Remember December: Learnings from Teaching Typography 1

As 2017 closes out, I, and I think many others, are reflecting on the weight of everything that has happened in the previous twelve months. It was a year raging with political and climate-inflicted disasters throughout; filled with frustration and feelings of hopelessness. Despite this (or perhaps because of this, as a means of avoidance or way to channel positive energy) it was also personally an incredibly productive year.

Professionally, I started leading a new team in Germany, taking on the responsibility for guiding the design direction for some of the best icon designers around. That, in addition to the brand team I was already leading, would have been enough to call this a good year. But outside of work, teaching Typography 1 at California College of the Arts was the most rewarding endeavor.

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Remember December: An early Christmas present for my students

Few examples of the felt letters and hiragana. From left to right, top to bottom: O す り V / W R ふ か / る い S Z

Students learn best if they enjoy and love what they do. Besides all the learning and assignments, I regard it as essential that they develop passion and joy for their profession. Suffering becomes visible in design, while the joy of creation lets the outcome (no matter whether type, book or graphic) look light, simple and natural.

Some students struggle to develop this joy in the context of class assignments. I have been teaching at a women’s college in Kyoto, Japan since April 2017. And it is sometimes hard to judge whether the young women are actually enjoying their studies or not. Sometimes, we require input from an outsider, as well as a situation that is out of the ordinary. So we held a workshop on a Saturday, run by the Japanese design studio Dainippon Type Association, to trigger the passion of the students.
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Facing Our Fears: Teaching Type on the Web

This article is based on the presentation, “Web typography is just typography, sort of,” part of the Type@Cooper West Lecture Series at the San Francisco Public Library, on July 18, 2017. Watch a video of the talk or keep reading.

web design and typography exist in parallel

In many design programs, web design and typography courses exist in parallel universes. If 95% of the web is typography, then why aren’t we teaching this?

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