Type@Cooper - Modular Lettering

Modular Lettering


with John Downer




Sat., Oct. 28 – Sun., Oct. 29, 2017
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: On campus

Designing modular letterforms and using them well, depends on a rudimentary understanding of utility. Modular letters follow well-established methods of construction. A building-block system is employed to form the basic shapes, space them correctly, and then add optical corrections. John will draw on his experience as a sign painter and type designer to teach traditional approaches. Two hallmark lettering styles, Half Block and Gaspipe, will be covered. Students need no prior sign painting or type design experience to benefit from this workshop.


    Required Materials

  • Soft lead pencil
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Clear plastic ruler
  • Black fine point Sharpie
  • Black brush pen
  • Black masking tape 1/2”
  • White correction fluid
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife, #11 blade


Registration for this class will open on September 6. Please join the mailing list for updates and reminders about classes, workshops, and free lectures.


Register online…


Instructor: John Downer

Modular Lettering
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