Course Syllabus

This is a distribution of the course topics into a general syllabus and resources.

We mainly use Henestrosa, Cheng, and Unger as the main bibliographic references. But many more books, such as Mediavilla, Clayton, Knight, Samara, Bringhurst, Beier, Ahrens, Coles, or Campe are also invaluable resources we use on an almost daily basis.

Additional references such as Quelhas Ph.D. or even websites such as Microsoft’s documentation or Fontlab or Glyph’s manuals and video tutorials are also very important.

The full bibliography, semester schedule, and online references can be found on the academic system page, and on the e-learning platform.

Course Syllabus

This syllabus assumes the current three-hour class per week duration in a 13 to 15 week semester. Between classes, students are required to read from the selected bibliography references.


The introduction module is the most theoretical-intensive module of the semester. It continues the program of advanced studies of typography and aims at providing a conceptual and historical baseline for every student.

These contents are usually distributed over a period of two weeks.

  • Writing origins & evolution of the Latin alphabet writing (systems of the world);
  • Typography origins & evolution;
  • Classification(s) & historical specimens;
  • Typeface anatomy;
  • Type Design basics (process & steps).

Foundation calligraphy

The foundational hand provides the basic knowledge of how the elementary strokes are made, and why the Latin (roman) typographical systems relies on such specific conventions

This content is usually a one session class that takes place during the carnival holiday period.

  • Humanistic (Johnston’s foundational hand);

Depending on the current rectory policy/semester schedule, it may or may not be an effective lecture. Hence, sometimes it is taught during the three hours class, with a parallel pen. Or, if it occurs during a holiday, it is briefly introduced in another class, using the two-joint-pencil method.

Doing or learning (better) typeface design does not depend on the knowledge or previous experience in calligraphy. Nevertheless, knowing the tools and gestures that produce the strokes helps to understand the letter shapes better. So, when the course semester schedule allows for it, we also try provide additional classes or workshops on additional styles/hands.

  • Gothic (Textura Precissus);
  • Italic (Arrighi’s Chancery );
  • Copperplate (Bickham’s English hand).

Understanding the evolution (compression) of the humanistic hand and the development of (other) tools and styles also helps to understand how letterforms may be constructed and provides a larger visual vocabulary.

In 2021, I’ve provided a very short explanation of the blackletter compression of the humanistic hand. In 2019 we had Ingrid Marqués doing a workshop on the Italic hand. And in 2021 we had Sílvia Tapia doing a two-class workshop on contemporary brush script and copperplate calligraphy.

Although we have no time to explore earlier models (such as inscriptional, or uncial), or other variants (such as later period fraktur, bastard hands such as civilité, expressionist gothic, or contemporary scripts), these four main styles help to prepare students to Noordzij’s theory of “The Stroke” by practice.

SLOType speculative workshop

Together with Ana Catarina Silva (and with the help of Julien Priez and Eduardo Napoleão), we have been developing this induction to letterform design into a educational workshop and support app.

This class usually takes place in a very intensive three-hour session of sprints. During the COVID pandemic, activities were held either in a hybrid or an exclusive online mode, and took almost two full sessions to complete.

  • Gerrit Noordzij’s “The Stroke” theory;
  • Agile workshop with the SLOType app;
    • Formal relationships (Type genealogy, letter groups)

This workshop takes into account that most students don’t have the basic knowledge or practice of historical calligraphic models. Nor we have the time to practice formal calligraphy with them previously. Hence it is designed to kickstart their type design education using a series of design sprints, oriented by specific creative briefs and supported by pedagogical materials.

Even if students haven’t had the chance to practice the foundational hand, this workshop is the minimum required practice to jump into font design and development.

Type Design induction

Type Design induction contents are usually distributed over a period of four weeks (two classes and two one-to-one sessions).

The introduction to the software usually takes between one and two classes to demonstrate. And then, students are required to explore these contents, design test keyword and submit the characters in functional font in three weeks.

  • Designing a display test keyword (e.g.: “Raphesion123”)
    • Test keywords (from “adhesion” to “hamburgerfonstiv);
    • Design and develop a one-axis / two-masters (min.) variable font;

This is a very intense four-week module. It is designed to introduce students to the technical aspects of type design (production). Afterward it is expected that they are sufficiently proficient with the software to learn or research what they need to implement their designs.

Type Design production

The final module of the course program is usually distributed over a period of six to eight weeks. During this module, students are encouraged to work in groups. They are required to design a text typeface based on a revival at their choice. But they are required to produce a full Opentype Std Character set and implementing it in a functional variable font (two masters min.)

Some important issues are to be addressed autonomously by students, either during this course, or in future opportunities such as the dissertation/project:

  • Digital issues:
  • Design issues:
    • Size-specific issues (wayfinding/signage, caption,…);
    • Additional scripts and languages (different models from Arabic, Indic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Coptic,…)
    • Calligraphy and gesture influences and models (see Abel Martins’ dissertation report);
    • Historical models research, or Contemporary writing and graffiti forms;
  • Media specific issues:
    • Emerging media requirements such AR or XR adaptative designs, contextual responsive typography,…;
    • Stone carving or epigraphy;
    • Volumetric representation;

Online references and resources

  • Samsa (Variable Font Inspector);
  • Adhesion Text (Dumy text generator, based on selected letters);