Expert Class Type Design Graduation And Exhibition

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News | Yves Peters | September 11, 2011

Saturday, September 10, I attended the graduation ceremony of the Expert class Type design (EcTd) at the Plantin Institute for Typography which is being lectured by Frank E. Blokland. The course is meant for students / type designers who want to explore the bac­k­grounds and under­ly­ing struc­tu­res of cha­rac­ters and typo­gra­phy, who want to learn how to design type, and who want a bet­ter under­stan­ding of font pro­duc­tion and the ava­i­lable software. It is the perfect alternative for people who can’t afford to invest a whole academic year full-time to attend a post-graduate type design course like Type & Media in The Hague, MATD Typeface Design at the University of Reading, or the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst / Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig.


Students of the Expert class Type design 2011 investigating the nature and origin of typographic conventions, empirically with pen and ink in the best tradition of Edward Johnston and Gerrit Noordzij.

The Expert class Type design spans ten teaching days spread over roughly eight months. In between the lessons the students have to work at home on their projects. Although most students came from Belgium, some hailed from the Netherlands, and there was one Danish and one English student this year. Their backgrounds differed from bachelor to master educations in the graphic field. Some of the students already had experience in type design and used the course to refine their skills and to enhance their insight. Another student used the course to make a thorough start with a typeface, which is part of a PhD research at Leiden University and Hasselt University in association with the Media Arts & Design (MAD) faculty. Some of the students are lecturing themselves at graphic courses. Above all, all students share a deeply rooted passion for type.

Lecturer Frank E. Blokland was the first of the younger generation to succeed Gerrit Noordzij when he retired in 1987 from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. As Senior Lecturer Blokland now teaches writing, letter drawing and type design/font production to the graduate and post-graduate courses at the Graphic Design department. In 1995 he was asked to become a professor at the Plantin Society – now called Plantin Institute for Typography – in Antwerp. He has also lectured as a guest professor at institutes like the Delft University of Technology, the University of Reading, and Lahti University of Applied Sciences.



Jo De Baerdemaeker (top) giving a presentation on multilingual typography at the graduation ceremony.

The Expert class Type Design given by the Plantin Institute of Typography examines the “secrets” of contemporary representations of the Latin script (capital, roman and cursive) in detail. The underlying harmonic, proportional and rhythmic structures of characters and the typographical conventions and rules derived from them are analysed and dissected. In the first module of the course this acquired knowledge is combined with practical instruction on the use of font production software, which finally results in the creation of a digital type design, a revival. In module two each student designs his or her own font.

No specific admission level is required for the first module of the course, for which a certificate may be obtained, although a “graphic preliminary training” is regarded as a minimum condition, as well as drawing skills and knowledge of Adobe Illustrator software. Access is to the second module is only given upon completion of the first module with a positive result. The Plantin Institute of Typography Type Design Certificate is conferred upon students with a positive result in the second module. Classes may be taught in English to make them accessible to international students. The number of students for this course is limited. Students can enrol online with this registration form (although the deadline says August 1, Frank E. Blokland assured me the Plantin Institute for Typography will accepts late registrations coming from this post).



Head lecturer Frank E. Blokland hands over a Plantin Institute of Typography Type Design Certificate to Henrik Kubel, and gives a presentation on The Magic of Type Design.

The Expert class Type Design course takes place in the auditorium of the Plantin Institute of Typography in the prestigious Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp. This Unesco World Heritage site is the only print shop and publishing house from the 16th–17th century in the world that was preserved with equipment and home. Besides its archive, typographical collection, library, and art collection, the historic monument and museum houses an impressive collection of punches and matrices, which are an invaluable resource for type designers. For example Robert Slimbach based his Adobe Garamond on Garamond material from the Plantin-Moretus collection. Thanks to the intimate collaboration with the museum parts of the expert classes, such as the development of a revival, can make use of unique type material from the museum, with respect for the copyright rules of the Museum Plantin-Moretus / Prentenkabinet.




Graduate Ann Bessemans with her mentor, legendary Dutch type designer Gerard Unger (middle), and Gerard Unger discussing the results of the Expert class Type design with Frank E. Blokland (bottom).

The graduation ceremony was followed by the official opening of The Magic of Type Design – from sketch to digital type, the exhibition of eight students from the 2011 Expert class Type Design, which runs until October 2, 2011. Participating in the exhibition is quite demanding and not every graduating student is taking part. The students who exhibit are (in alphabetical order):

  • Ann Bessemans

  • Stijn Cremers
  • Henrik Kubel

  • Peter Van Lancker
  • Jan Neyens
  • Mario Schellingerhout

  • Anne Verlent

  • Jeroen Visser









Of course, it is a unique opportunity to exhibit at the Museum Plantin-Moretus, as normally only the work of people who’ve been dead for more than a century is put on display in this sacred place for typography. The students’ work will be shown in the same building where the finest work of Gutenberg, Griffo, and Garamond can be found.

Lecturer Frank E. Blokland:

I will not state here that the Belgian students’ work is the first milestone in Belgian type design since the contributions by Van den Keere and Rosart, but it is at least a significant one.

The new EcTd course for 2011–2012 starts on 16 November 2011.
The EcTd 2011 exhibition runs at the Museum Plantin-Moretus / Prentenkabinet in Antwerp, Belgium, from September 10, 2011 to October 2, 2011, every day except Monday from 10:00 to 17:00.

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1 Comment:

  1. It was a very interesting workshop, also for me as a non-professional type designer. The workshop was very complete, from sketch to hinting, extended families, etc., but due to work in real life, I had to more or less quit before the end. Most students ended somewhere half way or 2/3 or something, but to me, some of the most sketchy projects also seemed the most interesting.
    Professionally, it helps me even more in distinguishing between good en bad fonts, original and copycat, functionality and clutter. 7/10

    Posted by Peter Van Lancker on Sep. 12, 2011

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