Project Statement: Drafting Roman Letters
Introduction to Typography Exercise
Albrecht Dürer (the great Renaissance artist, designer, type designer, and printer) wrote a book called Of The Just Shaping of Letters in 1535. He developed a plan where unskilled and illiterate men could be taught to draft letters and put to work in the growing printing industry. After 500 years, Albrecht Dürer’s method for drafting letters is still a classic. His book and letterforms are, in a large part, responsible for replacing Fraktur (“Olde English”) used before the Renaissance with Roman letters.
Systems are the basis of formal graphic design. It is important to understand a systems approach to design in order to fully understand typography. A typeface is a system of interchangeable parts. (Example: The stem on the capital ‘I’ is the same part used for all letters that contain a stem such as K and H.) This is an exercise in developing an understanding for the subtlety and balance of individual letterforms. Each student drafts a different set of four letterforms. During critiques, students will share their insights on their particular letters with the class in a verbal and visual presentation.
Each student drafts four letters using Dürer’s system. The letters are centered on a 8.5 x 8.5 square sheet of paper. Coated paper is provided for the project. The base square for each letter will be 4” tall.
Tools: Dividers, a T-square, small triangles, drafting tape/dots, an eraser, an eraser shield, a selection of pencils, and a good compass.
Note: Students achieve different levels of success with this project as demonstrated with a range of projects below. All construction lines are to be left on the paper to document the student’s path to understanding.