Principles of Typeface Design
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Designer and Educator Wayne Thompson is passionate about not only about making great 'Aussie-flavoured' type but also seeing his students advance their typographic capabilities and grow in their understanding of how letterforms are produced. I am a huge fan of Wayne and his work...

Starting out he was self-taught. "I’d have killed for a mentor, or just to work with somebody – anybody – who was a specialist in type." Now an accomplished Type designer with an impressive collection of text and display faces under his belt Wayne generously shares knowledge with our community "to give others what I didn’t have: access to experienced help."

His Type-by-Hand workshops have been successful throughout Australia (and New Zealand). The popularity is a credit to Wayne's hands-on and industry-focused teaching style. His latest offering Principles of Typeface Design is an eight-week course which enables type enthusiasts to design and build a fully functioning font.

Getting back to basics the course begins with a primer on drawing letters (analogue), giving participants the opportunity to learn the mechanics of proportion, cohesion and legibility along the way. Wayne then demonstrates the process of vectoring forms using Adobe Illustrator, before guiding participants through the process of building the font in specialist software. Participants will graduate with a deep understanding of type behaviour, aesthetics and legibility, and the ability to create commercial-quality fonts of their own.


I caught up with Wayne to find out more about this exciting new program...

Hi, Wayne, can you tell us a little about the concept design phase of the program? How important is the analogue craftsmanship in the concept phases to the overall success of the digital font?

The concept phase takes up the first half of the program, and there is a heavy emphasis on learning to draw type by hand. It’s not because this method is necessarily the best — after all, everybody works differently — it’s because paper is the quickest way to explore ideas and learn about proportions. In the early stages, all you want to know is whether an idea will work! But pencil and paper also gives students a much-needed window into the tactile parts of the process which carry a tangible and satisfying sense of accomplishment.

I love the process of discussing sketches with students and modifying, exploring, and discovering how letters work. Will students select their own style and genre of typeface to develop?

Yes! Sans or serif, text or display, all directions are up for grabs. The principles of legibility, rhythm and spacing apply equally to all styles, so the learning process is equally valuable regardless of which style you choose. I personally love the austerity in sans-serif faces, and I’m fascinated by the way they can be so expressive with little or not detail. Think this makes them the most challenging and exciting kind of typeface to design, and I also believe the restricted nature of sans affords the best type learning opportunities for students.


How will participants be able to collaborate and support one another as a group and what opportunities will students have for one-on-one critique and guidance?

It’s going to be a small class in an intimate learning space, which is very conducive to collaboration. But we’ll also have some critiques where we put samples on the wall and discuss them as a group – this can be confronting for students but also the most rewarding. All students will get personal guidance from me every week – my philosophy is to be quite hands-on and interventionist! The whole idea is that you milk as much knowledge out of me as you possibly can!

Who should attend?

Both beginners and experienced participants are welcome. Experience in creating vector outlines using the Pen tool in Adobe Illustrator will be an advantage. This course is suitable for professional designers and design students who want gain a deeper understanding of typography, how fonts work, and how to make them.

Spacing (and white space), and context is critical to the success of a font. Can you share any insight into the testing process? Will you be creating type specimens? (Or working with a particular text as a muse?)

Great question! The biggest no-no is to start with A, then B, then C etc. Most type designers start with the characters n-o-H-O because their particular DNA informs most of the rest of the alphabet. So we’ll test character strings with just these letters before designing any others, so we can make judgements about negative space and stroke rhythm at an early stage. Then we’ll add 3 or 4 other critical glyphs and put them in words at the earliest possible stage, so judgements can be made in the proper context. It never ceases to amaze me how different a font looks in reading context to how it looks in an alphabet! I don’t work with any particular text as a muse, but character strings should include straights, rounds, ascenders and descenders as a rule.


Over the course of 8 weeks how much time will be spent on drawing, digitisation, build and then testing?

Roughly the first half will be spent on drawing, design and conceptualising, because that’s the fun bit! Then we’ll spend a short time on vectoring and the last few weeks on the build, culminating in generating a working font file during the final lesson. Seeing your font on screen for the first time is such a nerdgasmic moment! Students will be expected to do most of the vectoring in their own time because it’s a mechanical part of the process and I want to concentrate on the creative parts, but if vectoring is your weak point I’ll help you as much as I can!

Which font editing software will you be working with?


This is a jam packed 8-week program, will you explore resources, techniques and tools for participants to continue their learning (and font development) after the course?

Of course! In such a short time, all I can hope to do is introduce you to the techniques — the practice is up to you! However, students who work hard in between classes to progress their work will gain the maximum benefit from the course. I expect that self-starting students will, on completion of the course, have a pathway to being able to produce professional quality digital typefaces.


The Principles of Typeface Design runs Tuesday nights for eight weeks
Commencing Tuesday 28 February 2017

Cost $880.00 including GST

Further details can be found at and you can register directly with the venue – Pumphouse School of Design, by emailing or on 02 4962 4985.