What Is Foundational Calligraphy?

Calligraphy artist Leo Calderón introduces us to Edward Johnston’s type, a writing style that combines aesthetics and functionality

Foundational calligraphy was created at the beginning of the 20th century by Edward Johnston, who is regarded as the father of modern calligraphy. His style has become an essential tool for different purposes, from everyday products to new typefaces.

Leo Calderón (@leocalderondesign) is a graphic designer who specializes in typography, calligraphy, and signage. His experience includes work with world-renowned companies, such as Heineken, Visa, and Ralph Lauren. He guides us through Johnston’s story and his contribution to calligraphy.

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Edward Johnston

Who was Edward Johnston?

He was a British calligrapher who dedicated his whole life to creating and teaching typography. His most recognized work is the typeface for the London Underground, and its logo, known as ‘roundel’.

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London Underground Logo

Typographic research

Johnston’s work is regarded as the foundation of modern typography and calligraphy. We particularly appreciate his attention to legibility, as achieved by the structure and body of the letters. Johnston’s objective was to create a visual system of communication and was meticulous in his research for his Underground project.

Find out more about the map, the logo, the typeface of the London Underground, or Johnston typeface in the video below:

Characteristics of foundational typography

Johnston called his calligraphy ‘foundational’ because he designed it to be a foundation for teaching and learning. Once foundational calligraphy is mastered, we can naturally progress to more complex styles, such as Carolingian, Uncial or Gothic calligraphy.

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Comparison of styles in Johnston’s typeface

Its basic features are:

- Natural structure
- Geometric shapes
- Clear, simple style
- Easy application

What is foundational calligraphy used for?

If you want to perfect your calligraphy skills you must follow Johnston’s teachings and methods. This is also true if you are interested in developing lettering or other complex calligraphy projects, and even if your goal is to create your own typeface.

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Leo Calderón

If you want to know more and learn to design in this beautiful style, sign up for Leo Calderón’s course Introduction to Foundational Calligraphy.

You may be interested in:

- Adobe Illustrator for Typography, Lettering, and Calligraphy a course by Andrés Ochoa.
- The Golden Secrets of Lettering a course by Martina Flor.
- Digital Reinterpretation of Classic Typography a course by Oscar Guerrero Cañizares.


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