View Project
School Directory

Project. Typeface Revival

Purpose. To bring back the craft, art, care, warmth, and ultimately the physical conception of typography through the careful study and reviving process of typefaces and type composition.

Assignment. The Experimental Typography class is composed of students and groups of students creating and carrying out experiments. In the first few weeks of class students observe, question, and hypothesize. The balance of the semester is spent in attempts to prove typographic theories. The revival process does not necessarily stand for a straight imitation of old metal type, but it is an act of bringing back the physical spirit of typography and making it adaptable and acceptable to modern day readers and the new metaphysical realm of digital type setting.

Study of Interpretation. Scan from John Baskerville's printed metal type (top). An exact tracing of the outlines resulting from the irregularities of letterpress printing (middle). An interpretation of the form, still full of irregularities in need of correction to withstand current printing technologies and to be transparent to readers (bottom).

Photostat of Romulus from Original Printed Material. A type experimentally cut by hand by Paul Helmuth Rädish (despite Jan van Krimpen's opinion that sans serif type should be machine-cut). The forms show irregularities inherit in hand-cut type, unlike many sans serifs seen today. This photo served as the basis for pencil drawings.

Ink Drawings. Ink drawings were made for characters missing from the specimen.

Initial Pencil Outline Drawing. Tracing over the photostat, curves and details were interpreted into more regular forms. Even so, the drawings still show subtle tapers and details that are irregular.

Advanced Pencil Outline Drawings. This series of drawings are larger and more refined than the previous. Many problems have been fixed and decisions have been made through the process enlargement.

Advanced Pencil Outline Drawings for Text Figures. The original design did not include text figures. Finding inspiration and guidance from Romulus’ serif counterpart, text figures were drawn in ink and then traced with a pencil outline.

Digitization. After refinement in pencil, the outlines were translated into digital form by scanning and carefully placing Beziér curve points. The forms become even more regularized and unified through this process.

Specimens. Romulus Sans Serif was designed by Jan van Krimpen and cut by hand by Paul Helmuth Rädish circa 1931–37. This was the first attempt to create a sans serif type to match a serif counterpart. It was also one of the first attempts at "humanizing" a sans serif. The digital revival captures the idiosyncrasies and softness of the hand-cut type rarely seen in digital sans serifs today. It is intended for use in 12 point and below.

The project was completed in three stages: research, drawing, and digitizing. Letterforms, as drawings and as digitized forms, were critiqued on a weekly/bi-weekly basis

Format. Variable

Time. 30 weeks

preview image

Charles Nix is a designer, typographer, and educator. As the principal of Charles Nix & Associates he has designed over 200 books, including Dugong, Manatee, Sea Cow, one of the AIGA 50 Books of 2000. His typeface, Nani, received a TDC2 2000 Certificate of Excellence in Type Design; his type Batak is available from International Typeface Corporation (ITC); and his design Nix Rift is the official typeface of his alma mater, The Cooper Union. He is the Chair of Communication Design at the Parsons School of Design, New York.

Return to top