Minutes of the open day at the KABK in The Hague (Netherlands)

I am currently doing an internship at Typofonderie and passionate about drawing letters. I inquired about the courses dedicated to typography and a school caught my eye: the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten or shorter, the KABK located in The Hague Netherlands.

This school offers a wide variety of courses ranging from photography, textiles to graphic design. In 2002, it opened a one-year master entitled TypeMedia with teachers such as Erik and Petr van Blokland, Jan Willem Stas or Peter Bilak. In short, amazing teachers, enough to dream for a letter-loving student. I heard of the 28 January 2012 open day and decided to go, armed with my little Renault Clio, my camera and my curiosity for everything related to the design of letters.

Typofonderie Thierry Fétiveau KABK

KABK entrance

My typographic trip

Saturday morning: I’m in Lille (France), it’s cold but it won’t stop me. Let’s go for a three hour drive through Belgium towards the school of my dreams. After crossing ring roads and showers, I arrived at The Hague and it shows: canals, bicycles and a language I do not understand, no doubt: it is here.

Inside the building, I am surrounded by students, a beautiful signage system and cupcakes. The meeting took place with the twelve students who of the Typemedia promotion like every year. Twelve students, yes but not from anywhere because the students of this year come from Taiwan, the Netherlands, Mexico, Germany, India, Iceland and even of Tajikistan! A meeting of cultures and styles favorable to type design. I chatted with some of these students to know about their story and courses. Most of them have followed a training in graphic design in their country and then worked a year or two before taking the master.

Student’s desk, Christine Gertsch.

Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to study the type design from many different angles with always practice as thread. The year is divided into two semesters. The first is devoted to a series of exercises and theoretical courses. The second half is dedicated to a personal project of typeface design. Below, the main exercises that punctuate the first semester (the order is not necessarily chronological):

From left to right: Greek extension of the Absara by Aleksandra Samulenkova, calligraphic works by Hroje Zivcic and contrast exercise of Christine Gertsch.

Greek glyphs

Another exercise is to create a Greek version of a typeface that includes only Latin characters, all this in one month. This is a fascinating exercise tied to the reality because the need for multi-script typography is growing.


The year begins with courses in calligraphy dealing with both English script and the humanistic writing. Students learn the structure of classical models of letters before starting real type design.

Contrast exercise

Students have to draw a word with a serif typeface and then make a version with a low contrast and with a high contrast. One of these versions will then be developed as a standard set of glyphs.

From left to right : Python programming by Sveinbjörn Palsson, stone carving by Christine Gertsch and a Typocooker from Aleksandra Samulenkova.

Python programming

I found the following assignment very surprising: the creation of a display typeface directly made with lines of Python code… That’s quite amazing how lines of code can produce such an interesting graphic rendering.

Stone Carving

Yes, students are both programming and carving stone . This is the strong point of this course: a study of all the aspects of the design of letters.


The typecooker is a tool, a program created by Erik van Blokland that everyone can use by going to the website. It generates randomly typeface characteristics: weight, width, construction type, form, function… Students must generate a “recipe” (so a list of constraints) and draw a word that meets this brief, all this in one week.


Left page: original version of Bremer Antiqua, right page: Daniel Perraudin’s revival.

This is a really huge work! Students have to find an old book with a typeface that doesn’t exist in a digital version, redraw it and correct small defects to generate a font file. The result is really amazing! One must examine the details to see the revival’s small differences.

I discovered all these exercises by talking with students, I was delighted to see how this training is based on the practice of traditional tools as well as the latest software. Agreed, I drove for three hours sometimes in the rain and especially in the cold, but I do not regret it! This meeting with the students was as rich and exciting as I had expected. What can be more delightful? Spending a year designing typefaces on paper, stone and on a computer screen is still quite fantastic! In short, after spending a few hours there, I take the road in my good Renault Clio already picturing myself, pen in hand, drawing letters in The Hague…

Glyph set of a typeface from Miguel Reyes.


By Thierry Fétiveau, February 2012. All rights reserved.

The author

Thierry Fétiveau is a last year student in visual communication at GraphiCréatis school in Nantes. He is doing an internship at Typofonderie since January 2012.


KABK website
Typemedia master
Scriptorium of Toulouse