Calligraphy & Design Public Lecture in Halifax

Top image: Kevin King conducting the two-day Roman Capitals Calligraphy Workshop at the Halifax Central Public Library.

Toronto-based type designer and calligrapher Kevin King hosted a lecture and hands-on calligraphy workshop for 150+ attendees on March 10 at the Halifax Central Library. This event was sponsored by RGD as part of our new local event funding initiative.


For over 2,000 years, calligraphy has been the source of inspired letter design in the West. Kevin King took the audience on a journey through the rich history of calligraphic forms and demonstrated its often very surprising role in contemporary design.


Type designer Rod McDonald RGD recognizes the importance of the history of calligraphy and how it informs modern design: “Calligraphy is the foundation upon which typography was built. Knowing the history, and principals, of calligraphy automatically gives you a greater understanding of typography.”


In this workshop, Kevin showed the type of writing instruments associated with the drawing of the historical variations of Latin letters to arrive at our modern-day serifs. Visual and haptic insight into hand lettering was provided by giving the audience a chance to touch and see writing instruments during the presentation including a wood inscription of a roman capital next to the brush calligraphy of the same letter.


Roman capital “R” inscription in wood by Kevin King.


As these were passed around, Kevin demonstrated different techniques using a uniquely improvised writing instrument devised by binding a group of markers together and drawing on a white board. In this way, Kevin revealed his skill and mastery of calligraphy to show how stroke weights and variations in letterforms were achieved with a reed, quill or brush when held at different angles.


He showed how the flat bristle brush can be set and prepared for use with natural bar soap. He demonstrated each letter of the Roman Capital alphabet and a variation of a lowercase style as an accompaniment to them. In addition, Kevin demonstrated these techniques with brush and hand ground ink on newsprint so participants could see the pressure variations and finger manipulations necessary to perfect basic stroke types.


Kevin inspired the audience to ask questions about the Canadian type design industry, since his talk demonstrated how his use of calligraphy informed and influenced logos and identities he produced for clients.


Allowing the audience to watch how calligraphy performs showed how opportunities open up in type design using modern digital tools on the computer. The culmination of this marvellous evening was a lively discussion with the truly engaged and diverse audience.


Kevin King presenting the Phoenician Alphabet in Paul O’Reagan Hall, Halifax Central Public Library (photo by Alex Tapia)


Kevin divides his time between creating typefaces for Canada Type and working as a designer / typographer at Coach House Press. He also conducts workshops on lettering and calligraphy.


"Calligraphy is the source of the visual representation of our alphabet," explains Kevin. "As users of typefaces, having a deeper knowledge of the roots of calligraphic processes throughout history will allow us to understand where our typographic systems have come from, and give us the tools to imagine how we can push typography forward in the future."

For more on RGD's Local Event Funding initiative, visit