Type@Cooper - Speedball Script Styles

Speedball Script Styles


with John Downer




Sat., Apr. 29 – Sun., Apr. 30, 2017
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: On campus

Speedball lettering pens have been in existence for more than a hundred years. They influenced the look of commercial script styles during much of that time. John Downer has been using Speedball pens for over half a century. In his youth, he was introduced to them in the Pacific Northwest, where one of the two inventors of the nibs resided. John will demonstrate how professional letterers have faithfully worked with this type of rudimentary dip pen, and will present historical examples.

The popular interest in script typefaces and various kinds of written forms has led to much experimentation recently, but rarely does the activity focus solely on mid-century tools and methods. In this workshop, John will devote a weekend to the subject of using Speedball series B and series D nibs to emulate script fashions of the past. Also he will show how a basic knowledge of the old ways can lead to new insights which have significance and vitality today.


    Required Materials

  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Ruler
  • Tracing tissue pad
  • Black ballpoint pen
  • White correction fluid
  • Apron or smock
  • $30 materials fee


The materials fee of $30 will be collected from each student on Day 1 to cover the costs of the following: Pen holders, Speedball nibs, India ink & cups, Railroad board, Stick charcoal



Register online…


Instructor: John Downer

Speedball Script Styles
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