Typeface design education from Cooper Union

Special Effects: Tricks of the Sign Painting Trade
with John Downer

A large proportion of a traditional sign painter's knowledge about color combinations, three-dimensional illusions, and decorated letterforms was gained by apprentices who worked in union shops, under the guidance of journeymen. John Downer has been a journeyman sign painter for more than 40 years. He will open his bag of tricks and explain the techniques he learned along the way, including some clever stunts he acquired long after he finished his formal education. Many of the effects can be advantageously applied to display typography.

Registration is now closed

Mon, November 17, 2014

Where: Rose Auditorium
41 Cooper Square, Manhattan

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.