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The European Lettering Institute – A school for making Traces


Over the past 20 years, the successful digitalization of the graphic design profession has resulted in an unfortunate decline in interest from educational institutions within the field of graphic design to commit to subject matters such as calligraphy and hand lettering. All effort has gone into educating future designers in digital image making, which has put the production of expressive lettering into an almost deserted place.

Although this strategy has been successful, we can now see that the lack of knowledge about manual letter-making is starting to become a problem for the new generation of graphic designers and for the survival of our trade. Young graphic designers no longer have a proper understanding of the line and its visual meaning. They no longer know how traces can be made or used as an individual, powerful graphic identity without needing an illustration to explain the idea or thought.

Worried that new generations of graphic designers will become impoverished in terms of manual skill and at the same time—in a very contradictory way—experiencing a latent desire from students to learn the trade again, Cornil decided to set up Studio‑International School for the Lettering Arts in 2009. It is a small-scale workshop, which invites students from all over the world to study the history of lettering through hands on practice and then move forward into contemporary use of written and hand drawn artefacts for artistic and commercial use.

Although hand skills are the core business, we cannot imagine the workshop without our macs. Embracing technology and combining hand and digital skills have now proven to be our strength. Digital drawing and font development easily seduce students, but because of their thorough physical understanding of line development, they make conscious, pertinent design decisions and no longer work in a purely intuitive way.

A new setup, prompted by the success of the school, which splits the studio into a commercial consultant agency and the new European Lettering Institute will kick off in September 2014. It still offers students a 3 or 4-year full or part-time professional education in written, drawn, carved and digital lettering. By giving students time to study and to practice making traces, we are convinced that we can invigorate quality letter making as an alternative to counterbalance the overpowering but sometimes dull and lifeless digital line. Our aim is to guide (future) designers to come up with sound, imaginative calligraphic or typographic solutions to contemporary graphic challenges.

We would love to show you how we try to do this.