About this blog’s author
‘Typography means more than bringing order to the passing on of information; it implies elevating to the sublime the mould in which the process of passing on is cast.’
Frank E. Blokland (Leiden, 1959) studied Graphic and Typographic design at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague from 1978 until 1983. As student of the renowned Gerrit Noordzij, he founded the workgroup Letters], of which many nowadays well-known Dutch type designers became a member.
During the eighties, Blokland designed the lettering of a number of monuments, among which the Homomonument next to the Westerkerk in Amsterdam.
During that period he worked together with the famous sculptor Frans de Wit on a number of monuments for the cities of Leiden and Oegstgeest.
Also around that time Blokland started to cut letters in stone.
Blokland set up the television course Calligraphy, the art of writing in 1989 and wrote the accompanying book, of which 16.000 copies went over the counter in the early 1990s. Further since the 1980s he has written some 150 articles on type design and font production for various graphic and design magazines, like Compres, Pers, PrintBuyer, Hamburger Satzspiegel and Page.
During the 1990s Blokland worked closely together with the design agency
Hazelhoff de Vaal & Partners (VH&P) on a number of logo’s and mastheads.
Blokland purchased his ﬁrst computer in 1983: an Acorn Electron. He programmed a simple tool for digitizing vectored letters, and for interpolating and modifying these. It was baptized ‘DrawMonkey’, which is the literal translation of ‘Tekenaap’, (Dutch synonym for pantograph). For getting output other than on the screen, at that time one had to be quite inventive to get printers connected, eproms installed, etc. Although DrawMonkey in all its simpleness functioned well (see image above), Blokland realized that others were better equipped for programming than he was, as he himself was more skilled in designing type. That insight formed the basis for the later long-lasting cooperation (since 1991) with the programmers at URW Type Foundry in Hamburg, Germany, which eventually resulted in the DTL FontMaster tools.
After years of preparation, Blokland founded the Dutch Type Library, (DTL), the iconic digital-type pioneering and proudly independent high-quality foundry in 1990. It was the first of its kind in the Low Countries.
A couple of years later he initiated and supervised the development of DTL FontMaster, a set of utilities for professional font production jointly developed by DTL and the Hamburg-based company URW Type Foundry.
Blokland has designed typefaces like DTL Documenta, DTL Documenta Sans, DTL Haarlemmer (on the basis of drawings by Jan van Krimpen), DTL Haarlemmer Sans and DTL Romulus (also based on drawings by Jan van Krimpen).
For roughly a decade the seriffed and sans versions of DTL Documenta formed the corporate identity typefaces of the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The typeface was used for the signage inside and outside the museum, publications, annual reports, etc.
DTL Documenta has been applied in Gotteslob, the new prayer and song book of the Catholic church in Germany and Austria.The production of the 3.6 million copies (1,300 pages each) required eight tons of red ink and roughly 3,000 tons of light-weight paper (40 grams).
260,000 copies of the 2017 edition of the Luther Bibel, typeset in DTL Documenta and DTL Caspari (Gerard Daniëls), were printed for the Evangelische Kirche in Germany October 2016.
Since 2010 new street signs are placed in the city of Haarlem for which DTL Haarlemmer is used. The design agency Bureau Arjan Karssen selected the seriffed version for the street signs in the historic city centre, and the accompanying sans serif is used on two different signs for the pre- and post World War II parts of the city.
When Gerrit Noordzij retired in 1987 from the KABK, Blokland was the ﬁrst of the younger generation to succeed him. As Senior Lecturer Blokland teaches writing, letter drawing, type design, and aspects of font production at the graduate and post-graduate courses of the Graphic Design department.
Since 1995 Blokland lectures at the Plantin Institute of Typography (Plantin Society) under the roof of the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp.
Furthermore, he has lectured as a guest professor at institutes such as the Technical University of Delft, the University of Reading, and Lahti Polytechnic University.
Since 2019 Blokland is co-organizer and author of the program of the annual Typography Summer School at the University of Antwerp, which takes place under the umbrella of the university and the Plantin’s Institute of Typography.
In 2004–2011 Blokland designed the lettering for the newly restored stained glass windows of the St. Peter’s Church in Leiden, the Netherlands. On YouTube a short ﬁlm (Dutch spoken) shows the restoration of the church, and the design and production of the lettering.
April 2013 Blokland designed the calligraphic lettering of H.M. Queen Beatrix’s Abdication Act. The letters on the act, in Humanistic Minuscule and Italic counterpart, with all their contextual letter-variants, were written by Blokland and transferred by himself into two digital fonts: Abdicatie Regular and Abdicatie Italic using the DTL FontMaster tools. The text was subsequently silkscreened on parchment.
Summer 2016, as guest curator Blokland arranged the display of Renaissance type-foundry material (in relation to digital font technology) at the historical type foundry of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. He did this together with Kris Geysen, who is curator of printed material at the museum.
Blokland also wrote the texts for, and designed the panels on the type-foundry’s wall.
On 11 October 2016 at 11:15 a.m. Blokland successfully defended his PhD dissertation at Leiden University. Blokland’s research was conducted to test the hypothesis that Gutenberg and his peers set up a ﬁxed standardized and even unitized system for the production of textura type, and that this system was extrapolated for the production of roman type in Renaissance Italy.
Outcomes of this research have been translated in a set of Python extensions for, for example, the Glyphs font editor, named ‘LS Cadencer’ and ‘LS Cadenculator’, developed by type designer Lukas Schneider in cooperation with Blokland. These two tools are meant for applying auto-spacing to fonts, using an intrinsic underlying grid in roman and italic type for calculating the side-bearings. This principle and algorithm was developed by Blokland and is based on the systematization, standardization, and unitization in the Renaissance type production. The software can be used to replace optical spacing completely, or it can be applied supplemental to spacing by eye.
May 2018 the University of Split, Croatia, published Osnove oblikovanja pisma, a book on type-design fundamentals by Dr. Nikola Djurek and Blokland. On the one hand it combines elements of Blokland’s calligraphy course book from 1990 with his more recent research into the origins of the harmonics, patterns and dynamics in movable Latin type. On the other hand it contains information from Djurek’s PhD dissertation on the history of and conventions for Croatian diacritics with his ongoing research on the history of Croatian scripts (Glagolitic, Cyrillic, Latin).
Early July 2019 Wim Crouwel received the Type Directors Club (TDC) Medal 2019 from Blokland at the award-winner’s studio in Amsterdam. This informal ceremony was recorded and shown at TDC’s annual awards presentation at The Rose Auditorium of The Cooper Union in New York City on July 17.