In a nutshell

Adobe Jenson and a box of matrices

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


Given the recent developments in the Covid-19 outbreak and based on the advice of university experts, the management of the University of Antwerp decided to cancel the physical version of the summer school.

Critical approaches to typography will take place in August 2021. The programme will remain mostly the same. If you want to stay tuned about the launch of the next edition, please sign up for the Antwerp Summer University newsletter.

Postponed until August 2021: the 2020 edition is cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This summer school is an intensive 5-day programme on the value of research for a better understanding of type and typography. The keywords are ‘Perception’, ‘History’, ‘Convention’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Legibility’.

In this programme theory and demonstrations are interspersed with study visits and excursions. No fewer than 7 teachers are involved, all specialists in their field. For this week they are Dr. Frank E. Blokland, Dr. Wouter Soudan, Jan Dries, Joost Depuydt, Dr. Goran Proot, Thomas Milo, Walda Verbaenen and Patrick Goossens.

Hof van Liere, University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

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

3 ECTS credits are 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.

Course description
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.

Registration fee
Regular: €600
Alumni and students of the Plantin Institute of Typography: €540

Fee includes course material (software and printed matter), coffee breaks, farewell dinner, several excursions and social activities.
It does not include lunch or accommodation.

University of Antwerp students are entitled to a refund of €150 after completion of the summer school.
Limited number of reduced fees of €50 available for refugees.

Application details
Online through Mobility Online 

Application deadline
To be announced by December 2020

Cancellation by the organisation
The organisation reserves the right to cancel the course within two weeks after the application deadline due to a lack of interest. Participants should keep this in mind when making travel arrangements; any expenses made other than registration fees will not be reimbursed. Registration fees will be reimbursed as soon as possible.

COVID-19: At this moment, the summer school is still scheduled to go ahead as planned. We will monitor the situation closely in the meanwhile. A final decision will be taken before 19 June. In case of cancellation, the registration fee will be reimbursed as soon as possible.

Cancellation by the participant
If the participant cancels more than 4 weeks before the start of the summer school, 50% of the registration fee can be reimbursed to the participant. If the participant cancels within 4 weeks before the start of the summer school, €100 of the registration fee will be refunded. All refunds are made in euros. The organisation cannot refund any shortfalls due to exchange rate fluctuations or bank charges.

COVID-19: Applicants who are unable to travel due to COVID-19 can receive a full refund of their registration fee if they can provide the following evidence:

  • Official communication from the visa office, Embassy or Consulate in case a visa could not be obtained due to COVID-19 regulations
  • Official communication from the home institution, employer or a medical facility stating that it is not possible to travel due to COVID-19 implications Applicants that can’t provide such a proof will not have the fees refunded.

External partners
Museum Plantin-Moretus and Plantin Institute of Typography

More information: