In conjunction with TypeCon2014, SOTA will be presenting its ninth annual Type & Design Education Forum, a day of special programming devoted to addressing the pressing needs of design educators.

The forum takes place on Thursday, July 31st at the Hyatt Regency Washington. Lunch is included in your registration.

Keeping It Real: Learning from Trial & Error

The act or process of creating is often overlooked in the glory of the resulting outcome, but it is the process that can best describe how creativity is achieved. The creative process of teaching is a trial and error operation. Multiple directions may be followed until success is finally at hand; the path is not necessarily a smooth process. However, failures weed out weaker outcomes. They make your belief in the resulting solution stronger. Mistakes and missteps can be a healthy part of learning for teachers as well as students.

Forum Program

This information is subject to change.


  • Continental Breakfast


  • Opening Remarks


  • Mess With a Classic

    Guy Villa Jr — Columbia College, Chicago

    Anyone dare to be unsatisfied with the classic assignment of the typeface specimen poster? This presentation recounts the combining of this classic assignment with classics in literature. Pairings were made between typefaces and titles of classic books. Then, students were instructed to portray their chosen story while exhibiting the typeface coupled with it. The results? Context was the key. The typeface specimens tended to be more dimensional and dynamic because of the interplay between the two kinds of texts, and students could learn about typefaces through a lens of familiarity. Likewise, viewers new to the typefaces could engage in the works through their awareness of literary favorites.


  • The Design Process Made Manifest: Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach

    Aoife Mooney — Kent State University

    The process of iteration—of research through making—is particularly magnified in the practice of type design. For a typeface designer teaching undergraduate design courses, the importance of this constant reflection on practice—essentially a pattern of learning to learn—prompted a rethinking of two assignments. Inviting engagement with the informative quality of revision, the assignments aim to clarify and highlight this pattern, common to both the student and professional alike and to foster self-awareness, and reflection on the design process as a means of visual translation.


  • Experimental Typography: Process Over Product

    Lara McCormick — CreativeLive, San Francisco
    Irina Lee — School of Visual Arts & State University of New York, Farmingdale

    “What’s Your Type?” is an experimental typography course I developed while teaching at the School of Visual Arts. The course is open to students from all majors. In the first three weeks of the course, students receive a Type Bootcamp: the history of typography, type anatomy, typography basics, key movements and important typographers. Once students establish a baseline knowledge of typography, we move into a free-flowing expression of typographic experiments. Due to the organic nature of each experiment, most projects only ran once. Emphasizing process over outcomes, I encouraged the students to find beauty in failure and embrace the mishaps which occur when you’re learning something for the first time. Our typographic experiments resulted in laughter, endorphins, and memorable experiences.


  • Q & A


  • Coffee Break


  • If At First You Don’t Succeed…: Affecting a Change in the Referral Process of Design Education

    Gabriel Solomons & John Paul Dowling — University of the West of England, Bristol

    Little attention has been given to the importance of the referral (or ‘retake’) stage in design education even though this is the point at which students can learn the most from their mistakes in order to improve and progress. Acknowledging that students fall behind and fail modules due to a variety of reasons—the referral stage offers both students and staff the opportunity for renewed creative dialogue. In this talk we will discuss how adjusting the course curriculum in respect of the referral process can foster a learning environment that embraces the notions of ‘trial & error’ and learning from mistakes both for students and staff.


  • Learning to See Questions

    Gerry Leonidas — University of Reading

    This talk describes the fundamentals of a methodology to develop issue-based briefs, how to map these onto interim and final feedback sessions, and how to structure in-session discussion of group work. The talk argues for discussing student work along specific but generalized parameters, as part of developing a wider understanding of design quality. This approach to teaching sees individual outputs as part of wider trends, and helps students build an understanding of how their work fits in this wider picture. An examination of grade distributions over several years shows how closely groups stick to bell curves, and how changes in the methods affect the curve. In this sense, talking about student work individually is more “noise” than “signal”.


  • Q & A


  • International Type Throw Down

    Jeff Pulaski — Wichita State University

    Using Jessica Hische’s Daily Drop Cap project and Drew Roper’s Type Fight website as inspiration, Joey Hannaford from the University of West Georgia and Jeff Pulaski from Wichita State University put together the International Type Throw Down. We invited six schools from the US, Europe, and Asia to participate. Students designed a character from the Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit alphabets. We created a bracket of 16 designs for each alphabet, posted them on the web and invited people to vote for their favorites. In addition to the on-line contest, the work was exhibited at the Ulrich Museum of Art at WSU in early 2014. Our hope was that this exposure in the museum environment would encourage our students and the general public to think about issues of font design, language and multicultural engagement. This talk will look at the project and its roots. It will show all of the student work that was submitted and discuss what the students learned from being involved in the process.


  • Minding the Gap Between School and Professional Practice

    Rachel Elnar – TypeEd & Michael Stinson – TypeEd

    Out of the necessity to improve the design skills of interns and employees at our design studio, TypeEd was born. The mission of the educational program is to help bridge the gap in typography skills between the end of school and going into the professional world. Trial and error accurately describes the development process of the program and through it all, we’ve learned a lot. We originally started it on the premise that the fundamentals, divided into levels of difficulty, could be taught in compressed three-hour sessions. We thought we could pack a full semester of typography training into three hours without weekly sessions, projects, and grading. We were right, and wrong.


  • Q & A


  • Lunch (Provided)


  • Teaching Letterform: Modularity & Refinement

    Sumner Stone — Stone Type Foundry

    This presentation demonstrates an approach to teaching letterforms through cycles of drawing and digitizing. A description of the process, instructional material, and student work — including the most recent Capitals Workshop for the Type@Cooper program — will be presented.


  • Learning from Lettering

    Martina Flor — Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Germany

    Hand lettering can be a friendly approach to learning typography. By creating and refining a piece of lettering design students learn general concepts on type design while developing an understanding of typography within a rather economical process. The presentation will include my teaching method in sketching lettering and show how it can contribute to form designers with a sharper eye for typography as well as providing a better understanding of their own design process. The talk will include video demonstrations, student work, and tips to improve the work flow when working with letterforms.


  • Q & A


  • Delightful Confusion

    Mitch Goldstein — Rochester Institute of Technology

    The design process begs for tangents, wrong directions, incorrect decisions, and silly diversions that only happen when the process is a journey, and not merely a way to get to a final deliverable. In this journey, work can approach a threshold of delightful confusion, where to one side lies predictable, prescriptive irrelevance, and to the other side lies resonant, fascinating work. The best way to approach this point is to be confused—to allow the process to provide discovery, to take tangents and distractions forward and see what happens. This talk is an examination of how faculty and students can learn to approach delightful confusion in their teaching and methodology.


  • Type as Symbol, Image and Language from Static to Kinetic Implementation

    Sang-Duck Seo — University of Nevada, Las Vegas

    From static to kinetic states, the teaching and learning of typography is aimed at three objectives: 1) understanding typographic roles and functions within theoretical approaches; 2) transforming linguistic, contextural definitions through practical experimentation; and 3) executing methods beyond two dimensions for enhanced visual communication. The focus is in discovering effective processes and practices. Successful outcomes include understanding visual balance between simplicity and complexity, understanding unity and harmony within a symbol set, and expressing the meaning of words within a conceptual framework.


  • Q & A


  • Coffee Break


  • Integrating Letterpress into the 21st Century Design Classroom

    This panel explores several ways to integrate letterpress printing into the contemporary design classroom. Methods include setting up an in-class small press, creating a student-run pressroom / laboratory, using polymer plates made from digital files, and facilitating hands-on experimentation as a hybrid analog/digital approach to design practice. Panelists will offer a range of insights and techniques for teaching typography. Classroom examples will be shared, along with tips and project ideas.

    Panel Members:

    Ann Lemon — Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

    This presentation offers insights from using a small in-class letterpress shop as a component of teaching Intro to Typography and Digital Design I (Illustrator and Photoshop). I will cover the basics needed to acquire and set up an affordable small press, using polymer plates in combination with metal type, and as using a laser cutter to create printing plates.

    Brockett Horne & Allison Fisher — Maryland Institute College of Art

    This presentation offers insights from teaching typography fundamentals in the letterpress studio, using the historic Globe Poster collection as a learning tool at Maryland Institute College of Art. The living collection includes cuts, posters, wood and metal type, made most popular by event posters in the Civil Rights era created by Globe Poster artists.

    Sumner Stone — Stone Type Foundry

    This presentation will explain an approach to drawing letters and then printing them letterpress. Student’s drawing drawings and finished printed pieces will be shown. 

    Ryan Gibboney — Purdue University

    This presentation demonstrates ways to work within analog techniques of printmaking in a digital world. From graduate research investigations to undergraduate instruction, it is clear that the lack of materials and equipment often has the power to create inspiration in itself. With access to a laser cutter and some scrap wood the possibilities are endless.

    Tricia Treacy — Pointed Press, Appalachian State University
    Ashley John Pigford — University of Delaware

    Experimental letterpress techniques to teach typography and graphic design in contemporary design curricula will be shared by the co-creators of the Vista Wood Type Project.


  • Closing Remarks