Modularity and Grids in Letterforms Across Calligraphy, Conventional Type and Geometric Type Teaching

  • João BrandãoEmail author
  • João GomesEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 1203)


This paper deconstructs the inherent modular nature of the Latin alphabet, more specifically its structure and anatomy. Letterforms are often rendered into grids and occasionally through the usage of geometric shapes and/or other reusable shapes, a practice which has been useful for either letterform design teaching purposes or actual longform text setting by calligraphic methods.

We propose a theoretical approach, with a non-interventionist methodology of qualitative research, through literary review in which we evaluate the state of the art. Authors across the academic and historic spectrum are reviewed: ranging from the humanistic Dürer – with his Underweysung der Messung treatise – to the mathematically-inclined Hofstadter – with his Letter Spirit project –, but also including specialists such as Johnston, Gill, Tschichold, Albers, Schrofer, Crouwel, Noordzij, Briem, Frutiger and Knuth – with their extensive theoretical treatises supported by constant professional practice. Our main objective is that an integrated understanding of the multiple systems of typographic modularity will become a valuable theoretical framework for teaching graduate and post-graduate graphic design, graphic communication and type design courses. Modular and geometric type design practice, applied in practical teaching/learning exercises, can structure the students’ view and understanding of the alphabet as a visual code of communication, allowing for an improved process and, therefore, improved results. We conclude that teaching a modular theoretical view, in conjunction with practical exercises, structures students’ understanding of typography beyond traditional modular typography, as well as the composing elements of both calligraphy and conventional type design. This method makes the process of learning and understanding typographic anatomy easier, a factor which allows for improved courses in type design.


Calligraphy Typography Type design Modularity Alphabet Grids Geometry Teaching 


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculdade de ArquiteturaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Faculdade de Belas-Artes, Largo da Academia Nacional de Belas-ArtesUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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