Plantin Institute of Typography
Plantin Instituut voor Typograﬁe
Due to the uncertainty that remains over the development of the pandemic, this year’s edition of the Expert class Type design course will be completely remote. This is undoubtedly attractive for those who cannot come to Antwerp because of travel restrictions. For example, students from the USA, Brazil and Thailand will take this unique opportunity to take the classes this year. It is a one-off initiative that undoubtedly saves a lot of travel and hotel costs.
In principle, the structure of the course is unchanged. However, taking it completely online implies that research in the reading room of Museum Plantin-Moretus is not possible. To get around this, students will receive high-quality photos and scans of punches, smoke proofs, matrices, and prints from the museum’s large collection. Meanwhile, Belgian participants can still visit the reading room for their research, of course. When the situation improves and travel restrictions will allow us to do so, we will invite all students to Antwerp for an informal meeting.
The Expert class Type design 2020–2021 course consists of twelve online sessions (instead of the usual ten under the roof of the museum) over a period of approximately three quarters of a year. 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, or occasionally at an exquisite location elsewhere in Belgium or the Netherlands.
This year’s edition will have 13 participants from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, UK, USA, Brazil and Thailand.
This course is taught by type designer, font producer, software developer, and Senior Lecturer Dr. Frank E. Blokland.
The German newspaper Handelsblatt was redesigned by Garcia Media and Guyot, a typeface which started in our Expert class Type design, is now the main typeface for titles and texts.
Guyot is a type family inspired by the work of the punchcutter François Guyot, who lived and worked in Antwerp during the sixteenth century. Ramiro Espinoza got acquainted with the work of Guyot while attending the Expert Class in Type Design at Antwerp’s Plantin Institute of Typography. Researching French and Flemish punchcutters, Espinoza soon realized that the work of the most important masters of the period had already been digitized.
Eventually the examples in Folger’s type specimen – attributed to François Guyot – which were reproduced in Sixteenth Century Types of the Low Countries caught Espinoza’s attention. Although the two biggest roman sizes were cut quite irregularly, they had some attractive features, and the matching italics were positively charming. And so a digital Guyot seemed in order.
Espinoza took macro images from Plantin’s famous 1567 type specimen that features Guyot’s roman and italic Ascendonicas. These images were printed in a relatively large size, after which Espinoza cleaned up the contours and interpreted the letterforms by sketching them using different approaches. This constituted the first step in the process of defining the character of the font. Once this month-long analog stage was over, he started digitising the letters.
Espinoza decided early on that his Guyot was not going to be a facsimile typeface. He increased the x-height dramatically to accommodate the preferences of current magazine and newspaper designers and editors.
Gradually specific features present in the original metal types were abandoned in the process of improving the digital contours, making the new fonts acquire their own identity. Espinoza drew on his past experience as an in-house newspaper designer, as well as on his current work in font production for the editorial market. His background played a significant role in the decision to give the letters a sturdy appearance and sharp angles.
During his year at the Plantin Institute of Typography, Espinoza researched additionally the work of several punchcutters from the seventeenth century. Details common to the types of that period – like an increased contrast and an enlarged terminal in the a – were applied to Guyot to give its look a more familiar and universal appeal. The Guyot family was eventually divided into three subfamilies: Headline, Text and Press to take full advantage of the possibilities of these optical ranges.
In 2018 Guyot was awarded by the Type Directors Club with a ‘Certificate of Typographic Excellence’.
Ramiro Espinoza (Santa Fe, 1969) studied graphic design at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral in Santa Fe, Argentina. After graduation he taught Typography at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
He specialized in type design at the KABK’s Type and Media in The Hague and the Expert class Type design of the Plantin Institute in Antwerp (2015–16). In 2007 he founded the Retype Foundry to market his typefaces.
Summer school with Dr. Frank E. Blokland, Dr. Wouter Soudan, Jan Dries, Joost Depuydt, Dr. Goran Proot, Thomas Milo, Walda Verbaenen and Patrick Goossens.
From 23 to 27 August 2021, the Plantin Institute of Typography and the University of Antwerp organize an international summer school on ‘critical approaches to typography’. The detailed program and application form will be available at www.uantwerp.be/typography-summerschool.
As you know the rise of desktop publishing in the second half of the 1980s changed the graphic landscape completely. Within a decade the highly specialized métiers of the typesetter and typographer were merged in that of the computerized graphic designer, irrespective of whether macOS, Windows, or Linux is used. Together with these operating systems came an increasing number of fonts and today everyone is a typesetter by deﬁnition. However, not everyone is automatically a typographer too, because typography requires specialist knowledge and insight. New terms as ‘macro-’ and ‘micro-typography’ have become popular nowadays, but they are only synonyms for typesetting and typography respectively.
All present-day graphic designers are ‘macro-typographers’, but not too many are also ‘micro-typographers’. Hence, not all of them will be able to give the answers to questions about, for example, what forms the basis for the patterning in type, or on what exactly typographic conventions are based. In the meantime digital typefaces are becoming more and more advanced and sophisticated. After all, OpenType Layout features will mostly automatically insert and adjust all kind of detailed (and technically complex) matters, such as ligature substitutions, the application of contextual alternates, related positioning of diacritics, et cetera. For this, in the past the typographer had to write detailed instructions for the typesetter. However, to be able to judge and consequently handle the advanced digital outcomes, a deep understanding of what exactly typography comprises, remains required.
During the Typography Summer Course at the University of Antwerp, the fundamental aspects of typography are researched. Since the end of the 1990s Dr. Frank E. Blokland, our senior lecturer, is deeply involved in the development of high-end font tools. Some of these tools, like OTMaster, will be used at the course for a more detailed look at digital-font technology. However, one does not have to be technically savvy at all for this. Furthermore, not only technical but also optical aspects will be investigated, as well as the (historical) origin of typefaces, the type designers in question, and in case of revivals, the (interpretation of the) style periods in which the original typefaces were made.
In collaboration with the University of Antwerp and the Museum Plantin-Moretus