Typeface design education from Cooper Union
Sign painting techniques

Sign Painting Techniques Applied to Type Design: Rendering the Built-up and Cut-in Letters
with John Downer

John Downer’s sign painting career began in the late 1960s and was instrumental in steering his path toward type design. In this introductory course, he will teach the two main kinds of letterform construction which have traditionally been done with a brush: single-stroke and built-up. Students will learn the importance of paint consistency and brush control. The class will focus on rendering a few particular styles of capital letters that were commonly used in American sign painting during the 20th century. Script lettering will be addressed in the final day and a half.

Registration is now closed

Sat, April 12 – Sun, April 13, 2014

Where: New Academic Building
The Cooper Union – 41 Cooper Square at East 7th Street, New York, United States, 10003

About John Downer

John downer

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 Apple Books 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.