Saturday, 6 June 2009


Dear dispatched,

this will be my last post on Dispatches from Reading for the very simple reason that I’m not in Reading anymore. In fact, I’m not even in Europe: as I write this I’m sitting on the Caltrain from Sunnyvale to San Francisco, in California, United States, headed for WWDC at the Moscone center. I arrived last saturday to my new home in Cupertino and I’ll be here until November to intern as a type designer in the Type group (Frameworks department) at Apple.

the book of Enquire

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, my colleagues of the 2009 MATD class (of which I am still part, make no mistake) are working their butts off to finish their practical projects (typefaces) for the submission deadline of the 6th of July, and after that the deadlines for the reflection on practice, the workfile and, lastly, the final dissertation submission on the 17th of September. My workfile is done but my practical project is far from it and I’ll be putting the “final” touches to it from here. I will also write my dissertation over the summer, I hope to make it in time for the deadline. I did most of my research already and I have my room here in Cupertino full of books and articles. I have very good material on my hands and I hope to do it justice by not rushing my writing too much.

Back to Reading: the weeks before leaving the UK have been very intense. We had a lot of visitors to the department, lectures, reviews etc. We did the usual MATD trip to the Low Countries and it was really a blast meeting one to one with all these typographic monuments (just a sample: Robert Granjon’s Ascendonica italic original punches! Nikolas Kis’ Armenian and Georgian types, with handwritten notes on top! Original drawings from many typefaces by Jan van Krimpen, Gerard Unger, Bram de Does!). We also had dinner at Thomas Milo’s place in Amsterdam and at Gerard and Marian (and Juanita) Unger’s place in Bossum, great food, great people!

And of course I had a lot of goodbyes to say. I will miss the walks by the Thames, the ales, the grill parties, the easy access to so many awesome typographic resources in the department and beyond, but most of all I will miss the people from all over the world with whom I shared this crazy ride. Thank you, guys and girls!

I will do my best here, and I will be in good company: there’s more than 400 other interns this summer working on all sorts of interesting stuff from the iPhone to OS X to UI design to accounting & finance to the iTunes store, etc.

To wrap up this post: thanks for following along these Dispatches from Reading, I will keep people posted with a new series of Dispatches from Cupertino – I don’t know yet in which form or language.

I also look forward to check out the work of next year’s MATD students, and be sure to drop me a line when our own work will be up on sometime in July, I would really appreciate to have your feedback on my Enquire family.


Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Dear dispatched, the independent training type designer refuses to die! Reading has been beautiful in the past two months. I indulged with long walks by the Thames and generous grilling in various friend’s houses, but mostly I’ve been bent on my laptop drawing letters for my typeface, either at the department (where I can print!) or at home in the cave:

cave’s cave

I’m still cooking every now and then, but mostly I’m either panicking or procrastinating because of the impending deadline for our practical project. My brief is a bit ambitious and I’m not sure I can pull it off, but I decided to come to terms with the fact that whatever I come up with will never be good enough for my standards: it’s a student project, I’m OK with that.

Today we have Fred Smeijers giving some feedback on our projects, on thursday there’s a lecture from Matthew Carter in London at the St Bride Library, and next week we’re all going to the Netherlands for the usual MATD trip. We’re busy!

Meanwhile, here’s a rose from the front yard in my apartment in Foxhill road:

Foxhill rose

Friday, 27 March 2009

Marching On

Second term is over, so today I’ll move back to Italy for three weeks of work and research for the dissertation. Yeah, and the Easter break, although it won’t be much of a break because of the aforementioned things, of course.

So where did the past month go, anyway? I left you at the end of February and it was all fuzzy. March wasn’t much better, and I anticipate April and May to be even worse (or better, depending on the way you look at it). But let’s make a brief recap.

Tarte du Citron

I started the month with arguably one of the best moments in Reading so far – at least for me. As you probably know by now I have a very keen interest in Renaissance typography, and in particular on the types cut for Aldo Manuzio by Francesco Griffo da Bologna. One of my classmates, Eben Sorkin, is also doing some research on Reinassance typefaces, and while talking about it after class with James Mosley he mentioned the British Library had not one, but four copies of the De Aetna printed by Aldus in 1496. James kindly agreed to visit the British Library with us to make a comparison of the four copies, so we had a wonderful day at the beginning of March. Not only we saw the stuff, but we also got to try the now famous pastries of the Belle Époque on Newington Green. I’m not going to embarass James any further in this post, but I just wanted to thank him (and Gillian, of course!) once again for the amazing day. To top it off, we ended up in a very nice japanese restaurant. Needless to say, I was more than happy:

me happy

Before going I also did a little bit of an excercise with Eben: we met at the department with some pictures I shot of the copy of the De Aetna that’s in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, and started redrawing some of the glyphs. We didn’t have any sort of revival in mind, we just wanted to get a better feel for what we were going to see at the British Library. Here are some of my sketches, which I digitised while discussing the shapes with Eben to see if I understood them correctly:

my sketches for the De Aetna roman

my digitised drawings from the De Aetna roman

All that was followed by the four days in the Netherlands for the Robothon conference. I’m not going to write much about it because other people have done so much better (read accounts by Reading graduates Rob Keller and Dan Reynolds or view the presentations from the conference). Den Haag was amazing and Robothon even more so. I’m looking forward to go back there on our MATD trip to the low countries, towards the end of May. Hot on the heels of Robothon we had a visit to the department by Tobias Frere-Jones, pictured here by Claus giving some feedback my practical project:

Tobias Frere-Jones

(The thing he holds in his hands is an iRex Iliad, which I have here with me in Reading so I could test typefaces on).

We also had some more visits from Gerard Unger, two workshops with Victor Gaultney (one about Cyrillic and the other about italic), another workshop with Fiona about south indian scripts and a slew of “interim reviews of practical work” – which are essentially crit sessions on our typefaces – with Gerry. Meanwhile spring came early to Reading and I started going for long walks across the town, and especially by the Thames. As much as I used to complain about the city during winter, I have to say Reading now looks really good, and I think it’s only going to get better now that I know all the nice parks around the town! Two weeks ago I also had a visit from some friends from Italy, who fed me like I was in some sort of exile. We had a lovely time!

Narri in Reading

So that’s it, I really need to go back and pack my stuff now!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


And I thought the essay deadline made me busy!

White Reading

February blazed by like it almost never happened: first the country was stopped because of the snow then we had two Gerard Unger visits – critiquing our designs and lecturing on his own work and on Excoffon (yay!) and Dwiggins (double yay!), Victor Gaultney – on his work on multi-script type design and cyrillics in particular, Per Mollerup – on signage and wayshowing, John Hudson – doing a workshop on how to harmonise invented shapes with existing designs, Fiona Ross – doing her usual workshops, this time on South Indian scripts, and finally a delegation from the ESAD school in Amiens, including Sébastien Morlighem, Alice Walter (the I love Banco girl!), Patrick Doan, Raphaël de Courville, etc.

Meanwhile I kept on working on my typeface project: I’m pretty much settled with my lowercase sans & serif and I’m working on my uppercases at the moment (while keeping an eye on italics and possible weight expansions). Essentially we’re reaching a stage in the MA where we work on our projects most of the time, receive crits from Gerry, Gerard, Victor or other visitors, then keep working some more, rinse, repeat… It’s demanding work, but it’s why I’m here and I’m loving it!

Yesterday we also had the first ‘feedback’ session on our essays. I put the quotes because Gerry tried a new method with us this year, having us read, correct and mark the essay of one of our classmates. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. Tomorrow or next week we should receive a formal feedback with marks and feedback from our supervisors.

Oh, and next week most of us will be in Den Haag, for Robothon 2009. I’m looking forward to meet even more people!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Back Again

Cotty in London

I came back to Reading on the 1st (!) of January with Caterina, my younger sister – above – and spent three or four days doing sightseeing with her in London and then getting back cracking on my essay. It’s been quite challenging to write again: it turns out all the materials I gathered during the break were far too many for my essay and I don’t think I summarised them properly in the end. But still, after several all-nighters (!) and rampant procrastination the deadline came this monday and I finally got some proper sleep. This is the scenario the afternoon before the deadline:

de profundis

I must say one of the constants of the past month or so has been… food, of all things: of course I expected to have a lot of good food during the break, but when I got back, partly through my sister, I got motivated and started cooking like crazy. I now have tortelloni di spinaci, polpette di maiale e manzo con purè, torta di ricotta, gnocchi di ricotta, gnocchi di patate, ragù di manzo, polenta and zuppa di legumi under my belt. I need to explore a little bit more into the desserts and maybe get some better equipment (like a pasta flattening machine!) or ingredients, but I’m definitely having a good time!


Ah, some bits I forgot to mention from before the break: I managed to do some letterpress printing with the department’s equipment and some bookbinding during to Paula Barahona’s informal friday workshops (thanks, Paula!).

Anyway, back to the course: after the break and the essay, lectures resumed as usual. We had Adam Twardoch visiting for a FontLab/type technologies workshop, which also included a short visit by Marina Chaccur who was on holidays in Europe and came over to Reading. This week, after a short visit by Victor Gaultney we all rushed back to work on our typefaces as we had Gerry’s review on thursday. It went OK, but we stll have a lot of work ahead of us.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009



This is a silly little project I put together last April and never got around to publish because of… lack of a logo. I’ve been making sketches every now and then but nothing really worked for me until this weekend when I hit something I was finally satisfied with, which you see above.

So what is abtee, anyway? I have been using Spreadshirt for a couple of years now to produce the odd t-shirt every now and then, but nothing really serious. Then one day I was fiddling with the weights of a typeface I was designing and it occurred to me that doing a t-shirt for each letter of the alphabet would have been a nightmare with warehousing, managing supplies, etc. and then I was reminded of Spreadshirt. So I talked about it over lunch with my family and we agreed the idea was silly. But!

The name abtee is even sillier: a-bi-ti means “clothing” in Italian (but to get there you have to pronounce it half in Italian and half in English). One could say it rhymes like a-b-c, which makes it appropriate for what we’re trying to do. Anyway, I’ve been sitting on this idea for far too long so there it is!

Monday, 22 December 2008


Just a quick post to point to my Flickr space, which is by far the resource I’m updating the most these days. I’m posting there all sorts of stuff, from sketches to pictures from Michael Twyman’s wonderful monday lectures/exhibitions. As you’ll quickly notice I’m a really bad photographer but I think taking pictures is a good way to document what’s going on at the department, sometimes even better than words alone. Enjoy!