Expert class Type design 2023-24

Expert class Type design

On-SITE edition 2023–24

After three successful online editions, we are thrilled to announce that the Expert class Type design will be returning to our physical classroom at the Museum Plantin-Moretus. This class provides an opportunity for aspiring type designers to receive personalized instruction and guidance from one of the field’s foremost experts.

Over the course of ten Wednesdays, given between October 2023 and May 2024, a select group of students will have the chance to learn directly from Dr. Frank E. Blokland, type designer, font producer, software developer, and Senior Lecturer. He will provide in-depth insights into the history, theory and practice of type design, sharing his vast knowledge and experience with students.

But the learning does not stop there. In addition to these classes, students can use the reading room to study the Museum’s extensive collection of punches, matrices and historical prints. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting out on your typographic journey, the Expert class Type design offers a unique and invaluable opportunity to take your skills and knowledge to the next level.

The aim of the course is to help students explore and analyze the historical and technical (production) aspects of type and typography, to teach them how to design type in detail, to help them develop an in-depth understanding of the digital font-production process, and to support them in gaining control over related software.

An important aspect of the course is the direct exchange of knowledge and experience between the students. This exchange is stimulated by a type-revival project on which the students must collaborate. The revival is always based on unique historical material from the renowned collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. In addition to participating in the revival project, each student must personally design a new typeface, whether it be from scratch or a revival that is, for example, also based on material from the museum’s collection. The course is concluded with an exhibition that takes place annually in the museum (July and August 2024).


Requirements and admission

The EcTd course is targeted at graphic designers who have a great interest in type and typography. The course is very much internationally oriented and the students come from all over the world. Hence the lessons are taught in English. For entering the course, experience in graphic design, combined with basic drawing skills and knowledge of graphic-design software such as Adobe Illustrator, are considered a prerequisite.

The course provides a good alternative for people who do not have time or the opportunity to follow, for example, the Type & Media master course at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (KABK) or the master course in type design at the University of Reading. However, in the course of time a number of students who already hold a Master degree in type design from aforementioned institutes joined the EcTd course.

Matrices of the Ascendonica Cursive by François Guyot, kept in the Museum Plantin-Moretus. (Photos taken by Krassen Krestev)


Program, end terms, and diploma

During the first half of the course the students work together online on a revival based on the invaluable historical material, i.e., punches, matrices, foundry type, and prints, from the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. This revival forms the basis for an intensive exchange of insight, perception, and technical know-how between the students, often via collaboration tools like Slack.

During the second half of the course the students have to design and to technically develop a new typeface. Initial sketches and proposals are usually already made and discussed during the first half of the course. The joined revival and the personal typeface have to be presented in two different booklets with an accompanying text on the process and progress. Evaluation criteria for the personal project are: the depth of the study, the insight in the matter, the aesthetically and technical quality of the produced type, and the originality of the design project.

Students who positively complete the course obtain an officially recognized post-college certificate.

Mercator’s xxx. (Photos by Oscar Rothe)


Subjects investigated
– with related research questions

1. Type, typography, and conventions:
What are the restrictions of the systems inherited from the times of foundry type, i.e., with characters on solid rectangles? What do we know about the factors that influenced the proportions and details of the archetypal roman and italic type models? What is the relation between letterforms and typographical conventions? Where do the conventions for present-day digital typography come from?

2. Form, proportions, construction, contrast-sorts, and contrast:
What forms the origin of the proportions, shapes, and details of the historical and modern typefaces that are in use today? Why and in what respect do characters from the style periods differ? What is the relation of type and typography to architecture, sculpture, painting, and music? Which methods can be used to classify type? How and to what extent are the type classifications of, for example, Maximilien Vox and Gerrit Noordzij comparable and overall useful? What is the relation to matters such as contrast-sort and contrast of, for example, serifs?

3. Type design, idiom, and revivals:
What distinguishes one type designer from another? Why and by what features do we recognize and distinguish the type designs of, for example, Garamont, Granjon, Eric Gill, Hermann Zapf, and Jan van Krimpen? What is a revival exactly? How should historical prints be interpreted? How and to what extent should a revival be standardized and adapted to present-day digital technology?

Blokland’s PhD-research at Leiden University, which was conducted to test the hypothesis that Gutenberg and his peers developed a standardized and unitized system for the production of textura type, which consequently was extrapolated for the production of the morphologically related roman-type model, plays an important role in the course. The students use the outcomes for further investigation of Renaissance type.


Digital technology: matters and software discussed (summary)

1. Manual conversion of analogue drawings with a digitizer/lens cursor (IKARUS format) or via autotracing, versus direct drawing on screen.

2. Contour description and font formats: the IKARUS format, cubic Bézier curves (PostScript Type1 / OpenType CFF) and quadratic Bézier curves (TrueType / OpenType TTF).

3. Font-production tools: Glyphs, RoboFont, FontLab Studio, FontForge, FoundryMaster, OTMaster.

4. Glyph databases: development of the glyph set. The construction of character sets. The support of multiple codepages. The (auto) spacing of type.

5. Data management and quality control: checking and improving the consistency of font data.

6. Font-format processing: the (batch) generation of kerning, OpenType Layout features, and hinting.


Required equipment

EcTd students will be working together with their computers, running macOS, Windows, or Linux. They are provided with font production software in the form of demo and open-source versions. Furthermore some analogue equipment is required: drawing and tracing paper (A4 – 120 grams), propelling pencil (maximum 0.5 mm) with hb or b leads, an eraser, black felt-tip pens (round head, various thicknesses), Stanley knife cutter, adhesive tape, 30 cm ruler (0.5 mm increments) and a broad nib (preferably a Parallel Pen with a 6 mm nib).

Lessons are in English

Lecturer: Dr. Frank E. Blokland

Calendar: Ten Wednesdays:
In 2023: October 25, November 22 and December 13
In 2024: January 10, January 31, February 21, March 6, March 27, April 17, May 8.
From 10 a.m. till 4.40 p.m.
The lessons of December 13, January 10 and January 31 will be hybrid: you can come to our classroom, or you can follow the live stream with Zoom.

Location: Museum Plantin-Moretus, Vrijdagmarkt 22, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

The reading room of the museum is open on week days from 9.30 a.m. till 4.30 p.m.

Enrolment fee: € 1950

Enrol by filling in this form or by sending an email to