Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Computer-aided type face design

Kathleen Anne Carter

May 1986, 172 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted November 1985 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, King’s College.


This thesis tackles the problems encountered when trying to carry out a creative and intuitive task, such as type face design, on a computer. A brief history of printing and type design sets the scene for a discussion of digital type. Existing methods for generating and handling digital type are presented and their relative merits are discussed. Consideration is also given to the nature of designing, independent of the tools used. The importance of intuition and experience in such a task is brought out. Any new tools must allow the designer to exercise his skills of hand and eye, and to judge the results visually. The different abstractions that can be used to represent a typeface in a computer are discussed with respect to the manner of working that they force upon the designer.

In the light of this discussion some proposals are made for a new system for computer-aided type face design. This system must be highly interactive, providing rapid visual feedback in response to the designer’s actions. Designing is a very unstructured task, frequently with a number of activities being pursued at once. Hence the system must also be able to support multiple activities, with the user free to move between them at any time.

The characteristics of various types of interactive graphical environment are then considered. This discussion leads on to proposals for an environment suitable for supporting type face design. The proposed anvironment is based on the provision of a number of windows on the screen, each supporting a different activity. A mouse, graphics tablet and keyboard are all continuously available for interection with the system. The rest of the thesis discusses the implementation of this graphical environment and the type face design system that makes use of it. The final chapter evaluates the success of both the underlying software and of the type face design system itself.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Carter, Kathleen Anne},
  title = 	 {{Computer-aided type face design}},
  year = 	 1986,
  month = 	 may,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-87}