Type Camp California Day 1

Type Camp California Day 1

Billy Whited

June 20, 2011

While I've been fortunate enough to attend a few great conferences during my career, I've always left wishing for a little more. Having grown tired of the introductory, “sit-and-be-lectured-to” model of most traditional conferences, I wanted a more immersive, hands-on experience. I really wanted to learn something. In this case, by doing.

Our view from the Dancing Deer Farm
Our view from the Dancing Deer Farm, the venue at Type Camp California

In choosing Type Camp, I was looking for something a little different: a hands on workshop where you immediately put to practice the princples being taught.

With a limited pool of attendees and expert staff, Type Camp is a safe environment: you really are free to explore, to fail, to ask questions and, above all, to improve your understanding of type in the name of becoming a better designer.

Day One Workshops

On Choosing Typefaces

One of the more pressing challenges that both beginners and seasoned typographers face is typeface selection. How can one be sure that a chosen typeface is appropriate [for the job at hand]?

With an exercise aimed at making typeface selection a little more rational (rather than purely emotional or intuitive) we type campers were asked to tag a collection of typefaces with adjectives like full-figure set, mid-1900‘s, baroque, anglo, or has many weights.

A typeface classification excerise in progress
A typeface classification exercise in progress

As a group, we were responsible for choosing which of these adjectives best fit each typeface. While some of the descriptors, like full-figure set or has many weights , presented fewer challenges due to their objective nature (being mostly a technical characteristic or limitation of the face), others like baroque or anglo were more subjective and difficult to pin down.

In the end, after much thoughtful deliberation, the characteristics and personalities of the various typefaces began to reveal themselves. With selection criteria made ever more tangible, the benefit of the exercise revealed itself as participants were asked to choose an appropriate typeface for a particular application.

Creating/Drawing Glyphs

The second workshop of the day, which involved drawing glyphs from the beautiful Cherokee language, took me out of my comfort zone.

This exercise had a few purposes, one of which was to gain a better understanding of letterforms through a close study of their construction. As I learned during this challenging process, there is no better way to do this than by actually drawing characters by hand.

Yours truly, making a valiant effort to draw letterforms by hand.
Yours truly, making a valiant effort to draw letterforms by hand.

In a particularly challenging twist, we were asked to create our own custom glyph after finishing our initial drawings. With the conceptual requirement that our custom glyph serve as a descendant of the character that immediately preceded it, it was a mind-bending exercise that pushed the envelope of my abilities.

My hand drawn cherokee glyphs, with a custom glyph creation (middle)
My hand drawn cherokee glyphs, with a custom glyph creation (middle)

As a result, I now have a greater appreciation for the broad nib pin and for how letter forms were traditionally created.