In this introduction to typographic form, we will make a series of formal exercises which investigate visual possibilities for language as it becomes typographic. If we locate the historical origin of typography with the invention of movable type and the printing press, we can say that typographic form is always produced and mediated by technology. In the course of our studio we will continually investigate how different technologies of production open unique possibilities for typographic form.

This studio is fundamentally concerned with making. But as we go, we will concurrently develop a theoretical conversation by reading a series of short and long texts which have something to say, often implicitly, about typographic practice. These readings will constitute an independent track through the semester, but one which will inform and give context to our typographic work. Oscillating between reading and making, we will be keen to see their mutual implications.

Typography is the practice of a highly rule-oriented and procedural set of techniques. It is a sort of game-playing with linguistic material. In every typographic exercise there will be a precise specification of tools and formats and formal parameters. But in each case we will be equally concerned with what the specification leaves unsaid, and with what is thereby left open to interpretation.

This is a sort of schizophrenic foundation course, in multiple senses. As we work through purely formal exercises in standardization which are at the pedagogical heart of Swiss Modernism, we will at the same time seek to throw them against the grain both of language itself, in all its nonstandard errancies, and of contemporary technologies of typographic production, to see what new permutations of form are possible, always in ambivalent relations to the limit, wherever we find it, of sense and legibility.