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Alternative Typographic Histories

Hind Al Saad, Levi Hammett
Zainab Aliyu
June 4, 2023 to August 6, 2023 (10 classes)
Sundays, 1-4pm ET
Online (Zoom)
$1200 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on April 30, 2023

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Throughout its history the formal evolution of written language has been driven by the technology used to render that language, from cuneiform to stone-carved roman capitals, and up to letterpress and pixels. In the last century, this phenomenon has accelerated rapidly with typography adapting to new display possibilities, such as segmented LED displays in early electronics to more contemporary storage and rendering standards such as postscript. The locality of these innovations have been primarily situated in the west where the Latin typographic script is the predominant form of written language. The opportunities presented by these technologies generated significant pressure for alternative scripts, such as written Arabic, to conform to the formal constraints of these Latin-based technologies, which in some cases have undermined the traditional formal structures of the scripts. In this 10-week class, we will begin with an introduction to typography, before exploring the relationship between technology and language by inverting the inherited constraints of western-centric technologies, and re-examining the evolutionary paths non-Latin scripts, like Arabic, could have taken to create new structures and machines that center these languages. We will imagine new forms and artifacts by speculating on alternative typographic histories, and adapting the technology to the language, giving space for the diverse and rich forms of these connected scripts to emerge. At the end of the session, we will have a collection of work that presents alternate frameworks to interact and re-interpret technological structures as moldable systems, and a collective archive of historic typographic technologies of alternative scripts.


Course of Study

The class is structured around lectures, in-class exercises, and shared collective research, and one main project for the last 4-5 weeks of class, after the end of the course, we will compile the research and final project outcomes into a zine.

  • Week 1: Orientation - SFPC community agreement, teacher and participants introductions, class and projects overview, pixel type exercise.
  • Week 2: {Latin} Typography Basics - Introductory lecture about the basics of Latin typography to have a shared framework of typography and lettering. With an in-class exercise of vector lettering explorations on a grid.
  • Week 3: {Alternative} Typography Basics - Introductory lecture about the basics of Arabic typography, collective research session on typography elements of Alternative Languages. With an in-class exercise exploring different ways to computationally manipulate the vector letterings made in the previous class.
  • Week 4: {Latin} Computed Language - Lecture sharing research that surveys language developments notable within the history of computing, from the radical innovations to the evolutionary dead ends. Featuring typefaces, technologies, and individuals that mark the computational timeline and its varied branches. With an in-class exercise exploring different ways to create letters in modular grids made of real-world elements (LED tubes, pixels, weaving, embroidery/cross stitch, …)
  • Week 5: {Arabic} Computed Language - Lecture sharing research that surveys language developments notable within the history of computing with the Arabic language, highlighting the important innovations missed by those of us outside the particular fields of expertise. With an in-class exercise that takes the modular letters from the previous class into a computational system that allows you to write with those letters.
  • Week 6: {Alternative} Computed Language - Participants share their own research highlighting a typographic computational history relating to their own languages to build a collective library and archive for alternative typographic histories. Introduction to the Segmented Type project, which will last till the end of the course.
  • Week 7: {Alternative} Computed Language - Continuation of participants sharing their own research highlighting a typographic computational history relating to their own languages to build a collective library and archive for alternative typographic histories.
  • Week 8: SegmentedType - In-class working day to develop your own segmented grid or system that can be used to display alternate languages.
  • Week 9: SegmentedType - In-class working day to develop and refine your own segmented grid or system that can be used to display alternate languages.
  • Week 10: Showcase - Sharing the SegmentedType projects and reflecting on the class and the discoveries made.


What is expected of me?

We expect participants to come in with a curiosity and an interest to engage with the subjects discussed and explored in class, to participate in class discussions, and contribute positively to the classroom culture.

Time & Workload
  • Commit to at least 1-3 hours per week for work related to this class outside of regularly scheduled class time. This will include exploring the in-class exercises further outside of class, diving deeper into the research, and developing their final project.
  • Take responsibility for documenting your process throughout this course. This includes experiments, research, failures, and ideas. And submitting the final documentation of the end project to be compiled into a zine by us.
What can participants expect from this class?
  • Develop basic literacy (vocabulary, precedent, practice, implications) within the domains of digital and computational typography and lettering.
  • Explore the craft of digital and computational typography and lettering.
  • Develop skills to research and find alternative typographic histories.
  • Write and adapt code, computational methods or materials to generate a system that can showcase alternative typographic forms.

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you:

  • If you are an artist or designer who is interested in computational typography
  • If you have a tech background and you’re interested in learning about typography and computational lettering
  • If you want to explore ways of using computational artifacts (digital or physical) in unconventional ways to create typographic forms.
  • If you are interested in discovering and researching alternative histories.

This class may NOT be for you:

  • If you have no interest in lettering or typography
  • If you want to learn the specifics of commercial type design

Meet the Teachers


Hind Al Saad

Hind Al Saad is a computational artist and teacher, based in Doha. She is interested in creating emergent graphical forms, both physical and digital, using procedural and analog systems, and exploring the endless ways finite rules can create infinite results.

she/her · website · twitter · instagram


Levi Hammett

Born in a cabin without electricity in the remote mountains of northern California, Levi Hammett developed a deep interest in geographic space together with the concept and process of location. Raised in a blue collar family he worked as a sign painter and carpenter before pursuing a formal education in design focusing on coding and automation. This background developed into a creative practice that uses computational processes to inform the creation of handmade design objects rooted in traditions of craft. The resulting products use ambiguity and open interpretation to critically engage users with unconventional views of spatial-cultural phenomena. His design work includes a series of hand-made Islamic carpets that explore the urban culture of the Arabian Peninsula, a kinetic installation using 40 printers suspended from the ceiling outputting procedurally generated visual content, and an interactive audio/visual installation for the World War II Normandy Visitors Center in France. His work has been acquired by a number of individuals and institutions, published in print and online collections, distributed as digital applications, and exhibited in Asia, Europe, the Middle-East, South America, and the United States. Levi Hammett received his MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006.

he/him · website · instagram


Zainab Aliyu

Zainab "Zai'' Aliyu is a Nigerian-American artist and cultural worker living in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn, NY). Her work contextualizes the cybernetic and temporal entanglement embedded within societal dynamics to understand how all socio-technological systems of control are interconnected, and how we are all materially implicated through time. She draws upon her body as a corporeal archive and site of ancestral memory to craft counter-narratives through sculpture, video, installation, built virtual environments, printed matter, archives, and community-participatory (un)learning. Zai is currently a co-director of the School for Poetic Computation, design director for the African Film Festival at the Film at Lincoln Center in NYC and a 2023-24 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow. Her work has been shown at Film at Lincoln Center (NYC), Museum of Modern Art Library (NYC), Miller ICA (Pittsburgh), the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (Hong Kong), Casa do Povo (São Paulo, Brazil), Aktuelle Architektur der Kulturimages (Murcia, Spain), Pocoapoco (Oaxaca, Mexico) among others.

she/her · website · twitter · instagram

How do I apply?

Apply Now

Applications open until Applications closed on April 30, 2023.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on May 8, 2023. Please email us at with any questions you have.

How much does it cost to attend?

For 10 classes, it costs $1200 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Applicant FAQ

For more information about what we look for in applicants, scholarships, and other frequently asked questions, please visit our applicant FAQ.

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