Matrices from the Museum Plantin-Moretus


9 months


From October 2024 till April 2025
Wednesdays from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m. (CET).


Kick-off event: Museum Plantin-Moretus or livestreaming with Zoom. Next: everything online.


Frank Blokland


he Expert course Type Design (EcTD) will be given a mixed formula this year: we supplement our online lessons with an intensive four-day program in Antwerp, packed with in-person lessons, guest lectures, study visits and social activities.

Thanks to this kick-off event (21–24 October 2024) the students will get to know each other better, while learning about the unique collection of type-foundry materials that are preserved in Museum Plantin-Moretus. The other lessons are given online: nine all-day sessions,  between November and April. The course is concluded with an exhibition that takes place annually in the museum (July and August 2025).

The online formula is undoubtedly attractive for our international students, who will themselves save a lot of travel and hotel costs.

The EcTD course is taught by type designer, font producer, software developer, and Senior Lecturer Dr. Frank E. Blokland.

Group project and individual work

The aim of the course is to help students explore and analyze the historical and technical (production) aspects of type and typography, to teach them how to design type in detail, to help them develop an in-depth understanding of the digital font-production process, and to support them in gaining control over related software.

An important aspect of the course is the direct exchange of knowledge and experience between the students. This exchange is stimulated by a type-revival project on which the students must collaborate. The revival is always based on unique historical material from the renowned collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. In addition to participating in the revival project, each student must personally design a new typeface, whether it be from scratch or a revival that is, for example, also based on material from the museum’s collection. 

Taking the course online implies that research in the reading room of Museum Plantin-Moretus is not possible. To get around this, students will receive high-quality photos and scans of punches, smoke proofs, matrices, and prints from the museum’s large collection.

Visual impressions

Requirements and admission

The EcTD course is targeted at graphic designers who have a great interest in type and typography. The course is very much internationally oriented and the students come from all over the world. Hence the lessons are taught in English. For entering the course, experience in graphic design, combined with basic drawing skills and knowledge of graphic-design software such as Adobe Illustrator, are considered a prerequisite.

The course provides a good alternative for people who do not have time or the opportunity to follow, for example, the Type & Media master course at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (KABK) or the master course in type design at the University of Reading. However, in the course of time a number of students who already hold a Master degree in type design from aforementioned institutes joined the EcTD course.

Program, end terms, and diploma

During the first half of the course the students work together online on a revival based on the invaluable historical material, i.e., punches, matrices, foundry type, and prints, from the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. This revival forms the basis for an intensive exchange of insight, perception, and technical know-how between the students, often via collaboration tools like Slack.

During the second half of the course the students have to design and to technically develop a new typeface. The joined revival and the personal typeface have to be presented in two different booklets with an accompanying text on the process and progress. Evaluation criteria for the personal project are: the depth of the study, the insight in the matter, the aesthetically and technical quality of the produced type, and the originality of the design project.

Students who positively complete the course obtain an officially recognized post-college certificate.

Subjects investigated

1. Type, typography, and conventions:
What are the restrictions of the systems inherited from the times of foundry type, i.e., with characters on solid rectangles? What do we know about the factors that influenced the proportions and details of the archetypal roman and italic type models? What is the relation between letterforms and typographical conventions? Where do the conventions for present-day digital typography come from?

2. Form, proportions, construction, contrast-sorts, and contrast:
What forms the origin of the proportions, shapes, and details of the historical and modern typefaces that are in use today? Why and in what respect do characters from the style periods differ? What is the relation of type and typography to architecture, sculpture, painting, and music? Which methods can be used to classify type? How and to what extent are the type classifications of, for example, Maximilien Vox and Gerrit Noordzij comparable and overall useful? What is the relation to matters such as contrast-sort and contrast of, for example, serifs?

3. Type design, idiom, and revivals:
What distinguishes one type designer from another? Why and by what features do we recognize and distinguish the type designs of, for example, Garamont, Granjon, Eric Gill, Hermann Zapf, and Jan van Krimpen? What is a revival exactly? How should historical prints be interpreted? How and to what extent should a revival be standardized and adapted to present-day digital technology?

Digital technology (summary)

1. Manual conversion of analogue drawings with a digitizer/lens cursor (IKARUS format) or via autotracing, versus direct drawing on screen.

2. Contour description and font formats: the IKARUS format, cubic Bézier curves (PostScript Type1 / OpenType CFF) and quadratic Bézier curves (TrueType / OpenType TTF).

3. Font-production tools: Glyphs, RoboFont, FontLab Studio, FontForge, FoundryMaster, OTMaster.

4. Glyph databases: development of the glyph set. The construction of character sets. The support of multiple codepages. The (auto) spacing of type.

5. Data management and quality control: checking and improving the consistency of font data.

6. Font-format processing: the (batch) generation of kerning, OpenType Layout features, and hinting.

Course calendar

Kick-off event (in Antwerp): Monday 21 October till Thursday 24 October 2024, from 9.30 a.m. till 4.40 p.m.

Online lessons in 2024: 13 November, 4 December and 18 December
In 2025: 8 January, 29 January, 19 February, 12 March, 2 April and 23 April.
From 11 a.m. till 4.40 p.m.

Enrolment fee

€ 1950.
At the moment (April), quite a few students have already enrolled. We therefore advise you to act quickly, as the group is limited to 16 participants.
We give priority to students who will attend the kick-off event in-person, in Antwerp.

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