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Gunnlaugur SE Briem: Notes on type design

From the editor

In 1998 Gunnlaugur SE Briem published “Notes on type design” on his website. He based them on a type design course that he taught in 1996.

For many years, they were an important reference for students of type design. A few years ago, the original website that hosted them ceased to exist. Now he has most kindly allowed us to put them back online, so they have a new home. We’re re-publishing Briem’s text as it existed, with original images (which are in somewhat low resolution).

The notes are a fantastic, concise introduction to Latin-script type design. Some font technology aspects have changed in the last 20 years, so over time, we’ll annotate the text where appropriate. The design principles still stand, so Briem’s approach is a great place to start your type design journey.

Also: if you’re making a Latin-script font, you’ll want to include the Icelandic eth (Ðð) and thorn (Þþ). Follow Briem’s suggestions on how to design them.

Adam Twardoch Fontlab Ltd.

About the Author

Gunnlaugur SE Briem is a designer, handwriting guru, and occasional publisher.

His postgraduate studies in Basel and London ended with a PhD from the Royal College of Art. Nine years later he also passed, for good measure, a journeyman’s exam at a printers’ trade school in Reykjavík. He was a member of the advisory board of Visible Language, the research magazine, for 32 years.

He took part in the introduction of italic handwriting in his native Iceland, where his method and manuals have been used in classrooms for nearly four decades. He publishes free e-books on fonts and related subjects on his website.

He designed numerous retail and custom fonts. He also lectured widely in Europe and America, and was designer in residence at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1990. He organized traveling exhibitions of lettering and calligraphy. For a time in the eighties he ran a calligraphy gallery. He has had several one-man shows of his own work, the first at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and won a few awards.


Notes on type design. Copyright © 1998, 2001, 2022 Gunnlaugur SE Briem. All rights reserved. Republished with permission in 2022 by Fontlab Ltd.