Research:Irish Gaelic type

The history of typography, printing and reading are all linked; what else can you find out about this history that you find interesting? Perhaps you are interested in typefaces a particular era, form of typography or particular area of reading. It might be a wide subject such as the history of the alphabet, or something very specific such as the use of typography in Film Noir, comics or American crime novels.

Undertake some secondary research to find out more, taking notes along the way and collecting examples for your visual diary.

I have had to change the title of this page already as I am learning the difference between Uncial and Celtic. According to Wikipedia most Gaelic typefaces are not Uncials but Insular(1).

Insular script was a medieval script system invented in Ireland(2)

I am interested in Gaelic typefaces. I really like the old gaelic letters which have been replaced by modern ones now.

However there seems to be confusion about this fact in the literature as I read in the following paper:

There are a number of substyles of Gaelic fonts: uncial or half-uncial or majuscule (rounded) and minuscule (angular) are the main ones.(3)

Definition of the adjective Uncial: designating, written in, or pertaining to a form of majuscule writing having a curved or roundedshape and used chiefly in Greek and Latin manuscripts from about the 3rd to the 9thcentury a.d.(4)

My first step was to send the following message to the Print Museum in Dublin to try to get some clarity from the experts:


I would be very grateful if you could recommend some research sources for a study I am undertaking of the Irish language topography. I am a student at the Open College of the Arts studying for a BA(Hons) in Photography but as part of my course I have taken a module on Graphic design.

I visited your museum in the Summer and very much enjoyed it. I was fascinated by the gaelic type. Since I am old enough to have used the old Irish script in School I would be interested to do some research on it.

Irish is a Celtic language as are Scots Gaelic, Welsh and Manx.  It seems to have come to Ireland about 2,500 years ago although the exact time is a little hazy. There were, apparently other languages spoken in Ireland before its arrival. Old Irish was first written in the Roman alphabet before the beginning of the 7th century which makes Irish the oldest written vernacular language north of the Alps.   …… many manuscripts … survive from the Middle Irish era.(5)

From the middle of the 12th Century Middle Irish evolved into Modern Irish.

The first Gaelic typeface was designed in 1571. It was to print a catechism commissioned by Elizabeth I. This typeface was used in printing until the middle of the 20th century.(5). I believe it was stopped because of the cost of making typewriters specially for the Irish market. When only letterpress printing was used it made little difference as letters had to be cast anyway so whether it was English or Gaelic type mattered little.

If we stay with the uncial theory, Gaelic script is a particular way of writing the Latin script. The letters lean from top left to bottom right. There are 18 letters in the Gaelic alphabet(6):


This is how I learned to write in Gaelic. Then there is a set of lenited letters, meaning the ‘b’ is pronounced ‘v’ e.g bi me is pronounced ‘vi may’


These dots on these consonants are called “Builte” in gaelic.

In addition most vowels have acute accents.

I have downloaded a couple of ‘gaelic’ fonts from FreeFont to see how they compare with my memory of writing gaelic script.

Here is a poem I learned as a child written how I would have learned it. I have used the font I downloaded “Kells” to give the translation. Some of the letters remain the same for example the “d” but others have changed totally like the “s”.

I hope to visit the Print Museum again when next in Dublin and look at the book they recommended.


1.Wikipedia. 2017. Gaelic type – Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 January 2017].

2.Wikipedia. 2017. Insular script – Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 January 2017].

3.Gaelic fonts for MS Word – basic information and what’s available[ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 January 2017]. 2017. Uncial | Define Uncial at [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 January 2017].

5. Background on the Irish Language « Údarás na Gaeltachta. 2017. Background on the Irish Language « Údarás na Gaeltachta. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 02 February 2017].

6.Irish uncial alphabet. 2017. Irish uncial alphabet. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 January 2017].

Exercise: Hierarchy

Using about 500 words of Lorum Ipsum (or other dummy text) you are going to design three different pages:

  • • an interview with a TV actor in a listings magazine entitled: Will Sheila tell the naked truth?
  • • a review of a new piece of hardware or software in a specialist computer magazine
  • • a book review in a newspaper’s weekend edition.

Research these types of publications and identify three different combinations of typefaces appropriate for each publication. 

Now you need to invent headings and subheadings for your articles. Set these combinations so that your header is above 12pt in size, your body text is 12pt or below and subheadings sit in between in your hierarchy.

You will need to create some text to allow you to show your combinations in action. Use your text to describe your decision making process, why you think the combination works and what your intentions were.

  1. I looked up some listing magazines – we do not get any of these as we do not watch a lot of television. When we do we watch the news and the occasional documentary. The first interview I found on a magazine called “BUZZ”

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-09-29-33The heading was in Franklin Gothic pt size 36. The body of the text was Helvetica Neue 14pt with the questions in the same font but Bold. Because this is online the pt size used is bigger than it would be in an equivalent printed magazine. Sans serif also reads very easily online. Both heading and body text are clean and simple.

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-10-02-55The next magazine I looked at was called, appropriately “Interview”. I loved the cover. The online interview was in Georgia 14 both questions and    answers, The questions were in Upper Case.

I loved the typeface of the Title but could not figure out what it was.




I am sure that the printed version would use different body font.

Some of the other magazines I could not work out what fonts were being used. One about Reggae interviews was impossible to read. I also looked at an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker in Red. I have no idea who she is (this is my problem I never know who these people are). But I do know this magazine as my daughter reads it.It was easy to read but an unusual way of doing an interview.

Sarah Jessica Parker is trying to resist sending an email. It’s a reminder to her husband, Matthew Broderick, to make sure a school form has been signed and returned, and that their son James Wilkie needs to clear out his backpack tomorrow, as he does every Wednesday.

“There’s a file under his desk and all his papers from the week – whether it’s Latin or history – have to go in.”

There are no questions and Answers it is a story format. I like it.

There are many online sources about pairing fonts.

  • this shows combinations of fonts for different publications. Most are not free fonts but some are.
  • this one is for InDesign so should prove useful
  • another set of combinations
  • and yet another set of combinations

I have printed the first task headline and a little text with a number of heading/body text combinations. I’ve pasted these into my learning log. With the fonts that I have available I like the following combinations:

  • Garamond/Futura
  • Myriad/Minion

I then tried out a number of layouts in my learning log. I had some images of my lovely daughter and decided to use one or two of these. I find my two final layouts dull but then I find most of the women’s magazines layouts, which I looked at, really dull.




2. A single screen snap from the hundreds of typography pairings for technical magazines on this site.


I made some sketches in my log book:

I then researched technical backgrounds and found amazing images on this site. But these all looked a little too advanced for my present Illustrator skills. I used this site for a very simple background which showed me how to create a Mesh gradient.


I then added a cloud. I first made the colour pale blue but finally decided white was better.

Using my log book sketch  for ideas I added a mobile phone, a laptop, an envelope as the software was a cloud storage software. I then added rectangles into which I would put the text. I decided to use Myriad in both headlines and text as I find it very clean and readable. I did all of these steps in different layers as the whole was quite complicated. I sent it to a couple of friends for comment. I have not used all the 500 words as I felt that this would probably be a two page spread and the rest of the text could be used.

Basic RGB



I think the poster is great – love the central cloud and mauve is sufficiently soft yet bold ( sounds bonkers), but also one can read the text in white against it.
I suppose my boy comment would be whether there needed to be a link between the images ( eg mobile) and text. Would any text be an explanation of the object illustrated within the context of the whole concept? Does that make sense? Tricky, as text is gobbledygook.
It is, however, hugely eye-catching with relevant central motif.
But what do I know about these things!

3. The final task is to make a layout for a book review. I found this the simplest. I love books and I absolutely adore the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adechi. I decided to do a review for Half of a Yellow Sun.

I made a few layout mock-ups in my log book:

I used the tried and tested Baskerville at 36pt for the titles. I used Minion Pro for the BOOK REVIEW title and for the body text at 10pt. This still did not allow me to fit all 500 words into the space. So I reduced the tracking to -25. I am not sure if this reduced the readability beyond tolerable. I got most of the 500 words in but not all. I like the two serifs for a book review. I think it is comfortable to read. I wanted to break up the paragraphs with the drop caps. I only used two lines for the Drop caps.


Exercise: Lorum Ipsum

Now select one of the designs from your research that you like and think works. Using the dummy text, try and copy the layout and design as closely as possible. You will need to measure the margins and column widths. If you don’t have the exact typeface get as near as you can. If you are copying a page that includes photographs just leave 10% tinted boxes to indicate their position.

Is the type serif or sans serif? Is the text set ragged or justified? Are there spaces after paragraphs or are new paragraphs indented? How many columns are there to a page?

What happens when you alter the fonts, change the alignment, adjust the leading or tracking?

Now try another, different publication from your collection.

I looked at a number of publications and answered the questions above as best I could. The most difficult for me is to identify the fonts used.

Here are my notes in my learning log.


I asked my husband which article he found easiest to read. He had no doubt it was Astronomy Ireland. Interestingly it had sans serif in both headline and body text.


I looked at all the characteristics of the letters and then looked up What it gave me was Fedra Sans thin Display Codensed which seemed correct based on the following letters which I copied and pasted into Photoshop.


This font does not seem to be available either to download or buy. I thought Tahoma was near it and Ariel nearer. I did five or six copies of the text using either Tahoma or Ariel and altering the leading and tracking. I seemed to have overwritten 3….

Font used pt size leading tracking
1 Tahoma 12 18pt 0
2 Tahoma 12 14pt (-10)
4 Tahoma 9 14pt (-10)
5 Tahoma 9 14pt 0
6 Ariel 9 14pt 0
7 Ariel 10 14pt 0

The last version seemed to fit the closest although it is not very close. I put them all into my learning log.


For my second task I chose the Independent article as I wanted to try a newspaper story.


I now tried to identify the font using










It came up with the following: Monotype Bodoni which looks very similar













I tried Bodoni.

  • First thing I learned was the paragraphs were justified with the last line aligned left. I had not noticed this..
  • The paragraphs were indented
  • headline is similar to American typewriter but I could not identify it despite the “R” being so distinctive. American Typewriter has a similar “R”The point size seems to be 40
  • the subheading looked like Ariel
  • for the body text BodoniI used 9pt.
  • the leading seems to be 9pt
  • tracking looks good at 10





Exercise: If the face fits

Create your own sample book of typefaces on your computer that you can refer to.Organise them into:

  • • Serif for continuous text; readable at small sizes and those suitable for headings.
  • • San-serif for continuous text; readable at small sizes and for headings.
  • • Script fonts that look handwritten with a pen or brush.
  • • Decorative fonts only suitable for headings or ‘fun’ uses.
  • • Fixed width, techno and pixel fonts for use on the web or to give a computer appearance.

Identify which typefaces have bold, italic, black or light fonts. 

Now identify which fonts you might use in each of the following commissions:

  • A short story in a woman’s magazine entitled “I thought I loved him; now I’m not so sure”. The story is 1300 words long so you will need to identify a text font and a headline font.
  • An advertisement in a parish magazine asking for more helpers on the flower rota. The finished size is A6 landscape and the text reads: “Can you add that important artistic flourish to our church? We desperately need more volunteers to join the flower rota. If you can help or would like more information please contact Jennie”
  • A poster to advertise an after-school club for boys aged 13 – 14. The poster will be A3 size and the copy reads: “Bored? Feeling got at? Nowhere to go? Then why not come and join us on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school in the Old Gym. We’ve got football, ping pong, table soccer, computers, Karate, cooking and lots more. All free just come along.”
  • Your friends’ engagement party. They want a flyer A5 size to send to their friends as if advertising a club night. The copy reads: “Mandy and Josh are finally going to do it…well almost!!!!! Come and join them on Friday 24 March from 8pm at the Golden Calf to celebrate their long awaited engagement… and yes lots of presents would be gratefully received particularly if we can drink them!!!!!

Then have a go at mocking up each of these. Try different fonts to see how each changes the feel of the text and make notes in your learning log about which works best and why.

The first thing I discovered is that I have something called Font Book on my MAC where all the fonts are stored. I researched how I could  use this application to organise my sample book.

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-10-32-18There are many available software applications for organising fonts. Since I am not planning to be a graphic designer I decided to use the Font Book provided on my MAC.






I created my own collection of serif fonts. Unfortunately I learned that one cannot delete a collection(incorrectly set up) – just disable it – weird…. I also failed to make a ‘smart collection’ as I did not know the correct terminology for how to limit what would go into this collection….

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-11-06-56I found a list of Fonts supplied with MAC OS X in Wikipedia. I found this could be sorted into subtypes e.g. Sans serif. So I did this sort. Then I copied and pasted the result into EXCEL. I added a column for the Appearance for which I used FontBook.

Version 1


I then rationalised this by creating shortcuts for the classification subtypes (B for Bold etc.). I ordered the different classifications (serif, sans- serif etc.) into sub classifications using this sites’ classification system which seemed to me to be logical. But I did run into limitations. Many of my FontBook typefaces seem to fall into odd sub categories. I used Wikipedia’s classification in some cases. Not sure if this is “Beginners License”…..

Version 2


I will add to this list as I add more typefaces to my computer.

Now identify which fonts you might use in each of the following commissions:

  • 1. A short story in a woman’s magazine entitled “I thought I loved him; now I’m not so sure”. The story is 1300 words long so you will need to identify a text font and a headline font.

Here is a crash course in combining typefaces.

The principal concerns when combining typefaces are the following:

  • contrast (not too similar and not to drastically different)
  • weight (combing typefaces of different weights)
  • style and decoration (normally regular or italic are used to create style. Decoration is created by drop shadows)
  •  scale and hierarchy (e.g headings should be bigger than sub headings and body typefaces)
  • classification (use different classifications e.g. serif with sans serif)
  • structure (structures should be either VERY similar of very different)
  • colour & texture (for contrast in similar typefaces use colour or texture)
  • extreme contrast (for display or script typefaces use extreme contrast)
  • mood (choose a typeface that reflects the mood of what you are designing e.g serious, fun)

Another paper I read with the title “Setting body text for comfortable reading” says:

The body text is most important for ease of reading. We only notice if it is wrong and should be unnoticeable if it is correct.

The paper suggests Caslon, Jenson, Chronicle, Miller, Palatino, Garmond and Goudy are easy to read. While Didot and Bodoni  are not because they are not intended to be read at small point sizes. He suggests that body text sizes can range from 9pt to even 12pt. 

So I set up four different pages in Word:





My husband looked at these and decided that Gill Sans and Caslon was the easiest and best combination to fulfil the above criteria. So I set this up in InDesign. I have used PageMaker many years ago so the flowing text and bleeding came back to me….

Here is the final result:

i-though-i-loved-him i-though-i-loved-him2




I am now going to write a best selling version of Fifty-one Shades of Grey……


Before starting the next part of this exercise I wanted to research graphic designers who worked especially with typography. I have added these to my page on graphic designers.

With my head exploding from the work of these contemporary designers I set about trying to create some meaningful designs…

I did some sketches, in my log book, for all three assignment tasks. Nothing really pleased me so I went to Illustrator and Photoshop to see if I could get inspired – not really. Back to the sketch book and I picked some ideas rather than the totality of any one sketch.

Below are my sketches in my log book.







1. An advertisement in a parish magazine asking for more helpers on the flower rota. The finished size is A6 landscape and the text reads: “Can you add that important artistic flourish to our church? We desperately need more volunteers to join the flower rota. If you can help or would like more information please contact Jennie”

I came up with two designs.

flower-rota_smThis one my husband declared illegible and he totally missed my artistic efforts of tucking some of the type behind the flower! Since the ad would not be focused on anyone like him, as he would not be helping with any church flower rotas, I tried to defend the work. But in the end I had to agree. The amaryllis (my own image) was too strong. The type chosen was not legible enough.

For my second attempt I went for a walk and picked some wild flowers. I typed the words “artistic flourish” in script on a piece of white paper, reduced the opacity, and added the flower buds and grass to partially cover the words. I had seen a young female designer do something like this (albeit with a lot more skill) online. I then photographed it and made an artistic(ish) brush stroke around it in Photoshop. I picked the colour of the background and increased the canvas size . I then imported this into Illustrator and added the remainder of the text. I think it is wishy washy but maybe that is what might attract the people who would be offering to arrange the church flowers….


2. A poster to advertise an after-school club for boys aged 13 – 14. The poster will be A3 size and the copy reads: “Bored? Feeling got at? Nowhere to go? Then why not come and join us on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school in the Old Gym. We’ve got football, ping pong, table soccer, computers, Karate, cooking and lots more. All free just come along.”

This was much more my style. I liked the idea of a bold background colour and some interesting typefaces. I also wanted to play with some effects like warp in Illustrator. I hope I have not overdone it. The main words are in Stencil Std Bold. Helvetica for the the request to join the club and graffiti or helvetica for the activities.

bored_big_sm3. Your friends’ engagement party. They want a flyer A5 size to send to their friends as if advertising a club night. The copy reads: “Mandy and Josh are finally going to do it…well almost!!!!! Come and join them on Friday 24 March from 8pm at the Golden Calf to celebrate their long awaited engagement… and yes lots of presents would be gratefully received particularly if we can drink them!!!!!

For this there was three pieces of important information. Whose party was it, what date and time and where it was to be held. I wanted to improve my illustrator skills and I liked the idea of two jig saw pieces not quite fitting because of the text ” well almost”. Creating the two jigsaw pieces was a marathon learning curve and I did not finish the tutorial to achieve the beautiful pieces being illustrated. However I was happy to have learned a little about creating a 3D effect, rounding the corners and moving anchor points.

The design I came up with is a simple clean one which I would like myself.I would hate hearts or rings or guys down on one knee. I tried many fonts before I settled on Apple Chancery for the heading and top information, Avenir Next for the main body of information which I felt had to be very clear and Lucida handwriting Italic for the post-it. I hate the idea of asking people for presents so I put it in as an after thought yellow post-it. I think it would be cheap to print with only three colours.






Research: Vernacular Typography

Vernacular typography can be very well crafted but it can also be crudely created signs done in a hurry. Either way it is using typography and lettering to create visual communications. Take a look around you and identify some vernacular typography that you find interesting. Document it through drawing, photography or by collecting examples. Remember to ask permission if you are photographing inside train stations, markets, shops, museums or shopping centres for example. Getting permission is usually straightforward, especially when people know you are working on a student project. In your learning log note down why you selected the examples you did.

I love the work of Ed Fella about whom I knew nothing. Even his title “King of Zing” is great. (1) Born to a working class family he graduated from college and went straight to work. He worked for thirty years as a graphic designer. Then at 47 he went back to college to get his Masters. This, apparently did not change his style but confirmed his beliefs. He is a lecturer in Californian Institute of Arts. I love this man…

His photographs of ‘vernacular’ signs are brilliant. I wish I could return to Africa to make some images of the great signs I saw there. His interest in these signs and notices is like my own in graffiti and signs.

The following site is really interesting:

This website seeks to collect and document examples of these vanishing symbols of art and culture.

I have always made images of signs I found interesting. I was unaware of the genre title as “Vernacular Typography”. In the final image of the Google screen snap for “Vernacular Tyography” I do not think most of these are truly vernacular. For me vernacular is either hand drawn, hand painted, hand sewn or in a hand drawn style.

These are some images I made in Chile which I think fit into this category:

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and these are some images I made in India.

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Finally while I was in Aix yesterday I thought I would be able to spot some real vernacular signs. This was not the case so these are some images from various places in France

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Finally I made a screen snap of a google search under vernacular typography













  1. . 2017. . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2017]

Exercise: A Typographic jigsaw puzzle

On the facing page the typeface Baskerville has been deconstructed so it only contains the strokes, serifs and bowls that are common to all the letterforms. Your task is to try and put it all back together again to read

the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

This is a pangram containing all the letters of the alphabet. It is all in lowercase.

Start by drawing your baseline, determine the x height by identifying a whole letter such as x, e or n and draw your median line. This should provide a good starting point to try and piece together all the other elements. Remember that some parts will be used more than once, for example the same stem will be used in several letters. Try and account for all the parts without leaving any stray serifs behind.

step 1

These were my utensils for the job. Baking paper to trace, a sharp pencil, a nail scissors, because it was curved, UHU and the page from my notes.

step 2





Then I printed out the text in large point size so that I could see all the serif details.

step 3
step 3


I used the baking paper to trace the shapes and started the jigsaw.




step 4
step 4

Until the whole thing almost came together. I could not fit the “X” of fox to the slanted pieces that were given.I also found that the teardrop of the “r” was not in fact a teardrop…


But this is what I managed.



Having spent some time looking closely at typefaces, has your appreciation of them increased? If so in any particular aspect? Do you think that understanding more about how typefaces are constructed will be useful to you in future?

My appreciation has totally changed. I had never really looked that closely at fonts. I was broadly aware of the difference between serif and sans serif and of some of the more extreme typefaces. One thing I really learned is that it is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between different designers’ reworking of some of the typefaces. I also appreciate much more the work of typographic designers. One needs a great deal of skill and patience.







Project: The Anatomy of a Typeface

  1. The alphabet is only part of a typeface that contains lots of different characters such as numbers, punctuation, mathematical and monetary symbols and ligatures. Ligatures are where two letters are combined together to make printing easier. Explore you computer keyboard to find some of the other characters. You will need to use your shift, alt and cntrl keys.
  2. Choose a magazine, for example the Big Issue or Heat, and look at the main typefaces they use for the body text and headlines. Go to and use the programme to identify the fonts. Look at the ranges of typefaces all around you and try to identify their distinguishing characteristics. Make notes in your learning log.

Below is a table I created from my computer keyboard.

§ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 =
¡ # ¢ § ª º
q w e r t y u i o p [ ]
œ ´® ¥ ¨ π
a s d f g h j k l ; \
å ß ƒ © ˙ ˚ ¬ æ «
` z x c v b n m , . /
ç ÷

On the first row are the numbers that appear on the first row of my computer. Under these are the option key + the displayed number, letter or symbol. I discovered that holding either ‘fn’ key or ‘cmd’ key did not change the displayed letter or number or symbol

On the second row I did the same as on row 1. The option key gave the second row results. As with the above rows ‘fn ‘ or ‘cmd’ did not give any different result.

I learned to type in Luxembourg which is a country that operates in both French and German. Hence the keyboards are Swiss/French i.e. QUERTZ instead of QUERTY. However much of my work was down in colaboration with French speakers so I was accustomed to an AZERTY keyboard. All of this confusion did nothing for my typing skills. I remain a sort of ‘semi’ touch typist!!!! But the course I took did wonders for my French bad language as the student behind me was French speaking with a short temper and a wide knowledge of expletives…. I resorted to always keeping a chart of the option key strokes above my desk!! Now I just look them up when I need them.

2. This was my first magazine.



title_1 This was the headline I chose

I analysed all the ‘characteristics’ of the font.


I thought it might be Baskerville but when I looked more closely I saw the following anomalies:

The lower tail on the “C” is tapered while on Baskerville it is a distinct serif. Then I looked for a font, in Adobe, similar to Baskerville and found that Caslon was similar. Adobe Caslon and ITC Caslon 12 has a tail as in my headline but  many of the other Caslons in the group do not have this “C”.

I then went to Identifont to see if it would help. There I discovered that some of the Baskerville’s have this capital “C”. So how I could tell the difference I did not know… The best I could do was either Caslon or Baskerville.

connaissence-des-artsI tried a second magazine in French as it had a ligated letter combination. The headline was:







I then analysed this as in the first headline and concluded it might be DIN










I typed out the headline in Word using DIN Alternative and DIN Condensed and I compared these to the headline I had.











But the apostrophe was different. So I asked Identifont. I discovered there were 427 DIN fonts so looking for this apostrophe was like looking for a needle in a haystack especially as Identifont did not have ” ‘ “…

I saw that a number of designers had worked on DIN typeface and so I put this into google and and found a list of DIN typefaces. The closest I could find was FF DIN. But it was not exactly the same as the magazine headline.