Type@Cooper - Think Big Think Small

Think Big Think Small


with John Downer




Sat., Oct. 15 – Sun., Oct. 16, 2016
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: The Monotype Classroom at Letterform Archive

Setting out to design a text typeface is not a trivial undertaking, and it doesn't always go as planned. Often, what was meant to be a text face ultimately performs better as a display face. John will teach ways to stay on track with a design project, and will identify primary objectives to keep in mind at the outset. His methods focus on the importance of early testing, as well as establishing a tight range of optimal reading sizes to clearly differentiate text faces from display faces.

Individuals with any level of experience are welcome to enroll. Lessons offered in this workshop are essential to understanding universal principles of letter design.


    Required Materials

  • letter size paper
  • reducing glass
  • pencil
  • eraser
  • black ballpoint pen
  • white correction fluid




Instructor: John Downer

Think Big Think Small
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