Frank E. Blokland (Leiden, 1959) studied Graphic and Typographic design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague from 1978 until 1983. As a student, he founded the working group Letters], from which have come many now well known Dutch typedesigners. Blokland’s ideas about typography are clear: ‘Typography means more than bringing order to the passing on of information; it means elevating to the sublime the mould in which the process of passing on is cast’.
During that period he worked together with the famous sculptor Frans de Wit on a number of monuments for the city of Leiden.
Also around that time Blokland started to cut letters in stone.
Blokland wrote the book for the television course Calligraphy, the art of writing in 1990; 16.000 copies of this book went over the counter. Further since the 1980s he has written some 150 articles on type design and font production for various graphic and design magazines, like Compres, Pers, PrintBuyer, Hamburger Satzspiegel and Page.
During the 1990s Blokland worked closely together with the design agency Hazelhoff de Vaal & partners on a number of logo’s and mastheads.
Blokland purchased his ﬁrst computer in 1983; it was an Acorn Electron. He programmed a simple tool for digitizing vectored letters, and for subsequently interpolating and modifying these. It was baptized ‘DrawMonkey’, which is the direct translation of the Dutch ‘Tekenaap’, i.e., a pantograph. For getting output other than on the screen, one had to be quite inventive to get printers connected, eproms installed, et cetera. Although DrawMonkey in all its simpleness functioned well (see image above), Blokland realized back then that others were better equipped for programming than he was, as he himself was more skilled in designing type. That insight formed the basis for the later cooperation with the programmers at URW(++) in Hamburg, Germany, which eventually resulted in the DTL FontMaster tools.
After years of preparation, in 1990 Frank E. Blokland founded the Dutch Type Library, the ﬁrst and nowadays largest producer and publisher of digital typefaces in the Netherlands.
A couple of years later he initiated and supervised the development of DTL FontMaster, a set of utilities for professional font production developed by DTL and the Hamburg, Germany, based company URW++.
Blokland has designed typefaces like DTL Documenta, DTL Documenta Sans, DTL Haarlemmer (on the basis of drawings by Jan van Krimpen), DTL Haarlemmer Sans and DTL Romulus (also based on drawings by Jan van Krimpen).
For roughly a decade the seriffed and sans versions of DTL Documenta formed the corporate identity typefaces of the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The typeface was used for the signage in- and outside the museum, publications, annual reports, et cetera.
DTL Documenta has been applied in Gotteslob, the new prayer and song book of the Catholic church in Germany and Austria.The production of the 3.6 million copies (1,300 pages each) required eight tons of red ink and roughly 3,000 tons of light-weight paper (40 grams).
Since 2010 new street signs are placed in the city of Haarlem for which DTL Haarlemmer is used. The design agency Bureau Arjan Karssen selected the seriffed version for the street signs in the historic city centre, and the accompanying sans serif is used on two different signs for the pre- and post World War II parts of the city.
When Gerrit Noordzij retired in 1987 from the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, Blokland was the ﬁrst of the younger generation to succeed him. As Senior Lecturer Blokland now teaches writing, letter drawing, and type design/font production to the graduate and post-graduate courses at the Graphic Design department.
In 1995 he was asked to become professor at the Plantin Society in Antwerp. Further he has lectured as a guest professor at institutes like the Technical University of Delft, the University of Reading, and Lahti Polytechnic University.
In 2004–2011 Blokland designed the lettering for the newly restored stained glass windows of the St. Peter’s Church in Leiden, the Netherlands. On YouTube a short ﬁlm (Dutch spoken) shows the restoration of the church, and the design and production of the lettering.
April 2013 Blokland designed the calligraphic lettering of H.M. Queen Beatrix’s Abdication Act. The letters on the act, in Humanistic Minuscule and Italic hands, with all their contextual letter-variants, were written by Blokland and transferred by himself into two digital fonts: Abdicatie Regular and Abdicatie Italic using the DTL FontMaster tools. The text was subsequently silkscreened on parchment.
On 11 October 2016 at 11:15 a.m. Blokland successfully defended his PhD dissertation at Leiden University. Blokland’s research is conducted to test the hypothesis that Gutenberg and consorts developed a standardized and even unitized system for the production of textura type, and that this system was extrapolated for the production of roman type in Renaissance Italy.
For the production of roman type in Renaissance Italy, Humanistic handwriting was adapted to a ﬁxed standardized and even unitized system for the production of textura type that was developed by Gutenberg and his peers.
Outcomes of this research have been translated a set of Python extensions for Glyphs and RoboFont, named LS Cadencer and LS Cadenculator, developed by type designer Lukas Schneider in cooperation with Blokland. These tools can be used for (batch) auto spacing and analysis, which is based on the intrinsic underlying patterning in roman and italic type. This software can be used to replace optical spacing completely or it can be applied supplementally to spacing by eye.