Type Basics: Experimentation

Book 3 was all about my experimentation with typography and how I’ve developed upon letterforms. This was probably the easiest book to manufacture as I wrote about my experiences and views upon the artefacts, rather than defining what they are according to past beliefs.

What I particularly like about this book is that it allows me to look back and reflect on everything I have produced, both contemporary and traditional, and it shows my slight progression through this module. I’ve said before that I never considered traditional means of design as I was born in the midst of the digital era so everything around me has always been produced on a computer. It was good to experience workshops such as calligraphy and using a grid system to create my own alphabet, as if I had been asked to do this, I would have always resorted to the computer. Now, I can debate whether to produce by hand or by machine and in today’s market, that’s rare.

Here is my final book:

My only negative outlook on this book would be that there were not enough pages that I could design on. Half of this was due to my layout, but I wanted to have a concurrent theme running throughout all three of my books as I wanted them to be a range rather than three individual books. However, I think that the pieces I have displayed in my book work well amongst the range and I believe that it very much compliments them. Although I wanted to display my work in this book, I also wanted to write a little about each piece as I believe that I am stronger verbally than creatively, especially when it comes to deeper meanings. The only thing I changed was the size of the text boxes, as I didn’t want to write too much because the whole point of this book was the experimentation I’d partaken in. Again, the white space really makes the text stand out. Overall. my layout worked well both aesthetically and practically. I’ve extremely proud of my outcomes and I look forward to forwarding onto the next brief.


Type Basics: Anatomy

Book one was all about the anatomy of typography and the very basics. So, I thought, what are the foundations of a letterform? On Moodle, we had been linked a page that breaks down type, but I wanted to go further and research more into the composition. After all, I am hoping to spend the rest of my life working as a graphic designer so I figured it would be in my best interests to delve further into the field.

My book was all about how you can use typography to your best ability, once you have learnt the basics. I narrowed down the pages in my sketchbook as I knew that if I didn’t, I’d end up with a graphic novel rather than a 16 page book.

Here is the final book layout:


Overall, I’m extremely happy with the style of my books. They work well as a collection, you can tell they belong as a range yet they strive individually. I think the white space works well as the minimalist style really draws you in. The condensed black font contrasts well against the overall white page. I’m really proud of the final designs, I’m glad the books had to be black and white as if it had to be in colour I wouldn’t have any idea where to begin. It was a good starting brief, I particularly enjoyed it.

Alphabets within Grids

Influenced by Wim Crouwel’s approach to design, we began to look at grids and how we can use them to influence our alphabets, or rather how we can design an alphabet around a grid. I used squared, triangular and circular grids, but in the end I much preferred the circular grid as I had a guide for the curvature of letterforms. Here are a few examples of my squared and triangular grids, which were all a part of the trials and tribulations and helped me develop upon my final alphabet:


Final Alphabet

Now, I know it’s not perfect, but for a first attempt I’m rather happy. Using the curvature of the circles I made a continuously flowing letterform. My only downfall and something I plan to revisit in my sketchbook is the letters H and X look exactly the same, one I wouldn’t use the black forms on either side. Another downfall is the N and its extra long width, I could have cut down the size by using one less semi-circle, but all of these minor details should be easily fixed if I was to revisit the alphabet within my sketchbook.

VoxA-TypI Classification System

The VoxA-TypI system was used to classify fonts based on their characteristics. Now, the typefaces would usually be whittled down to their century e.g. 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th however they were also classified dependant on their letterform characteristics, for example the downstroke, upstroke, forms of serifs, stroke axis, x-height and more.

Devised by Maximilien Vox in 1954 the VoxA-TypI system made it possible to define fonts in just 9 different classifications, bot it was revised and is now an 11 part scheme. However, one major flaw of this system was that many fonts overlapped classifications. For example, the font Gill Sans would be classified as both Lineal and Garald.

The VoxA-TypI system can be broken down into 4 main categories, and then split further into sub categories. Here is a broken down spectrum of the VoxA-TypI system itself:

Classicals: Also referred to as ‘old style’, classical fonts are further broken down into three categories: Humanist, Garald and Transitional. They are characterised by a low stroke contrast, triangular serifs and oblique axis. 

  • Humanist: Humanistic, Humanes, or Venetian Humanist typefaces mimic and/or represent handwriting within the renaissance manuscripts. Humanists include the first Roman typefaces created by Venetian printers during the 15th century and look very formal. Characteristics? Low/hardly any contrast between strokes, heavy and short bracketed serifs, diagonal cross-stroke on ‘e’ and n ascenders they tend to have slanted serifs.


  • Garald: Garald, or Aldine, was named after Claude Garamond, a famous typeface designer, as well as Aldus Manutius whom was a printer and publisher. Garald’s were used to support the orthography and use of proper grammar under the reign of King Francis I in mid 16th century France. Different to humanists as their characteristics included finer proportions and a stronger contrast in stroke weights, as well as using a slanted axis.


  • Transitional: During the 18th century John Baskerville established transitional typefaces, also referred to as Realist, Réales and Baroque. These typefaces take attributions from both humanist and neo-classical typefaces, using characteristics from both.


Moderns: Further broken down into Didone, Mechanistic and Linear, modern fonts are characterised by a simple and functional aesthetic that grew popular during the industrial period.

  • Didone: Also known as modern, they were first created in the late 18th century. They are named after two type-founders; Didot and Bodoni. The contrast between the stroke size is dramatic compared to what had been seen before. The characteristics for didone include a strong contrast between thick and thin strokes, vertical axis for curved strokes, limited to no bracketing on serifs and the terminals often have ball shapes.
  • Mechanistic: Mechanical, Slab Serif or Mécanes grew in popularity during the 19th century; coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. These typefaces were very much popular for advertising as they were easy to read. Characteristics include low contrast between strokes, heavy strokes with rectangular thick serifs and limited to no bracketing on serifs.
  • Linear: Linear fonts were further sub-categorised into grotesque, neo-grotesque, geometric and humanist.

Linear Grotesque: Originating in the 19th century,grotesques were early sans serif fonts which grew increasingly popular commercially. The grotesques feature many unlikely characteristics including an odd distribution of line thicknesses on curved letterforms, a double story lowercase ‘g’, a spur on the uppercase ‘G’, a curled leg on the uppercase ‘R’ as well as a vertical axis.

Linear Neo-Grotesque: Also referred to as transitional, neo-grotesque on the earlier grotesque typefaces. This category contains some of the most famous sans serif designs. Developing on the grotesque designs however the letterforms are much more simple. There is less variation in stroke weight and the lowercase g is now a single story, rather than it being double like grotesque fonts.

Geometric: Created with an equal or almost equal stroke width and are designed using simple geometric forms which are repeated and used throughout the letterform. As a result of this the geometric typefaces are less readable and letters are harder to differentiate from one another. Characteristics of geometric letterforms are little to no contrast between the vertical and horizontal strokes and character shapes are influenced by geometric forms such as squares, triangles and circles.

Humanist: Humanist typefaces are inspired by earlier classical letterforms. The uppercase of humanist typefaces relate to Roman inscriptional letters, and the characteristics of the lowercase are similar to those of Carolingian script. Characteristics of humanist fonts are noticeable contrast between stroke proportions and characteristics match serif typefaces, they are influenced by calligraphic forms and due to this the humanist classification are said to be the most legible and readable of all the sans serif classifications.

Calligraphics: Charaterised by a hand-rendered look, calligraphic typefaces can be further broken down into Glyphics, Script, Blackletter and Gaelic. 

  • Glyphics: Glyphic, incised or incise letterforms are based on engravings in stone and/or metal. As a result they have small triangular shaped serifs or flared terminals. These typefaces focus on the uppercase characters, many of which don’t contain any lowercase letters altogether. Their characteristics include minimal contrast between strokes, a vertical axis for curved strokes and a tapering effect at the terminals and/or triangular shaped serifs.


  • Script: Scriptes or scripts represent cursive writing and as a result they have strong sloping forms, like italic, and letterforms can be connected. Included in this category are typefaces that imitate copperplate scripts. Characteristics of sript fonts appear to be written with a quill and have a strong slope/lean as well as letters often being connected.


  • Blackletter: Blackletter, otherwise known as gothic script, gothic minuscule or Textura is based on the medieval scribe hand-rendered with broad-nibbed pens. First used by Gutenberg for the letterpress. They were used to print body text until eventually Humanist typefaces took over with the invention of movable type in the early 20th century. This typeface was also famous for being used in Nazi propaganda, but it is very narrow-minded to limit the classification of blackletter to the one negative attached to it.


  • Gaelic: Irish character, Irish type or Gaelic script was used as early as the 16th Century. These typefaces originated from Irish scripts found on medieval manuscripts. Gaelic type was used for mainly setting body text and was used throughout Ireland before losing popularity during mid 20th Century. In modern times, Gaelic type is used for decorative purposes rather than commercial advertising or body text, but is commonly found on pub signs and greeting cards.


  • Non-Latin: Famously known as exotics to English printers, the non-latin category was not included in Vox’s original 9 groups. The clear distinction of this category is that the typeface is not based on the latin alphabet. It includes typefaces that are Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Chinese, etc. As the Vox type classification system is very Latin based, non-latin types are very underrepresented


Grid Placement

To start us thinking about our placement, Neil introduced us to the grid system. Innovated by Josef Muller-Brockmann whom used grids within all of his work to introduce structure and order, we tried to resemble this using a few sentences Neil had already prepared.

Thinking about placement and the hierarchy of the page, we were given a set grid to which we had to place our sentences on. This was a useful task as you really begin to think about how you want the page to look and how it will affect the reader; what will they read first? Is that the most important piece of information? Where do they look next? It was all about putting yourself in both the designer and the viewers shoes.

  • As a designer you have to think about what looks good, whilst still being practical and innovative. You have to attract the reader’s eye as well as still having a precise format that works practically and aesthethically.
  • As the viewer you have to think about where on the page you are drawn to first, what are you going to read first? If you saw this in a magazine or newspaper, would you read it?

Grid placements are all about balance. You have to think about what looks good to you as a designer, and you have to decide whether it will affect your target audience. As a whole, this workshop really helped me acknowledge the subtle undertones of graphic design. Grids are something I have never noticed before, but I am certain that I will begin to now that they have been introduced to me. That rusty spoon menu is never going to be the same again.

These were my grid placements and, although I wouldn’t use these particular layouts in any of my design work, it was a starting point where I can begin to develop further and I will use for future reference. I will certainly use these within my books later on in the moduele.


Ligatures. The decorative aspect of typography, one might say. The term ligature means “connection” in Latin.

Ligatures are the connection of two or more individual letters, or glyphs. This transcended from the use of metal plates when two letters were typeset together to reduced the risk of ink flowing onto other letters and ruining their form. Now, a misconception of ligatures is that they’re separate letters, this isn’t the case. Ligatures are two single letters crafted into one letter, or glyph.

There are two types of ligatures; Standard and Discretionary. Standard ligatures are applied by default as they are an improvement of the text, for example fi, ff, fl, ffl and Th. These kind of ligatures help with the readability of text and allows your eye to flow through text with ease. For example, the single letters of ‘f’ and ‘i’ will clash as the terminal of the ‘F’ will clash with the tittle of the ‘i’. So to stop this the two letters were crafted into a single glyph. Here’s an example of fi with and without ligatures:

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 15.55.52.png

Discretionary ligatures are used for decorative aspects. These are used in things such as logos and for creative advertising, rather than being a practical fix. Examples of these ligature set outs are ck, sp, st, rt and ct. These kind of ligatures heavily remind me of celtic script. Nonetheless, discretionary ligatures are available under Character > the option panel menu > OpenType > Discretionary ligatures. Here is an example of discretionary ligatures: Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 15.59.36.png

Overall, ligatures help with the readability of type. But professionally designed ligatures should match the letter spacing, or kerning, of the rest of the font. Personally, I wouldn’t use discretionary ligatures unless I was designing a piece for the early 20th century, whereas I’d use standard ligatures in every day practice. This is because discretionary ligatures seem a little too decorative for todays style and approach, where as standard ligatures actually improve the legibility and readability of the text. However, by using ligatures you’re still using traditional means in a contemporary context. It keeps us in touch with the past, something few people like, but today it will help us develop and maybe look at evolving on these letterforms.


Josef Müller-Brockmann

‘I would advise young people to look at everything they encounter in a critical light … Then I would urge them at all times to be self-critical.’ – Josef in an interview with Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin for Eye Magazine, 1995.

Josef is one of, if not the, most famous name in 20th century graphic design. Ironically, he became a graphic designer by accident. Growing up in pre-war Switzerland he focused on his talents and studied art, design and architect at the University of Zürich. At school he had a tendency to not write notes but instead he would create little illustrations. His teacher took a liking to this and encouraged him to pursue an artistic career. He took his teachers advice and found an apprenticeship a retoucher at a printing works but he only lasted one day as he said it wasn’t art, he then found another apprenticeship where he lasted a month and that was with two architects. Overall, he wasn’t happy. He finally found something that interested him; graphic design. So he took to the telephone directory because he wanted to see what they did and wanted to know if this was something he would see himself doing in six months time. Afterward he enrolled to study graphic design at the Zurich Gewerbeschule.

Josef is mostly recognised for his grid technique. One would assume he learnt this technique from architect; working in a systematic order which he then developed into his graphic style and this idea is still used today. In his 1981 book, Grid Systems in Graphic Design, he wrote that the grid system creates a ‘sense of compact planning, intelligibility and clarity, and suggests orderliness of design’. This idea was important to Josef as he most frequently used a clean design and just looking at his work  you can tell he has used a grid system because his designs, also sometimes complex, they look simplistic and your eyes can easily flow. This influenced designers on a global scale and we are still learning about it today. He loved teaching young designers the basics of graphic design and seeing how they would take that and make it their own, adapt and use their own style. So much so that at the age of 43 he became a teacher at Zurich School of Arts and Crafts.

His influences fluctuated from art movements to psychiatrists to handwriting. His big influences were art movements by the likes of Constructivism, De Stijl, and Suprematism. Interestingly, the Bauhaus was also one of his influences. Whether it was the art process they taught, the young individuals and their artistic outcomes or the building itself, I’m not sure why this particular place influenced Josef but I can understand why (I will write a separate blog post on this matter and link it here). He would judge a person and their characteristics on their handwriting, this really interested Josef and he claimed that he wasn’t often wrong on his judgement. However, this wasn’t the case with Carl Jung, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. In an interview with Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin for Eye Magazine he said the following regarding Carl Jung; ‘As a young man I was intrigued not only by psychology but also by graphology. When I met people who interested me I would read their handwriting and was rarely wrong in my judgements. But this gift began to disturb me, especially in my dealings with clients, where it would unnecessarily prejudice discussion. So I abandoned it overnight. Later I paid the price for giving up these analyses when I took on partners and employees whose handwriting would have given me an early warning of trouble ahead.’

Josef Muller-Brockmann is somewhat of a graphic design pro. He had the ability to make text and image flow simultaneously. You knew what you were getting when you hired Josef for a design job; professionalism, expertise and an innovative design. No matter wat he was designing, he would always make something new, and that is what I admire about him. Each design is different but it still has his corporate identity. Starting with the grid layout and developing on from there, he was a genius of the 20th century. What you have to remember about Josef is that he lived through two wars and when everything around you is crumbling, the last thing most individuals would be is inspired. But that is something Josef never lost.

Unfortunately Josef passed in 1996, but his legacies haven’t.