University of Antwerp Summer School: Critical Approaches to Typography

26 September 2019

Intensive 5-day programme on the value of research for a better understanding of type and typography.

Critical approaches to Typography. Research into the interaction between typographic conventions and the digital age

Monday 2 – Friday 6 September, 2019

Today everyone who uses a computer is practically a typesetter and typography is hardly considered a specialism anymore. Conventions are automatically maintained: practitioners of typography – professionals and amateurs – base their typographical decisions on what is considered common. The legibility aspect, for example, seems easy to control by selecting type that is generally accepted, without the requirement of knowledge of what legibility exactly comprises. As a consequence the conventions and related conditioning are basically never questioned.

Art historian Ernst Gombrich notes that the stimulus patterns on the retina are not alone in determining our picture of the visual world, and that its messages are modified by what we know about the ‘real’ shape of objects. In other words: ‘One cannot see more than one knows.’ But what exactly do we know of type and typography and what do we consequently see? What forms the basis of the typographical conventions and how solid is this basis anyway? Could research, whether scientfically based and/or empirically oriented, tell us more about this basis? Furthermore, would the resulting knowledge be useful for the practitioners of typography?

This summer school will investigate and discuss the value of research for typography. The five keywords are ‘Perception’, ‘History’, ‘Convention’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Legibility’. Answers to the related research questions will be, for example, distilled from the study of artifacts in the collection of the famous Museum Plantin-Moretus. After all, the typographical conventions were fixed with the invention of movable type (and related technical constraints) during the Renaissance.

Present-day font technology is developed with the same conventions and even Renaissance technical constraints in mind still. Hence, during the course also the focus will be on how digital font technology has developed since the early 1970s. The technical possibilities for Latin and non-Latin scripts will be further investigated, theoretically as practically, in relation to the typographical conventions.

Academic Credits:

3 ECTS credits will be awarded upon writing a paper with answers to the five research questions, an evaluation of the programme and a personal reflection on the five keywords.


Stadscampus, University of Antwerp
Prinsstraat 13
2000 Antwerp, Belgium

For Whom?

Bachelor, Master, Professionals. No specific expertise in the field of type design is required, nor any knowledge of the development of historical type and typography.

How Much?

EUR 600 (Fee includes course material, coffee breaks, farewell dinner, several excursion and social activities. Does not include lunch or accommodation.)

University of Antwerp students are entitled to a refund of €150 after completion of the summer school.
Early bird reduction: Alumni and students of the Plantin Institute of Typography pay only 480 euro (20% reduction) for applications before April 30, 2019. After that date they pay a reduced registration fee of 540 euro.


English and Dutch


Bring your MacBook with Glyphs 2 preinstalled.


Register online before 2 June 2019.