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Ala has a pen

Verena Gerlach outlines the results of the type design workshop »Ala has a pen / Ala ma pióro«, which took place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kotowice, Poland. From the 2013 ATypI conference in Amsterdam.

NOTE This video is missing 2 minutes at the beginning.

Between February and November 2012, the type design workshop »Ala has a pen / Ala ma pióro« took place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kotowice, Poland.

This unique program for students and postgraduates from all over Poland, was organized on six weekends, and it was following a quite experimental role: Two to three international teachers were teaching 40 students, changing the combination of the teaching teams every session. The teachers: Filip Blažek, Verena Gerlach, Sarah Lazarevic, Martin Majoor and Marian Misiak. Their backgrounds were quite variable, and reached from calligraphy, lettering to digitalisation and programming. All the sessions were accompanied by lectures of the teachers.

The first session was guided by Martin Major and Verena Gerlach: On the first day, Verena was teaching the history, and how to write and draw Fraktur (German broken script) with a pen, following the instructions of german lettering artist Rudolf Koch (1876-1934). On the second day Martin Majoor took over, and taught the methods of drawing and writing Roman Italic, using the double pen technique.

The third day was practicing the learned skills. Very quick, the students were able to draw their first Roman Italic shapes, after having started with Fraktur, what supported this process very much. >From the didactical point of view, the two type systems are very different, which was the key to the great success. Drawing / constructing Fraktur is much more focused on putting black (and white) modules on paper, combining them to patterns and learning to actually see the space in between. The Roman Italic, is build up much more from the outlines, and being able to see these outlines already as black and white shapes, provides the perfect base for type beginners.

Within the following sessions the students had to merge both significant features of the two alphabets, while keeping a personal »style« within the designs. While the first two sessions stayed completely analogue, the next became digital, working in Fontlab or Glyphs, going back and forth between computer, and pen and paper. There also is a book on the workshop, showing the participants (teachers and students), articles on type design and of course the stunning typefaces. This book (Fajrant) even won this year’s TDC NY certificate of excellence.


Verena Gerlach