3min read

Lettering Craftsmanship Workshop

This is a recap of a workshop we did for Codepot 2015 back in August. Codepot is a conference that puts an emphasis on hands-on learning and on cross-training in different disciplines. The main purpose of our workshop was to make participants more aware of main typographic principles through practice and a tangible interaction with letters.

Another edition of this workshop will be happening at WUD na Pradze, the Warsaw edition of World Usability Day, on Thursday.

The Medium is the Message

Typography is a powerful tool to provide information. When used wisely it can help; when used badly it can make the information unreadable. The majority of people interact with typography all the time, whether they know it or not. When building software for users, it plays a significant role in conveying messages. Being aware of the basic rules that govern letters, words and blocks of text helps us craft products that communicate clearly with their users.

Tools’ Influence on Typography

Letters were always tightly bound to tools used to create them. Most typefaces from before the digital era have specific elements not for decoration, but because they stem from a particular way of creating letters. An excellent example is serifs in fonts based on Roman capitals, e.g. Garamond or Times. The serifs are actually guide marks – to carve the letter into stone, a chisel was placed along horizontal rules to make all characters equal in height.

Serifs are chiselmarks

Serifs are in fact chisel marks

It shows that typefaces were created to suit the material, not against it. Understanding this can help make decisions about appropriate fonts for different sizes of screens or print.

Workshop Agenda

Create some lettering intuitively Learn typography basics Refine letters created with newfound knowledge

We set up the workshop for a maximum learning effect. Participants worked in pairs to discuss their approach and make decisions consciously. Diverse materials were provided to see many different results and to work with different limitations.

Results Summary

Lego bricks

The most challenging part was to use angular elements to create lettering with mostly rounded letterforms. We can find the same difficulties when designing or using digital fonts on low-density displays. Lego bricks behave similarly to pixels here.

Lego bricks

There is no harmony or grid to the letters.

Lego bricks

Hard to read mix of lower- and uppercase

Lego bricks

The contrast is equal. The letters are arranged by an invisible grid, so they still have the unique look and feel but are easier to read.

A box of matches

Matches are also problematic when it comes to round shapes but give great opportunity to create a clear and convenient modular system to build set of letters. The challenge of this approach is to achieve distinguishability and suitability at the same time.

A box of matches

hard to read, messy, reminds of runic alphabet, artsy but dysfunctional.

A box of matches

lots of improvement in readability of the whole word and legibility of its single characters, but there is also a lack of consistency between letters: “d” and “e” stand strong on the baseline while “C” and “o” both hardly touch it.

A box of matches

All letters are consistent thanks to repetitive elements. Even the dark parts of matches are utilised well. Authors went from complete mess to clean, easy to read and well executed lettering.

Cable ties

Cable ties are elastic but they don’t have any shape memory. When you try to bend them too hard they are easy to break. For creating letters this means you should work with them, not against them and be careful because mistakes are hard to fix.

Cable ties

Very strong and eye-catching composition. Perfect for a poster, but the user has to put some effort into reading it. Reminds of geometric avant-garde experiments in typography in the beginning of the 20th century.

Cable ties

More functional approach. Tear-shaped loops are natural for this material; we can see that feature in “o” “d” and “p”. Upper-case “T” doesn’t match the set.

Cable ties

Improved spacing and all letters have the appropriate case.

Jumper wires

Thin cables can be messy and tangled but on the other hand they’re soft so creating round shapes is a piece of cake.

Jumper wires

I hardly see anything. Too many folds caused clutter and accidental breaks.

Jumper wires

Scotch tape helped to hold cables in right places. Now they’re creating clean and tidy lettering stuck to proper baselines.

Jumper wires

An optical correction of “e” resulted in better balance between the inner and outer spaces of all letters.


Tools and materials used to create letters are bound tightly to all decision made along the way and have a great influence on the quality of the final output. We should keep this principle in mind when choosing the right typeface for our purpose. Most typefaces were designed to cover specific goals: display well on low density screens, print well in small sizes or be legible on street signs from a long distance. An awareness of its main purpose is helpful when it comes to deciding which typeface suits our needs.

See all workshop results here.


GosiaUI Designer
MagdaUI Designer


Sign in and expect sharp insights, recommendations, ebooks and fascinating project stories delivered to your inbox

The controller of the personal data that you are about to provide in the above form will be Polidea sp. z o.o. with its registered office in Warsaw at ul. Przeskok 2, 00-032 Warsaw, KRS number: 0000330954, tel.: 0048 795 536 436, email: (“Polidea”). We will process your personal data based on our legitimate interest and/or your consent. Providing your personal data is not obligatory, but necessary for Polidea to respond to you in relation to your question and/or request. If you gave us consent to call you on the telephone, you may revoke the consent at any time by contacting Polidea via telephone or email. You can find detailed information about the processing of your personal data in relation to the above contact form, including your rights relating to the processing, HERE.

Data controller:

The controller of your personal data is Polidea sp. z o.o. with its registered office in Warsaw at ul. Przeskok 2, 00-032 Warsaw, KRS number: 0000330954, tel.: [0048795536436], email: [] (“Polidea”)

Purpose and legal bases for processing:


Used abbreviations:

GDPR – Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016
on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement
of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)

ARES – Polish Act on Rendering Electronic Services dated 18 July 2002

TL – Polish Telecommunications Law dated 16 July 2004

1)        sending to the given email address a newsletter including information on Polidea’s new projects, products, services, organised events and/or general insights from the mobile app business world |art. 6.1 a) GDPR, art. 10.2 ARES and art. 172.1 TL (upon your consent)

Personal data:name, email address

2)       statistical, analytical and reporting purposes |art. 6. 1 f) GDPR (based on legitimate interests pursued by Polidea, consisting in analysing the way our services are used and adjusting them to our clients’ needs, as well as developing new services)

Personal data:name, email address

Withdrawal of consent:

You may withdraw your consent to process your personal data at any time.

Withdrawal of the consent is possible solely in the scope of processing performed based on the consent. Polidea is authorised to process your personal data after you withdraw your consent if it has another legal basis for the processing, for the purposes covered by that legal basis.

Categories of recipients:

Your personal data may be shared with:

1)       authorised employees and/or contractors of Polidea

2)       persons or entities providing particular services to Polidea (accounting, legal, IT, marketing and advertising services) – in the scope required for those persons or entities to provide those services to Polidea


Retention period:

1)       For the purpose of sending newsletter to the given email address – for as long as the relevant consent is not withdrawn

2)       For statistical, analytical and reporting purposes – for as long as the relevant consent is not withdrawn

Your rights:


Used abbreviation:

GDPR – Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016
on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement
of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)

According to GDPR, you have the following rights relating to the processing of your personal data, exercised by contacting Polidea via [e-mail, phone].

1)       to access to your personal data (art. 15 GDPR) by requesting sharing and/or sending a copy of all your personal data processed by Polidea

2)       to request rectification of inaccurate personal data
(art. 16 GDPR) by indicating the data requiring rectification

3)       to request erasure of your persona data (art. 17 GDPR); Polidea has the rights to refuse erasing the personal data in specific circumstances provided by law

4)       to request restriction of processing of your personal data (art. 18 GDPR) by indicating the data which should be restricted

5)       to move your personal data (art. 20 GDPR) by requesting preparation and transfer by Polidea of the personal data that you provided to Polidea to you or another controller in a structured, commonly used machine-readable format

6)       to object to processing your personal data conducted based on art. 6.1 e) or f) GDPR, on grounds relating to your particular situation (art. 21 GDPR)

7)       to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority,
in particular in the EU member state of your habitual residence, place of work or place of the alleged infringement if you consider that the processing
of personal data relating to you infringes the GDPR
(art. 77.1 GDPR)

No obligation to provide data:

Providing your personal data is not obligatory, but necessary for Polidea to provide you the newsletter service

Refusal to provide the above data will result in inability to receive the newsletter service.


In the process of providing the newsletter service, we make decisions in an automated way, including profiling, based on the data you provide.


“Profiling” means automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of your personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to you, in particular to analyze or predict aspects concerning your personal preferences and interests.


The automated decisions are taken based on the analysis of clicked and viewed content. They affect the targeting of specific newsletter content to selected users registered to receive the newsletter service, based on the anticipated interests of the recipient.