Type Design from Found Lettering


Patisserie designed by Cameron Coupe, Dana Golan, Eva Grate, Sahm Lee, and Jennifer Strong. Based on a Parisian sign documented by Louis Fili in her book, Graphique de la Rue.

Breuer Sans designed by Ashten Alexander, Sakura Chino, Vera Drapers, and Alan Enriquez. Based on a sign at the Seattle Waterfront Park, WA.

Fontina by Alex Britton, Mara Childs, Daisy James, Caitlin Murphy, and Piper Wysake. Based on a sign for Beecher's Handmade Cheese in Seattle, WA.

Chutney by Alyssa Chow, Jacob Etelamaki, Raisa Janjuara, Jett Tucker, and Joylyn Yang. From a hand-painted door sign for Indian and Pakistani groceries in Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA.

Knize by Raziah Ahmed, Calvin Kordel, Koko Morrill, Eliza Townsend, and Ian Yu. Based on the logotype for Kníže of Vienna, a haberdashery designed by Austrian and Czechoslovak architect Adolf Loos.

Level: ,
Duration: 5 weeks
Filed Under: , , , ,
Bookmark Project

Project Brief

In groups of four or five, students develop a typeface based on an typographic image. The prompt can be any found lettering that is not already an existing typeface—for example, a hand-painted sign, package, poster, logotype, etc. This project was originally conceived and demonstrated to me by the type designer Jean François Porchez

Learning Objectives

From this activity, students will learn: —How to create a set of abstract symbols (letters/glyphs) balanced between unity + variety.
—The limits of letter manipulation (this is the basis for future logotype/logo design work)


A Functioning Font File
Open Type format preferred.

One Type Design Poster for each Typeface Group
A vertical or horizontal type specimen poster (16x24") that communicates the origin, design and personality of the typeface.

Type Process Diagrams
Each student submits three diagrams that demonstrate the development of glyphs that they were responsible for designing.
These diagrams should explain how and why certain design variations were considered, revised, adopted and/or rejected.


Designing Type by Karen Cheng
(I discuss the book in this podcast).

Glyphs software

How to Create Typefaces: From Sketch to Screen by Cristóbal Henestrosa, Laura Meseguer, and José Scaglione


Because this is a short project, I find it more efficient to gather a group of specific type images for the student groups to select from (as opposed to using a week for the students to research/find a type image themselves). I try to have a wide variety of prompts (serif, sans serif, semi-serif, display, etc.) so that each group has an unique design challenge. I talk a bit more about teaching type design on this 15-minute You Tube video: https://youtu.be/RcI7GIDqOQY?t=31905

Related projects