Volume 11 Issue 2 (2015): Experiential Knowledge, Expertise, and Connoisseurship
Main Articles

Forms and Levels of Expertness: Interpreting Accounts of Typeface Design

Michael Harkins
University of Portsmouth
Published January 11, 2016
  • typeface design,
  • metal type,
  • digital type,
  • insider perspective,
  • outsider perspective,
  • emic and etic,
  • level of expertness
  • ...More


This article responds to problems arising from defining the notion of “expert” with respect to the subject of text typeface design. What and who is a type design expert? The author has identified that in both contemporary and historical contexts, paucity exists in relation to recorded knowledge regarding the processes of designing text typefaces. Accounts of knowledge of the practice of text typeface design differ in their perspectives relating to what may be deemed expertness. In attempting to explain or rationalize differences in perspectives of such accounts of practice, the problem of describing expertness arose. In terms of degrees of expertise relative to accounts of subject knowledge in text typeface design, the author developed the concept of “vicinage” in order to explore how we render expertness within research enquiry. This concept has the potential to focus future research in the area of defining expertise in typeface design and more generally beyond this field.