Associate Professor and Programme Director, MA Information Design
Department of Typography & Graphic Communication
University of Reading
Contact me via email: info [at] keithtam [dot] net
Articles and documents
An article in Typographische Monatsblätter (Swiss Typographic Magazine) on my research on bilingual typography in Hong Kong.
Inspired by Bruce Mau’s ‘Incomplete manifesto for growth’ in his monograph Life style, I wrote my own manifesto in 2001 when I was about to graduate from art school. Designers have long struggled with the paradox of being intuitive and rational. Here, I intend to embrace and celebrate this paradox. This version has been slightly edited and modified.
(247K PDF) Ever since the advent of printing with movable type, typography and technology had become inseparable. If we were to accept the definition of typography as the mechanical production of written language, then we must have an intimate understanding of our prevailing typesetting technology – the computer and its software and peripherals – in order to become competent typographic designers. Craftsmanship is inherent in our technology; creativity is also built upon the foundation of understanding the technology. This handout outlines the basic concepts of digital typography.
(107K PDF) An explanation of how baseline grids work.
(1MB PDF) An article about the work of Swiss typographic designer Wolfgang Weingart. Based on a questions and answers session in Vancouver in March, 2001. This article was written for the Polish design magazine 2+3D. A full transcript of the Q&A session is also included here. (original article page)
(268K PDF) An essay that traces the historical developements of slab-serif typefaces in the 20th century.
(943K PDF) Sanserif typefaces are often perceived as something inextricably linked to the ideals of Swiss modernism. They are also often thought of as something as far as one can get from calligraphic writing. Yet, throughout the twentieth century and especially in the past decade or so, the design of sanserif typefaces have been consistently inspired by calligraphic writing. This paper hence explores the relationship between calligraphic writing and the formal developments of sanserif typefaces in the twentieth century. Although type design is an inherently different discipline from writing, conventions of calligraphic did and till do impose certain important characteristics on the design of typefaces that modern readers expect. This paper traces and analyses the formal developments of sanserif typefaces through the use of written forms. It gives a historical account of the development fo sanserif typefaces by charting six distinct phases of sanserif designs that were in some ways informed by calligraphic writing:
- Humanist sanserifs: Britain 1900s
- Geometric sanserifs: 1920s–30s
- Contrast sanserifs: 1920s–50s
- Sanserif as a book type: 1960s–80s
- Neo-humanist sanserifs: 1990s
Three primary ways to create calligraphic writing, namely the broadnib pen, flexible pointed pen and monoline pen are studied and linages drawn to how designers imitate or subvert the concentions of these tools. These studies are put into historical perspective and links made to the contexts of use. The focus of this dissertation is on typefaces that are generally known as humanist sans; grotesques and neo-grotesques are not included in the discussions.