Collaborative Type Design Workshops – without computers

(Photo Copyright © 2010 Pedro Amado. CC-BY-SA – Attribute him and ShareAlike)

At the LGM2010 I developed a collaborative type design workshop method with some of the wonderful OSP folks in Brussels – Alexandre Leray, Ludivine Loiseau, Pierre Marchand, Seb Sanfilippo and St├ęphanie Vilayphiou.

This method works essentially without computers. While some technology is useful for quickly copying, it works fine with nothing more than pens and pencils. I believe this method will scale up to any sized group; the first workshop at LGM 2010 had about 40 people and worked well, and the workshops I ran at HackLaViva and in Vietnam had only 8 people and also worked well.

The method is simply described as this:

  1. We each draw a letter, in 3 minutes, about 7cm tall
  2. We places all the papers together (on a big table, wall, floor)
  3. We discuss the results
  4. We pick one that is ‘best’
  5. We copy it
  6. We each draw a new letter that matches the previous set
  7. Repeat

And that is how we can design a typeface together.

To start a workshop, I give a quick talk about glyph drawing techniques. Depending on the time available, we can apply this evolutionary process to other dimensions of a typeface family: italics, weights, sans/serif companions, and so on.

Participants should bring their own basic drawing materials, and I try to bring what spares I can:

  • Loose sketching paper (copier paper is fine)
  • Thick black “Sharpie” pens, for blacking in letters
  • B+ dark pencils, for sketching
  • Erasers
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Two colored sharpie pens (eg, red and green)
  • Calligraphy pens, ink, and other ‘advanced’ drawing tools

Ideally the space will have a fast photocopier, or a scanner and printer, or a projector. If we have a photocopier, we can photocopy the letters so everyone has a copy. Or if we have a printer, we can take a scan or digital photo and print it. Or if we have a projector, we can take a scan or digital photo and project it – or, if we have no such resources, we can just pin it on the wall where everyone can see it.

It is ideal if the space has tables and chairs for people use when drawing, but the floor is okay. Similarly, a large table area or wall space where people can each place their work in a big group for everyone to review is ideal, but the floor works well too.

Pedro Amado kindly posted some photos of the HackLaViva workshop so you can get a clearer idea of what this looks like. The image at the top of this post is from Pedro.

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