Dissertations and Papers from Type Culture

Mark Jamra’s site Type Culture hosts a couple of very interesting research papers and similar texts, for instance:

Oldrich Menhart: Calligrapher, Type Designer and Craftsman
by Veronika Burian

This extensive dissertation presents the versatile work of the great Czech calligrapher and type designer Oldrich Menhart in his most unique and interesting period between 1930 and 1948.

French Type Foundries in the Twentieth Century
by Alice Savoie

The value of this dissertation lies not only in what it imparts to the reader, but also in its rarity, since relatively little information on the recent history of type in France has been written in English. To people who are less than fluent in French, most information about the state of affairs in French type and typography is woefully out of reach. This well-written study focuses on the activity of French foundries, their fateful decisions regarding the adoption of new technologies and the evolution of French type design throughout the last hundred years.

The Design of Rumba: Concept and Process
by Laura Meseguer

Most typeface families are designed along an axis of weights ranging from light to bold, but what happens when a family is designed along an axis of expressiveness? Laura Meseguer’s graduation project in the Type and Media program at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (Netherlands) became an acclaimed typeface family with varying expressive qualities for different size applications. As if that weren’t complex enough, the special typographic demands of four specific languages were also targeted. This documentation contains the brief, method, process and resolution of her project.

Modularity: An Elemental Approach to Type Design
by Aoife Mooney
The term “elemental approach” is used in this exceptional essay to describe an approach to design that seeks to reduce and rationalize the characteristics of the Latin alphabet. Aoife Mooney acquaints us with the technologies, ideologies and ergonomic considerations which are at the core of this approach, illustrating each with effective visual examples. Along the way, she makes astute observations of rationalism, modernism and the accountability of the designer — in general, and specifically in type design.

Of What Consequence, Design?
by Juliet Shen

This essay is an evaluation of how the Initial Teaching Alphabet was designed. Juliet Shen looks at the history and aesthetics of this curious “alphabet reform” which, amazingly, is still in use in the field of education. As the author herself states: “The appearance of i.t.a. on the printed page violates enough conventions of good typography to have piqued the curiosity of this writer at first sight. […] How did such an anomalous typeface get designed and then selected for widespread educational use?” The story uncovered by her research contains an all-too-familiar interaction of ideology, business and politics.

Searching for Morris Fuller Benton
by Juliet Shen

The twentieth century went by with little being written about one of America’s most important type designers. The information on Morris Fuller Benton remained scant, partially because his work stood outside of most historians’ field of view and also due to the reticence of the man himself. Research on Benton has increased in recent years and Juliet Shen’s valuable dissertation fills a substantial void. After making assessments of the technological and commercial circumstances in which Benton worked, and thorough evaluations of seven of his typeface designs, Ms. Shen arrives at informed conclusions about his motivations and design strategies.

Aesthetic Innovation in Indigenous Typefaces: Designing a Lushootseed Font
by Juliet Shen

It’s still possible for a type designer to create a single typeface and have an impact on an entire language and culture. Juliet Shen did just that when she designed a Lushootseed font for the Tulalip tribe in Washington state. In this article, she outlines the various aspects of the project, her design process and the general role of new typeface designs in language preservation. The project even included a collaboration with the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

A Comparative Study of the Development of the Gurmukhi Script (Part 1 and 2)
by Emma Williams

This dissertation is an excellent introduction to the Gurmukhi writing system used in the Punjab region straddling the border of India and Pakistan. Emma Williams guides the reader through the historical origins and original intention of the Gurmukhi script, the elements of the writing system, and the development of Gurmukhi typeface designs through many centuries. Part 1 looks at the origins of the script and its system, as well as its handwritten forms and the tools used to create it.
The second part of Emma Williams’ impressive dissertation on the Gurmukhi script continues with a look at the development of the printed character in text typeface designs.

The Experimental Type Designs of William Addison Dwiggins
by Tiffany Wardle

A thorough and interesting dissertation about the lesser-known type designs from the man who brought us Electra, Metro, Caledonia and the term “graphic design.” Tiffany Wardle provides us with a brief biography of W. A. Dwiggins before launching into an inside look at his design process through numerous development samples and excerpts from the correspondence between the designer and Mergenthaler Linotype Company’s venerable type director, C. H. Griffith.

Visit Type Culture directly to download PDFs of these papers and others.