ABC’s of Type Design

Liz DeLuna
Associate Professor of Graphic Design
St. John’s University

Every typeface has a story, and many typefaces have life cycles and histories that span centuries. These histories and stories reveal tales of historical and cultural context, modes of production, changes in production technologies and rationales for the emergence of styles and trends. This lecture examines the evolution of three distinct digital typeface designs, from research through design and production. My first foray into typeface design began when I discovered a late 19th century stone wall plaque in the Bowery Mission meeting room in downtown Manhattan. The letterforms on the plaque were carvings that had been done by hand, each one individual and unique. Excited by this discovery, I made rubbings of the letterforms. A desire to turn these eclectic letterforms into a typeface propelled my further explorations into typeface design. This journey eventually led me to the typeface design program, Type@Cooper. The process of designing a typeface requires a diverse and interdisciplinary skill set; relying on a web of historical, cultural, and technical understanding, as well as the more formal aesthetic and form making skills. The type designer inhabits a world somewhere between designer and engineer. My ongoing research explores the overlap between digital typeface design and traditional graphic design outputs.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 1.0: Inaugural Event at AIGA on Thursday, June 5, 2014.