com, LinkedIn Learning offers hundreds of online courses in typography at all levels, for students in high school and college as well as professionals looking to upgrade their skill sets. Educator, author and calligrapher Ina Saltz has produced seven instructional typography videos for the platform so far, with the newest one on type in motion. She says, “My courses are great for people looking to change fields, who might have some design experience but don’t have time to go back to school to finish their education.” Users can take as many courses as they want with a yearly LinkedIn Learning subscription ($19.99/month) or a month-by-month subscription ($29.99/month), or pay for each individual course (starting at $19.99). Before you sign up, though: many libraries have subscriptions to LinkedIn Learning, meaning you can gain access to thousands of hours of course content for free. ca
Tobias Frere-Jones is one of the world’s leading typeface designers, and his eponymous foundry’s blog gives a window into the detailed thought process behind developing original typefaces, like Mallory, as well as snapshots of the foundry’s extensive collection of type specimens
Ondrej Jób, founder of type foundry Setup, previously known as Urtd, shares crisp snapshots of typography in the wild in this Instagram
account. The tidy grid of daily finds, such as stone lettering and store signage, reminds viewers to be ready for inspiration to strike at any time.
Designer, typographer and printmaker Nicole Arnett Phillips has collected visual inspiration, helpful tools and insightful articles from far and wide to share with creatives who are as typographically curious as she is. Original interviews with creatives such as designer and lettering artist Aurelie Maron may even encourage readers to develop their own typefaces.
Thinking With Type
A companion site for Ellen Lupton’s comprehensive book on basic type knowledge, explaining everything from terminology to hierarchy with clarity, precision and humor. There is also a list of resources for teachers, including a syllabus that can be adapted, student exercises and nine downloadable lectures on everything from type basics to experimental typography.
Originally started as a side project by designer Jeremiah Shoaf, this site has grown into a one-stop compendium of links and resources related to typography, including an ongoing feature called Site of the Day. Bonus: Typewolf itself is typographically wonderful.
Netherlands-based type foundry and design firm Typotheque, founded by multidisciplinary designer Peter Biľak, offers articles on a range of topics, from Hebrew type to film title sequences. Written by various contributors from both theoretical and practical points of view, any of the posts is a minieducation in itself.