Type@Cooper - Figures

Sat., Jun. 09 – Sun., Jun. 10, 2018
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: On campus

A discount is available to Typographics conference participants. A promotional discount code will be found on the PDF of your conference ticket. Please apply the code to workshop registration.

Have you ever seen a poster, a sign, or an example of hand lettering, and noticed numbers that don’t seem to go with the letters?

What is it about the figures that make them appear incongruous?

When we design figures, why can’t we simply apply the same principles that we use for constructing Latin letters?

Over the course of his long career, sign painter and type designer, John Downer, has made a thorough study of letters and numbers. He has helped students “figure out” how & why the shapes and proportions must look a certain way to be read easily.

Quick recognition of individual figures is important. We read digits one-by-one ... and not as “word shapes.” This means that if even a single digit is indistinct, the reader will experience difficulty.

Avoiding ambiguity is the core objective. John will patiently guide the class through a series of exercises to overcome common pitfalls, and will show various tricks for making numerical characters read well at close range and at long range.

    Required Materials

  • no 2 pencil
  • kneaded eraser
  • pencil sharpener
  • ruler
  • sketch paper around 9" x 12" or bigger
  • some sheets of tracing paper 9" x 12" or bigger
  • black markers with various size tips from very fine to wide

Students will use pencils and markers to draw numbers which come from formal and informal styles of calligraphy, commercial pen lettering, sign painting, and typeface design. Special focus will be placed on figures made specifically for price tags and phone numbers. No prior lettering experience is required.

Instructor: John Downer

Mr. Downer is a sign painter, a typeface designer, and an educator. He has written about type and type history for various publications and is widely known as a perceptive type critic. His typefaces have been published by Bitstream, Font Bureau, Emigre, House Industries, and Design Lab. Among his most popular type designs are Iowan Old Style (on iBooks reader and iOS 7+), Roxy, Ironmonger, and the ubiquitous food and beverage branding favorite, Brothers.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, a region of the US with a rich history of sign painting and hand-lettering, Mr. Downer was first introduced to commercial pen & brush lettering in the 1960s in junior high school. He began an apprenticeship in a sign painting shop at age 18. He holds BA, MA, and MFA degrees in art.

Mr. Downer has been a journeyman sign painter since 1973, a freelance typeface designer since 1983, and a crusader for designers’ rights his entire adult life. He began teaching lettering at the university level in 1972, making him one of the most experienced American educators in the fields of lettering and typeface design. He’s been teaching in the Type@Cooper program at The Cooper Union since its founding in 2010. He established the Sign Painting Support Group on Facebook as a platform to educate and guide serious enthusiasts and professionals in the principles of letter construction and the tricks of the trade. Follow him on Instagram.