Free Lecture: Type Designer Sumner Stone

Monday, March 18, 2013, 6:30 - 8:30pm

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Sumner Stone
The Tao of Hand and Eye:
Exploring the dynamics of formal and informal letterforms

Rose Auditorium
Monday March 18, 2013
6:30-8:30 pm

Francesco Griffo may have taken an entire day to carve a steel punch for the letter A in the typeface he cut for Aldus Manutius’ edition of Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Early during the same day he may have written an A as part of the grocery list he would give to his apprentice. The A for the shopping list would have been written more quickly than the brown fox could jump. The two A’s would, inevitably, have looked quite different. Just for starters, the steel punch A would have been upright, and formal – the hand-written one, sloped, cursive, and informal. The informal letter might have had flourishes or other enthusiastic exaggerations.

But speed and purpose are only part of the story. Informal writing allows for a level of personal expression and experimentation that is not acceptable in formal scripts. Cursive writing was thereby an engine for the evolution of letterform style up until movable metal type started to be used in Europe. Both the lower case and italic owe their existence to the influence of cursive writing. This lecture will explain several examples, and the general principles that govern the dialectic of the hand and the eye in producing new scripts, both formal and informal. The results, both simple and complex, have been to a large extent responsible for the rich variety we have in our current panoply of typographic form.

About Sumner Stone

Sumner Stone is a type designer, type founder, author, and teacher. From 1984–1989 he was Director of Typography for Adobe Systems where he conceived and implemented Adobe’s typographic program including the Adobe Originals. In 1990 he founded Stone Type Foundry Inc., now located in Rumsey, California. The Foundry designs and produces new typefaces and creates custom designs for a diverse range of clients including Hallmark Cards, Stanford University, The San Francisco Public Library, Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Greenwood Press, Arion Press, and Full Belly Farm. His type designs include the popular ITC Stone Sans and the prize-winning ITC Bodoni. His most recent type designs are Davanti, Sator, and Popvlvs.

This event is free and open to the public - please register HERE.


The Herb Lubalin Lecture Series is a part of the Type@Cooper program which is open to the public. Many events in the series are free of charge. The lectures thematically follow the overall curriculum of the program, offering students a deeper insight into specific and relevant topics.

The series is sponsored by Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at the Cooper Union, a public graphic design archive which places emphasis on a hands-on access to a wide range of design and typography ephemera.



Located in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, at 41 Cooper Square (on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets)

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.