Type@Cooper - Sign Painting: Speed Stroke Brush Lettering

Sign Painting: Speed Stroke Brush Lettering


with John Downer




Sat., Apr. 07 – Sun., Apr. 08, 2018
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: On campus

Single stroke casual brush lettering, as used in sign painting now for more than 60 years, has again become popular. John Downer grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the 1950s and '60s, at a time when "speed stroke" styles were reaching the height of their development up and down the West Coast. The general form originated in California's Central Valley, and quickly caught on in Oregon and Washington. Before long, it was used effectively in truck lettering, window lettering, store ads, and all kinds of ephemeral, "low-brow" signage. Today, it is still a staple in the sign painting trade, but few practitioners know or adhere to the original West Coast variety that John learned in his youth, and continues to teach.

No brush lettering experience is required. Proper form & efficient execution will be covered, as well as brush manipulation techniques. Handouts will provide models for the basics: majuscules, figures, and punctuation.


    Required Materials

  • A materials fee of $27 will be due on the first day of class
  • Among the supplies covered in this fee is the round-ferrule Mack series 818, size 10, show card brush which costs $15
  • If students already own the brush, they need pay only $12 for the remaining expendable materials we will use: tempera paint, railroad board, masking tape, photocopies


Registration opens on January 4, 2018. Please join the mailing list for updates and reminders about classes, workshops, and free lectures.


Register online…


Instructor: John Downer

Sign Painting: Speed Stroke Brush 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