Letters from Reading By Kevin King

Follow Canadian typographer, Kevin King, on his journey as he undertakes the MA Typeface Design program at the University of Reading.

From Kevin King

Graphic Designers of Canada;

In 1957, Canadian typographic designer Carl Dair travelled with his wife (Edith) and two daughters (Willa and Rickey) to Haarlem, the Netherlands. He went there to study under the last of the European punch cutters, P.H. Rädisch, at the type foundry of Johann Enschedé en Zonen. During his stay there Dair wrote, both calligraphically and by typewriter, playful and intimate letters to close friends describing the events of their journey through Western Europe on the way to Holland and details of his work with Rädisch and others at the type foundry. As Dair wrote these letters home, he prepared more elaborate correspondences that he sent back to Canada each month, which he titled "Epistles to the Torontonians". In these epistles he described conversations with Jan Tschichold and Sem Hartz and his day-to-day work at the Enschedé type foundry with Rädisch. He included samples of proofs of the punches that he was creating as an apprentice to the master, all while conveying his sense of wonder, excitement, and enthusiasm to the reader, bringing us right there to his seat.

As I begin my studies in the MA Typeface Design program at the University of Reading for the 2017/2018 year, I will follow in Dair’s footsteps by sending back letters that will be shared on the GDC national website. These letters will focus on my studies within the typeface design program, and will present new developments in the field of typeface design. My goal is to contribute to enriching the quality of Canadian typography, and to provide a window towards the future direction of the craft.

As I write this first letter, the semester has just begun, and already a sense of excitement fills the halls in the department of typography for the year to come. I will be studying with 13 fellow type aficionado that come from all corners of the globe. There is a real sense of cultural exchange and the impact that this will have on all of our studies is clear. 

Typeface design today is unmistakably a global field and a designer must understand how to design for multiple scripts if they are to compete in this world market. This is made visible by how digital technology has spread across the world in the last ten years. Now many diverse languages require good fonts to make this digital technology accessible. A good font is one that is sympathetic to the typesetting needs and demands of the script at hand. This is often out of sync with the Latin script, and requires individual study to realize an appropriate solution.

This, in essence, is what I can expect to learn in the coming year at Reading, along with sharpening my skills in form making and writing for research. You can expect to be kept up on new developments in the field and to see some imagery in the letters to come. I look forward to sharing my journeys and discoveries with you throughout this year.

Kevin King