New typeface design program at Cooper Union

Cooper Union's new typeface design program, organized in conjunction with the Type Directors Club was just recently announced. It is currently a certificate program offered through Cooper's continuing education department. The new website has all the info on curriculum, faculty bios, and application details:
http://coopertype.org/

While there have been many type design workshops and classes offered in North America before, this is the first program of its kind to take place on the continent. Having moved to New York not too long ago myself, I must say I can't think of a better city to hold such a program in – if for nothing else than to have access to such a vast pool of talented type folks living in the area.

Furthermore, Cooper Union and the Type Directors Club couldn't be much better organizations to have involved. Among other things, Cooper has made typography a priority with their Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography, and the TDC's annual typeface awards are among the most notable in the industry. Plus it goes without saying that both have long typographic histories that include some of the greats of American type, lettering, and design.

The course list and roster of people involved for the first term alone is quite impressive (not to mention surprisingly diverse), and I'm sure the second and third terms will be just as good. More information will be posted on the site as it becomes available.

I apologize for shamelessly tooting the horn of a project I'm obviously involved with, but I'm really excited about it and thought some of you might be as well. As always, I'm appreciative of any feedback – critical or otherwise – and am happy to answer any questions.

kentlew's picture

Congrats to you, Jesse, and crew for getting this off the ground. Sounds exciting. If I were 25 years younger, I’d definitely be considering this.

Hannes Famira's picture

Congratulations you guys. I am very excited about this program. I would love it if the brand new website might grow a blog like appendage that allowed the general public i.e. nosy me, to follow the ongoing projects. But first: Bravo again!

eliason's picture

Looks great!

Steven Acres's picture

I'm considering taking part in this, or applying at least.

I'm moving to NY after this summer, so I think it would be a great opportunity to seize.

Just two questions: How long is the program, and are they evening classes?

Alex Kaczun's picture

This is wonderful news!

I hope this is just the beginning of a revolution and understanding of typography and design.

Much anticipated and way overdo.

I wish everyone associated with this new venture much success.

Congratulations!!! Very exciting.

PS—Maybe now someone will write an article: 'The benefits of type design in every aspect of our lives', instead of that dreadful article: 'Do typefaces really matter'.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

> Just two questions: How long is the program

http://coopertype.org/
“Each of three terms (fall, spring, and summer) runs 10 weeks, starting with the fall term from October 4th to December 7th, 2010.”

> and are they evening classes?

“Core classes meet on Monday and Tuesday evenings plus one weekend per term, and elective classes meet on weekends during the day.”

More info: http://coopertype.org/curriculum/

Steven Acres's picture

I saw both of those, but I was looking for more specific info... is it just a 1 year program or will it extend? And what time in the evening? Thanks for trying, though :) I suppose I should have been more specific.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Very cool. Great to see something like this in the United States, and NYC in general and Cooper Union in particular are excellent places to do it. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this!

T

Nick Sherman's picture

Steven,

> is it just a 1 year program or will it extend?

http://coopertype.org/application/
"The fall term runs from October 3 to December 7, and the program continues for two additional terms, Spring and Summer."

> And what time in the evening?

The times are given for each class on the curriculum page:
http://coopertype.org/curriculum/

Hope that answers your questions! If not, feel free to e-mail type@cooper.edu for more immediate and official feedback.

dezcom's picture

Congrats! Looks great!

ChrisL

gerry_leonidas's picture

This is good news indeed! Congratulations and all the best for success to Jesse, Alexander, and all the visiting people.

Typeface Design is growing as a discipline, and the spread of dedicated programs of study worldwide, as opposed to modules within general design courses, is a great indication of a maturing field (SCAD, Bs-As, Zurich, Barcelona, FADU, Amiens, Pueblas... I'm forgetting some, I'm sure). Well done to the CU for hosting the new programme, the institution has a great tradition to build on, and is a natural candidate for a full-length program in the States.

Steven Acres's picture

Awesome, thanks for pointing that out to me, Nick. Apparently I'm blind haha. Still weighing options on this, but keep an eye out for my application :)

Jesse Ragan's picture

Thanks for posting, Nick. And thanks, everyone, for the positive response.

Cara Di Edwardo, Alexander Tochilovsky, and I have been working with Cooper and the TDC to get this going, and we're pleased to be able to offer a more intensive typeface design program here in New York. We'll keep an eye on this discussion and are happy to answer your questions about the curriculum and admissions process.

As Nick pointed out, we are eager to maintain the diversity of our offerings through the course of the three terms. So we also welcome proposals from potential guest lecturers or workshop leaders.

abi's picture

Congrats on getting this course underway Jesse. I look forward to seeing the results from the course, and some of the guest lecturers and workshops you've lined up for the course sound great. It's really too bad I'm not in NYC anymore.

cdiedwardo's picture

Thanks to all who are cheering us on and for all the support many of you have offered in the planning phase, especially Hannes who should be credited for the idea in the first place. Also to John for holding me to such a high standard.

Please direct the 'official' questions about the program through the type@cooper.edu website so we can centralize inquiries. We'll try and get a FAQ page up as we figure out all the questions people have. Already I've gotten inquiries about student visas for foreign nationals and I can't answer that one just yet, but I'm working on it so stand by. There's something on the State Department website that makes it very confusing so I have to seek a consult from our Undergrad admissions people. Standby for that answer.

andrevv's picture

I hope this turns into an MA program sometime in the next 4 years. That would be truly amazing to have an alternative to Reading and KABK in the States.

.00's picture

hope this turns into an MA program sometime in the next 4 years.

Given that Cooper Union is Cooper Union, I don't think that is going to happen.

andrevv's picture

@terminaldesign

I'm not following. I don't know much about CU, so excuse my ignorance haha. Explain?

cdiedwardo's picture

>I hope this turns into an MA program sometime in the next 4 years.

It is our thought that as a certificate program, with a less demanding work load than a Masters program, Type@Cooper would appeal to many working designers, giving them the practical skills and a broad view of typeface design history and theory at an affordable price.

The format of having electives and guest speakers available to folks outside the program will allow graduates of the program to stay connected (beyond the one year) to both the offerings of Type@Cooper and the TDC.

blank's picture

I hope this turns into an MA program sometime in the next 4 years. That would be truly amazing to have an alternative to Reading and KABK in the States.

Why? It’s not like having and MA is a huge advantage in the design field. Sure it might make getting a type design job a little easier, but they’re still so incredibly rare that it’s a pretty big gamble. It makes sense to have another option for people who don’t want to put an enormous amount of time and money into what’s really vocational training.

.00's picture

Sure it might make getting a type design job a little easier,

Your kidding, right?

blank's picture

Your kidding, right?

I’m quite sure that on the rare occasions type design jobs come up preference is shown to people with MAs.

.00's picture

And I'm quite sure that the job goes to the people that show the best work with the best experience for the position. Regardless of degree.

andrevv's picture

I wouldn't necessarily be seeking an MA in type design to further my career. It'd be more for the immersive learning environment and the experience. To dedicate an entire year or so to type design is a pretty big undertaking with not too much reward. But the undertaking would be considerably less of a burden if the States had an MA program of its own.

Granted, you don't need an MA to be a successful type designer, but I don't think many people go into it with the impression it will make them one of the best.

cdiedwardo makes a great point though. the Cooper program may end up being just as popular, if not more than Reading and KABK simply for the fact that it is not as much of an undertaking. Also, with the location being what it is, that's an undeniable attraction since it will be so close to so many designers.

.00's picture

I think you may be overestimating the interest in type design amongst the NYC design community. There have been many Type Design programs offered via Continuing Ed, over the years in NYC, with very modest attendance.

I can understand someone making the commitment to a graduate program and moving to a location to spend a year involved in that course of study. A Continuing Education program by its part-time nature must draw on local interest. I just wonder how strong that local interest really is. Here's to hoping I'm wrong.

typerror's picture

Why are you not teaching James? And what about Paul?

.00's picture

I was not invited to teach at the Cooper program.

I am teaching undergraduate type design at Parsons during the Spring semesters and Typeface Design in SVA's Continuing Ed program in both Fall and Spring semesters.

I do not know whether Paul was asked to teach at Cooper or not.

typerror's picture

Wasted resources in NY! Well at least Parsons got you :-)

hoefler's picture

How there's room for ire in this conversation I do not know. This program is great news for everyone: foundries looking to hire (hello), type designers wanting to teach, Cooper Union itself, type education generally, and most importantly the students. It would have been fantastic to have such a program available when I was shopping for colleges, and it's a boon to the designers of today and tomorrow that it exists. Hats off to all involved.

hoefler's picture

PS: James, as an instructor you're more familiar with type offerings in NYC than I am, but the class that our own Sara Soskolne taught at SVA last month was packed, and sold out. People were e-mailing our sales desk hoping to find a way to sneak in; let's hope this bodes well for the success of Cooper's program.

.00's picture

That is good news Jonathan. I do hope that the program is successful. I do wonder if the attendance of a week-long workshop will translate to a semester-long program. Hoping it does.

jdaw1's picture

Looks fantastic.

I have just asked by email whether the course will also be available by webcast and email.

cdiedwardo's picture

>webcast

Nothing like that is planned, nor has it been discussed as an option.

Jesse Ragan's picture

Thank you for your encouraging words, Jonathan.

> a semester-long program

James, just to clarify, the program is actually three terms long, ten weeks per term. Students will be awarded certificates only after successfully completing the full three terms. I understand your concern—it is indeed a big investment of time (though far less than a full Master's program). In this uncharted territory, it's difficult to predict the student base. But we're optimistic, since we've received a substantial amount of interest already.

typerror's picture

James... that was a compliment to you. And I intended no ire JH!

Nick Shinn's picture

Jesse, it may be better to start with making a simple sans serif, to teach basic skills and principles, rather than a revival.

There are too many issues involving subtle drawing in a revival, especially, as is likely the case, if you are reviving a serifed face.

The fundamental principles are sidebearings, alignment zones/overshoot, vertical proportions and stem widths, and these are easiest to grasp in a plain sans serif.

Besides, starting with a revival sets a prosaic tone for a type design course.
It's overly academic, like art school in the 19th century, where the subject of drawing classes was a plaster cast of an old statue.

blank's picture

Jesse, it may be better to start with making a simple sans serif, to teach basic skills and principles, rather than a revival.

Don’t give him any idea! I’m going to have finished of a family of 24 sans fonts right before that class starts and I don’t want to start another one for a least a couple months.

.00's picture

I think you can teach basic principles and skills with any style of letter. It has been my experience teaching this that the best result comes from allowing the student to explore any style letter they choose (With some guidance).

Most people come to a type design course with an idea they are interested in exploring. Having different styles being developed in class adds to a certain visual richness, and allows the instructor to point out issues that emerge from the different styles.

I've had students start with blackletter, handwriting, sans serif, serif, historical revival, carnival/circus type, tombstone lettering, western lettering, various styles of formal calligraphy, and more. All of those styles, and the problems they presented to the student designers were great teaching opportunities for the entire class.

Thanks Michael, I did take it as a complement, and sensed no ire.

Jesse, I don't doubt that there is great interest in the program. I hope that interest continues after the first year or two. Time will tell. Good luck.

It will probably be harder to fill my Tuesday night SVA Continuing Ed type design course now that you guys are in town, but we will see!

elms's picture

Excellent initiative for type education! This will make type design more accessible to designers in the west, especially to designers in the Caribbean region.

Jesse Ragan's picture

Thank you, Nick and James, for sharing the benefit of your teaching experiences.

That's a good point, Nick, but I tend to agree more with James's sentiments. The basic principles can be taught with almost any style of letter, and the diversity of classmates' projects will be instructive to students.

Over the years in my undergraduate typeface design class at Pratt, I've let students choose between revivals and original designs. The most important thing is that students choose projects that can maintain their enthusiasm through many, many hours of potentially tedious work. But I've found that most beginner students reach better results when working from some kind of source material. Sources have ranged from a few words on a WPA poster to a full alphabet in a Deberny & Peignot specimen (with permission, of course), and interpretations have ranged from "recuttings" to "reconsiderations" (John Downer's terms). I encourage students to work on designs that fit their skill levels and interests, and a simple sans serif may be just the thing for some of them.

For students who are less familiar with type anatomy, working from a source provides the opportunity to learn, through critical observation and meticulous reconstruction, key principles like letter proportion, weight distribution, and maintaining/breaking a system. And since many variables have already been established in the sources, students are able to focus more attention on the fundamental principles Nick mentions.

It's true that a beginning designer may not be fully prepared to handle a revival with the nuance and care that it deserves. But the goal in the first term is to learn, not to produce the best possible product. (How many designers' first attempts at typefaces have been masterpieces, anyway?) We have the luxury of three terms, and the larger project in the second and third terms will provide the opportunity to design a more finessed finished project.

And James, I certainly hope Type@Cooper won't detract from your SVA CE enrollment. I expect the difference in time commitment makes your class far more feasible for some students. Let's hope there's room for both!

Nick Shinn's picture

James (Dunwich), as a bona fide type designer and the proprietor of a type foundry, you can probably skip the introductory assignment :-)

James (Terminal), sure, you can teach skills from anything, but in my experience, having taught both ways, it's a more solid start to keep it simple.
If everyone is pursuing their own script or circus font or some such thing, many are going to have difficulty grasping the fundamentals around which most Type 1 fonts are structured.

The basic principle of spacing/sidebearings is succinctly demonstrated in a sans serif, visually and numerically, but that is not the case with a serifed type:


They are going to get a chance to do their own thing in terms two and three.

.00's picture

If everyone is pursuing their own script or circus font or some such thing, many are going to have difficulty grasping the fundamentals around which most Type 1 fonts are structured.

Yes they are going to have difficulty, but they get a great deal of satisfaction when they do get it right.

And an entire class doing a geometric sans would be the kiss of death from a student enthusiasm point of view. Face it, type design is a tedious pastime and anything you can do to keep a student engaged in the process is a good thing. Everyone staring at one another's geo sans would not be a good thing.

TBiddy's picture

Nice to see there are more type design opportunities springing up. Here's hoping interest eventually leads to a full-time Master's program at some point in the states.

I wish all my type peeps success in these great continuing ed options. Kudos!

Nick Shinn's picture

And an entire class doing a geometric sans would be the kiss of death from a student enthusiasm point of view.

I've tried that, and was surprised at the individuality of student responses. This was in a general design course, and for such students, giving them all the same clearly defined project had many advantages, compared to the do-your-own thing approach, where the biggest problem, which always ended up confounding several, was that they didn't have an idea of what they wanted to do. After all, as 'designers' they were used to working from briefs, not creating their own.

But isn't motivation irrelevant here? As you yourself have often mentioned on Typophile, type design is indeed a "tedious" pursuit, so wouldn't one expect students of this course to be sufficiently steeled for that, and admitted to the course accordingly?

Jesse: The most important thing is that students choose projects that can maintain their enthusiasm through many, many hours of potentially tedious work. But I've found that most beginner students reach better results when working from some kind of source material.

But this is a specialist course for those committed to type design, not part of a general design course. Aren't students being admitted on the recognition that they are type-designer material, i.e. (a) they are suited to grinding out massive OpenType fonts and (b) they have some original ideas for typefaces?

.00's picture

As you yourself have often mentioned on Typophile, type design is indeed a "tedious" pursuit, so wouldn't one expect students of this course to be sufficiently steeled for that, and admitted to the course accordingly?

Students in Continuing Ed seem to know what they are getting into, but most undergraduate students have no idea what they are in for when they sign up for the course. All have told me that it was much more work than they expected. Some have admitted that they hated it and never wanted to do it again. I think finding out what you don't want to do as a designer may be more important than finding out what you want to do. And regardless of a student's expectation, isn't keeping a student motivated one of the key tasks of the instructor?

Nick Shinn's picture

... isn't keeping a student motivated one of the key tasks of the instructor?

This isn't an undergraduate course: "The certificate program is designed for those with undergraduate or professional experience in graphic design, typography, or related fields."

I haven't seen the prospective students, but I would imagine that they already have plenty of motivation, given how overdue a course like this is in North America.

If they couldn't hack a first-term project making a sans serif font, they will find out in a hurry type design is something they don't want to do!

typerror's picture

"I think finding out what you don't want to do as a designer may be more important than finding out what you want to do."

That is without a doubt one of the most salient points I have seen in ages! And so true. How many of us have shed those "don't wanna dos" as we plod forward!

.00's picture

If you insist on having everyone do a geo sans design as a first project, I'd suggest having them finish UC, lc, figures and basic punctuation in the first two weeks, after all they are highly motivated students who have waited their entire lifetime for a course like this to emerge in North America.

I think the least you can do is demand that they finish a simple geo sans in two weeks. Most professionals should be able to do one over the weekend. They might as well get use to the work load and time frame that is expected of them as professionals.

Nick Shinn's picture

Two weeks?
Despite their commitment, it might take some students a few days longer longer to realize that the crossbar on "f" usually lines up with the x-height...

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