Cal Swann HonFISTD


Congratulations to Cal Swann awarded Honorary Fellowship of ISTD in recognition of his significant and outstanding contribution to graphic design and typography, throughout his long career in industry and design education.

During his five decade career Cal has pioneered typography through practice and teaching – never losing sight of his ‘hot-metal’ roots. 


Published by Lund Humphries, his book aimed at students ‘Techniques of Typography’ which was published in 1969, remains a classic. It’s a simple and concise introduction and explanation on typography and its reproduction. Although some elements might not seem relevant now, most of its teachings are timeless and essential to understanding the basic principals of the handling of type.


Cal gained an MA in Applied Linguistics, at Lancaster 1986, and in 1991 this research resulted in a second student book ‘Language and Typography’, also published by Lund Humphries.

All ISTD members will receive Cal Swann’s famous chapbook ‘A Feel for Metal’ in an edition recently re-published by ISTD and printed by Banbury Litho. First published in Western Australia in 2011, it starts off: ‘In our totally digital twenty-first century it is all too easy to discount the hard earned, time-ingrained typographic sensibilities that came from prolonged contact with metal type.’


Essentially this booklet tells Cal’s story from the age of sixteen enrolling as an art student to study typographic design in his hometown of Leicester in the 1950s, to lecturing in several UK art schools and polytechnics – via the RAF, print shops, composing rooms and various advertising agencies.

Following positions as Head of Design at Saint Martin’s, and Dean and Professor of Typographic Design at the Faculty of Art and Design at Liverpool Polytechnic, Cal emigrated to Australia in the late 1980s where he was Head of Design at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, and was awarded a Professorship in Typographic Design.

While Professor of Design at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia he launched the first online Master of Design in 1998.

Still active in design and teaching typography online, Cal is another of that rare breed of typographers who has dedicated a career to inspiring others, resulting in a following that extends from the UK to his current home in the Southern Hemisphere.



I left school in 1961, just 15 years old, to take up an apprenticeship as a compositor. For part of the apprenticeship I attended classes at the London College of Printing where I came in contact with Cal Swann. At the end of the year he spoke to me and said he believed I should go to college and study typography. But having left school early I had none of the required qualifications for a place at College. His response was "I will see what I can do." A year later I started college full time. By this time Cal had moved on. But thanks to Cal I enjoyed a successful 40 year career in Advertising. Two years ago I tracked him down to Perth, where he now lives and was able to finally thank him for his simple act of caring for a student that changed my life.

Posted by Paul Walter on 29th August 2017 at 08:22am

When ISTD mentions above that Cal is "Still active in design and teaching typography online" it is a little of an understatement, not only does he teach typography online but he wrote the typography courses for Virtu Design Institute. I have been a design and academic colleague of Cal's for over 25 years and he is an inspiration to his students and colleagues. Congratulations Cal on the FISTD; well deserved.

Posted by Ron Newman on 3rd September 2017 at 01:17am

I must congratulate Cal Swann on his book ‘A Feel for Metal’. It was truly a nostalgic trip for someone who had started his apprenticeship as a Compositor some 68 years previously. The content of the book and an account of his progress was somewhat reminiscence of that journey which formed part of my own. Each of us at some time had a Mentor. Mine at 16 was a 68 year old Compositor named Walter Tyler who sadly only saw part of my own journey from a jobbing printers (where I had the opportunity to see and actively engage in all aspects of the setting, printing and binding processes) to ultimately moving from trade to education. A journey which took me from teaching City and Guilds Students, BTEC, University and finally as a Dean of Faculty. A transition from hot metal through photosetting and finally computers. With a break for National Service which enabled me to get my C & G Full Technology in Typography. My association with ISTD started in 1968 and has been continuous ever since. A membership which has enhanced my thinking and typography during 20 years, following early retirement, as a Senior Examiner for BTEC, Edexcel and Universities. Thank you Cal for your memories which inspired this ‘blog’ for it also reflects my own thoughts and the many relationships which have been established through ISTD and the Student Assessment programme. Ivan Cooper HonFISTD

Posted by ivan cooper on 3rd September 2017 at 10:59am

As a full time student on the 4 year Diploma in Art & Design at Manchester School of Art in the 60’s, I had the good fortune together with other now life long friends to have Cal as my Group Tutor. I believe Cal was almost certainly the most committed & brilliant educationist at that College. During that time and the years previously, as industry friends confirm, he produced an amazingly large number of highly talented professionals in the fields of design & advertising. This was no lucky accident. We all owe him a great debt and incidentally a matching love of typography.

Posted by Paul Garrett on 10th July 2019 at 09:18am