Type@Cooper - Letter Anatomy: Italics & Scripts

Letter Anatomy: Italics & Scripts


with John Downer




Sat., May. 04 – Sun., May. 05, 2019
10:00AM – 5:00PM
tuition: $ 460

location: On campus

Italic letter styles and script letter styles enjoy a special relationship. They both come from written forms. Italic printing types were first used in the late fifteenth century, but script typefaces are much younger. One reason for that difference is technical. Italic letters typically do not connect, whereas script letters normally do connect.

This workshop will help students understand letter-construction principles and learn the proper ways of connecting script letters. 

Italics are favored for their versatility. They can be slanted or upright, serif or sans serif, and employed line after line, for continuous reading. Plus, they can be used for headings.

Script styles can also be slanted or upright, but they are basically sans serif forms, limited to a few words, at most. Unlike italics, which can be interspersed in text, words in script stand apart. They also relate directly to longhand writing.

John will teach three approaches to rendering readable italics and scripts: pencil, pen, and brush. No calligraphy or brush lettering experience is necessary.


    Required Materials

  • pencil
  • eraser
  • ruler
  • layout pad
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • scotch tape
  • a material fee, payable to the instructor on the first day, of $20 will cover the cost of supplies that will be provided


Registration for this workshop will open January 3, 2019. Please join our mailing list for updates and announcements.



Save the date: Sat., May. 04, 10:00AM


Instructor: John Downer

Letter Anatomy: Italics & Scripts
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.





Venue