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Which clippings match 'Typography Exercises' keyword pg.1 of 1
04 OCTOBER 2013

Meredith Davis: A Call to Action for Design Educators

"I believe that design education, at the most fundamental level, views complexity as a problem to be overcome through reductivist artifacts, not as an inevitable and pervasive attribute of life in the post–industrial community. So if the future is about an ever–expanding web of connectedness, how are we preparing students for meaningful work in this complex world? I'd like to suggest that we're not. Despite the obvious emotional impact of Glaser's poster, he belongs to a generation in which the goal of design was to make things simple. Negroponte, on the other hand, is a technologist for whom the design goal is to render the complex manageable and to make complicated things meaningful.

Almost everything about today's graphic design education is matched to Glaser's worldview. We structure both curricula and projects in craft–based progressions from simple to complex, from the abstract to the contextualized. In typography classes, for example, we begin with the letter, and then advance to the word, sentence, paragraph, and page. Sequences of typography courses are built on this simple to complex progression, when opening InDesign demands that students address the formal and interpretive issues of publication design simultaneously; how do you defer a discussion of leading, of column width, of the modernist preconceptions of software, of language? The only option is default, and what kind of typographic lesson is that?

The reality is that our strategy for teaching typography is residue from how students could comp type in predigital times; by drawing. It is the organizational structure for every type book since James Craig's 1970 Designing with Type, but it holds less relevance for what students need to know about communication in a digital world. Typography today is a complex relational system that depends on the interplay of formal, technological, linguistic, and cultural variables. Yet we persist in teaching this progression of scale, isolating such variables within their own distinct conceptual frameworks and rules.

The same strategy exists for how students progress in other studies of form. Foundation lessons begin with abstraction: point, line, and plane; color wheels; and paper–folding exercises. We defer discussions of meaning and context until later levels of the curriculum and beginning students learn these abstraction principles only through patterns in what makes their teachers smile. Nothing about these studies resembles what students know about in the real world, and as a colleague recently suggested, what the clients of design see in our work. So what if we begin with the familiar and complex?"

(Meredith Davis, 4 April 2008, AIGA Boston Presentation)

Presentation made at W/Here: Contesting Knowledge in the 21st Century, Emily Carr University of Art+Design, Vancouver, Canada, 7–9 December 2011.

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 MAY 2011

Educators who have repeated the same kerning and hand-drawn letterform exercises will find themselves teaching at a school that simply isn't focused on typography anymore

"We are a culture that increasingly questions consumption and advertising, which are at the heart of industrial and graphic design disciplines. We rely on a dynamic and constantly evolving technological platform that touches all aspects of life. There is an increased demand for service–based jobs as our country re–evaluates economic sustainability. People are demanding quality, reflective and meaningful experiences in their world.

Yet design education, as a whole, hasn't embraced these challenges and opportunities.

To be direct and explicit, educators who have taught the same foundation studies courses for years will need to dramatically revamp their courses or face irrelevance. Educators who have repeated the same kerning and hand–drawn letterform exercises will find themselves teaching at a school that simply isn't focused on typography anymore – and tenure notwithstanding, these individuals will find themselves without a role. Educators who are unwilling to retrain themselves will be replaced.

If you are one of these educators, or you work at one of these programs, you may acknowledge these necessary shifts, but find personal action to be difficult. It is difficult. And it's difficult because the shift is large, fundamental and of critical importance. You'll need to read, and take courses, and attend new conferences; you'll need to re–build yourself and your expertise in a new light. You'll go from knowing all of the answers to not even knowing the problems.

But it's no longer a matter of choice. Because if you aren't able to find a new opportunity, a new specialty, and embrace the topics described above, you may soon find yourself alone or replaced. Our subject matter is too important, and our role too fundamental, to leave to the traditions of even great educational movements like the Bauhaus. The subject of design is the humanization of technology, and as long as technological advancements continue, so the pragmatic and day–to–day jobs of designers will continue to morph. And so must design education continue to evolve."

(Jon Kolko, 2010)

Jon Kolko (2010). 'Remapping The Curriculum', AIGA | the professional association for design

AIGA Design Educators Conference "New Contexts/New Practices", October 8–10, 2010, at North Carolina State University in Raleigh

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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