© 2004-2012, v.8,
TypeCooker is a project by
Erik van Blokland,

Assignment generator for type

TypeCooker is a tool for generating type-drawing exercises. The system creates a random list of requirements for a typeface, but with relevant criteria. Each exercise will contain different rules. That does not necessarily result in a nice, pretty or useful design, but it will always be possible to design something to fit the problem. More on TypeCooker’s requirements.

Sometimes rules are mutually exclusive: you have to prioritise. Sometimes rules are not relevant, you can ignore them. But: inconvenient rules can’t just be ignored. It is tricky to get all the parameters. It is useful to sketch fast and precise. Get to the core of the problem quickly so you see sooner whether you can continue.


A list of the parameters as they’re used by the TypeCooker, what they mean and how to use them. These will be discussed.

Using TypeCooker

Using TypeCooker is free. If you want to use it in your classes, feel free to do so. But please credit the source

About the assignment

This assignment has been used in type classes at the Royal Academy of Arts, and various workshops. The list of parameters continues to be tuned and improved.


The assignment forces students to think outside familiar typographic areas. The students see that almost all characteristics of type can be identified, isolated and changed. By focussing on these parameters, typefaces can be analysed in greater detail. This in turn allows better definition and positioning of follow up projects. Drawing type is one of the most efficient ways of teaching students to see and understand shapes.

TypeCooker assumes the student has:


It’s a good idea to start by reading through the parameters and to show some examples for each.


During a couple of lessons (for instance 4), each student generates and draws a series of TypeCooker recipes. The requirements and the drawings are kept together and can be used to see if all requirement have been addressed. Discussing the work of a couple of students as a group allows comparing of different solutions, and provides an opportunity to show alternative solutions. Students are encouraged to draw more.

After the series is over, these criteria are important in evaluating the success of this assignment for each student.

Follow up

Students often find reasons to keep drawing type after the assignment is over. Basic drawing skills have become part of the problem solving repertoire. A digitisation exercise using letter forms drawn in the TypeCooker class is a good way to proceed.