Unlike the flowing, balletic movements of hand-rendered letterforms, there is nothing swift in typographic forms. Intentionally arranging typeforms is slow, staged, expensive, and always deliberate. Typeface-making invites reflection, discussion, and review. Typefaces will stretch the limits of their encoding technologies to maximise the potential to act as agents of design discourse, cultural commentary, innovation and experimentation. This observation applies across typemaking and typesetting technologies — any variations we perceive are a factor of the number of people working on making typefaces, and the ease with which people can make one more typeface.
So far, so good. But once a critical level of people and speed of work are reached, typefaces accelerate their move away from those swift, nimble hand-crafted shapes, towards a richer, complex, and nuanced design space. These shapes bear evidence of methodologies involving deconstruction, sampling, and cross-referencing in ways that indicate a freedom from historical and manual models and conventions, but also an approach to risk in design that is entirely of its time. In this exploded design space the comfort of tool limitations and conventions is absent, and the true dimension of typefaces is revealed: not objects (or representations of objects), but instances in a knowledge network, rich with information and potential for interpretation.
Gerry Leonidas is an Associate Professor in Typography at the University of Reading, UK. He teaches, supervises, and lectures on typography, typeface design, and typographic education. He writes on typeface design, and is often asked to review and evaluate bodies of work. The rest of his time is taken with enterprise and knowledge transfer projects. Gerry’s consultancy focuses on publication design and typeface design with particular expertise in Greek typography. The impact of his work is most evident in the design quality and typographic support for Greek typefaces by Adobe, Monotype, Microsoft, and most major type foundries.
Gerry’s research interests cover the practice of typeface design as a response to wider contexts, and a range of issues surrounding Greek typeface design. He is the Programme Director of the MA Typeface Design course, which is recognised as a global reference for research-based teaching in a practical discipline. Based on this, he developed a summer course on typeface design, now in its sixth year. He recently took through certification a new distance-learning MA programme on research in typeface design.