Summer 2017

From punch cutters to number crunchers

In the summer of 1983, a Stanford seminar became a milestone in the long transition from craft to code

In the summer of 1983 the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) hosted their fifth ‘Working Seminar’ at Stanford University in California. It was a conference format dedicated to research, education and discourse related to the latest technological developments in typography and type design. Organised by Charles Bigelow, the seminar – under the title ‘The Computer and the Hand in Type Design’ – was aimed at demonstrating new computer-based possibilities in type manufacturing, but also the older analogue skills of cutting and stone-carving. Having witnessed the end of hot-metal type-founding three decades earlier, John Dreyfus felt compelled now to proclaim a ‘second turning-point in type design’ in his opening lecture. He raised two questions, hoping to find answers in the following days: ‘What kinds of type designs are needed now?’ and ‘How ought we to approach the problems of designing new types, taking into account the technical changes of recent years and the altered structure of the services which now create printed matter?’


Cover of the brochure announcing the 1983 ATypI working seminar at Stanford University in California. Sumner Stone’s cover interprets the challenges of letterform definition and resolution – a recurring theme at the time.
Top: The seminar at Stanford assembled both established and emerging personalities in type design. This photo (published in Visible Language, vol. 19, no. 1, 1985), shows (L to R) Donald Knuth, Hermann Zapf and John Dreyfus at the event.



Ferdinand P. Ulrich, typographer, researcher of type history, Berlin

Read the full version in Eye no. 94 vol. 24, 2017


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can see what Eye 94 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.

Tracker Pixel for Entry