TypeCon2021 was a virtual event that took place from October 21st to October 24th, 2021.

The Type & Design Education Forum — produced for educators by educators — took place on Saturday, October 23rd, 2021. This forum provides a unique opportunity to share and learn from fellow colleagues. Find inspiration, network, and discover new friends.

This year, we welcomed proposals in the following areas:

  • Curriculum
    Innovative teaching of typography and design
  • New Normal
    Remote/hybrid teaching successes, lessons learned, and silver linings
  • Thesis
    Thesis projects by recent graduate students (the process undertaken to acquire a thesis topic as well as the method of development of the thesis)

The majority of presentations are 10 minutes long and are followed by a 5 minute break. There are also two 25 minute breaks which serve as networking opportunities.

Q & A is conducted as a panel after each group of 4 or 5 presentations.

Saturday, October 23rd

All times are Eastern (ET). This information is subject to change.

12:00 pm

Opening Remarks

Part A: Physical & Experiential

12:02 pm

Andrew Davies

Teaching Type to Hostages

The Communication Arts students I teach at Virginia Commonwealth University are there solely to become better illustrators and have no interest in graphic design. However, they’re required to take an introductory Typography course before they graduate. It’s challenging enough teaching Typography to eager, motivated design students — but what if you’re asked to introduce the world of serifs, swashes, and strokes to a room full of skeptics? How do you convince apathetic students to care about something they don’t see as relevant?

In this presentation, I’ll share my solutions to this predicament and outline the four principles that are making my Fundamentals of Typography course more engaging, even for the most reluctant learner. I’ll give examples of the activities I incorporate into my curriculum, like reenacting scientific studies, earning badges and group competitions, while also telling cautionary tales of mistakes to avoid, like not getting feedback or assuming your students share your definition of ‘fun.’ Drawing on my understanding of the cognitive science behind why these principles are working, I hope to inspire others to similarly experiment in their own classrooms.

12:20 pm

Meri Page

A Humanistic Approach to Typography: Adventures in Hand Making Three-dimensional Letterforms

Taking a humanistic approach to typography and problem solving in our increasingly digital world, Design Methods, an introductory Typography course for sophomores asked students to fabricate a typographic letterform in three dimensions by hand.

Provided with some concrete guidelines as well as a few ambiguous ones, students armed with rulers, Bristol board, X-Actos and glue set out to design and construct a letterform of their chosen font. In the process, they gained a unique and sophisticated understanding of typographic anatomy. In exploring materiality, they acquired a wealth of new technical information important to designers and experienced first-hand the qualities, limitations, and features of various adhesives and papers. They learned to appreciate the value of craft while developing new hand and manual making skills.

An individual project, students quickly teamed up, sharing failures and successful production techniques over the course of the three-week prototyping process. The presentation will discuss the process and outcomes of the experiential project as well as the value of craft, hand production, and hands-on problem solving in design education.

12:35 pm

Erica Holeman

Serious Play

“People tend to forget that play is serious, but I know that of course it is.”

— David Hockney

Typography courses demand dense vocabulary spanning decades of history. Students discover language and culture around forms they’ve seen all their lives. Grids, rules and jargon abound. Pair this with a heavy focus on rigor in college design programs, and you have a recipe for derivative, predictable work. But when allowed to play, students reach surprising solutions.

The impact of play on creativity was touted by Bauhaus theorist and teacher Johannes Itten, whose maxim was “Play becomes party — party becomes work — work becomes play.” This presentation shares case studies for introducing dignified play as mini-modules. Give a classroom of college freshmen a set of Friedrich Fröbel’s colorful blocks along with a handful of constraints, and new glyphs are born. With just ink and a few unconventional mark-making tools, a typeface forms in a matter of hours. Freed of project deadlines and final goals, the student mind is stimulated and engaged. Thoughtful work invariably follows. More importantly a class of anxious adults learn to trust their own playful, messy process.

12:50 pm

Taekyeom Lee

Squeaky Clean Type and Packaging

During the pandemic, soap became one of the much needed items of everyday life. This project proposes a new approach toward experiential typography using a mundane item, old methods, and new digital technologies: soap, mold-making, casting, and 3D printing. The use of soap involves a multi-sensory experience: vision, smell, and touch.

Different analog and digital methods were utilized for their efficiency and design affordances. 3D printing has various advantages, such as speedy iteration, single-step manufacturing, affordable production, and customization. The biggest downside of the technology is the turnaround time, depending on size and intricacy. Casting is one of the oldest manufacturing methods; advantages are low costs, ideal for small quantity production, and speedier production compared to 3D printing.

The work started as a series of experiments using old/new and analog/digital methods during the shutdown. It became a class assignment and a workshop, and will be expanded as a community-based event. It could be incorporated into typography, graphic design, packaging design, and digital fabrication courses.

1:05 pm

Dermot Mac Cormack

Type Specimen Scavenger Hunt: Creating a Digital Typeface and an Educational Resource

This talk will not only present both the inspiration and the process of developing a display typeface (which would later be called Willison) but also the unexpected creation of an educational tool for young children. Using augmented technologies to enhance the visitor experience, the project expanded to include a virtual type specimen scavenger hunt in one of Philadelphia’s hidden-gems, The Wagner Free Institute of Science.

The project originally began as a research project and evolved over time. Using extensive research in the museum’s archives we explored many kinds of handwritten type and other ephemera. The eventual typeface is based on the left leaning label writing of Charles Willison Johnson, one of the founding curators of the museum.

A secondary goal of this project was to create an educational tool for children. Buried within the specimens are printouts of letters that allow children to partake in a type scavenger hunt. When they scan the type they experience augmented adaptations of the typeface, watching each letter float above the glass specimen cases.

1:16 pm

Q & A Panel

1:35 pm


Networking Opportunity

Part B: Process & Discovery

2:00 pm

Darren McManus

Type as Shape: Experimenting with Form Through Abstraction, Grids, and Limitation

This presentation will showcase two assignments from a Typography 1 class in which second-year students learn to see and use type as shape through abstraction, grids and (seeming) limitations in their process. Typographic Squares is a semester-long exercise resulting in the creation of 7 unique grids/compositions, each consisting of 16 two-inch squares in a 4 x 4 matrix. Each two-inch square must only contain typographic specimens while being carefully cropped from its original source to maximize its potential within the overall grid.

“Exploring the letterform via abstraction” is the entry point into the class. Students investigate the formal qualities of a single letterform through the creation of four black and white 10 x 16 inch abstract compositions while adhering to restrictive rules predicated on a grid system.

It’s not until students see and use type purely as shape, rather than as a visual representation of language, that they tap into the infinite potential for creative experimentation within each project. Through meager starting points, students hone their understanding of Gestalt principles while arriving at visually rich and challenging typographic solutions.

2:15 pm

Ashley Pigford

The Type Play Project

Seeking a way for students to play with contemporary type in a purely formal way and to support independent type designers and foundries, my solution is the Type Play Project. Twenty-four students were assigned two suits from a deck of playing cards and two fonts from fourteen type designers and foundries. They were to illustrate the uniqueness of the fonts and typefaces through the design of the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen and King playing cards. I reserved the Aces for myself. We collated the best into a single deck of cards which included every student’s work and every type designer. Type was provided by Dalton Maag, Production Type, P22, Hannes von Döhren, Klim, Exljbris, GrilliType, Mark Simonson, TypeTrust, Just Another Foundry, House Industries, Darden and Shinntype. The importance of this assignment is not only as a creative exercise for the students but to introduce them to independent designers and foundries making beautiful type.

2:30 pm

Kristen Coogan

Type Design: From Clay to Cool

This presentation details the process MFA students followed to design a typeface, and includes process and final outcome images as well as contextual lecture slides. This group of students comprised the preliminary MFA class, all of whom had little to no typographic expertise.

The project focused on using simplified forms to build a complex and dynamic typographic system. Following a strict set of rules, students used elemental forms to design all of the horizontal and vertical elements needed to create 26 letters. Additional constraints included only one or two scale, weight, orientation and form shifts. Students presented individual typefaces in a content specific poster, and then the group’s typefaces were collected into a type specimen book.

Accompanying lectures related how systems inform the design of typefaces, from ancient clay stones to contemporary type design. In each case, typography makes up language systems and relies on a universally agreed upon set of codes. Students learned that design constraints and systems thinking are the gateway to freedom and exploration.

2:45 pm

Aoife Mooney & Kate Brangan

Data Dispatches: An International Teaching Collaboration

This talk will present the collaborative process and outcomes of an international, interdisciplinary class project titled Data Dispatches which ran in the Spring of 2021 and brought together educators and students from Kent State University, Ohio, USA, and the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland. In this project, student groups worked to document and communicate fragments of their daily experiences through the creation of visual languages, both moving and static, individually and in groups. This project harnessed tools of online collaboration and social media such as Slack, Miro, Zoom, YouTube and others to bring students together to produce work that reflects the challenges, opportunities and moments of humanity that defined this time and, in the end, became a celebration of that which is found in the spaces between the bits, blips and glitches of online communication. It allowed us all to find the ‘shared’ in the context of ‘share files’ and represented a snapshot in time of learning and community while navigating the pervasive effects of a pandemic, and highlighting opportunities for cross-cultural pollination within the online classroom.

3:10 pm

Albert Choi

Typo-Image: Texts are Always Part of Other Texts, Never Pure

Albert Young Choi developed a Typo-Image methodology, an integration between typography and image based on the premise that “texts are always part of other texts, and never purely an original text.” Through the Typo-Image methodology, students learn and explore Deconstruction, a form of reactionary analysis introduced by Jacques Derrida, a leading French philosopher in the 20th century. It includes an attempt to take apart and expose the underlying meanings, biases, and preconceptions that structure the way a text conceptualizes its relation to what it describes.

One of the things that makes typography very powerful is that it can have different meanings. With this in mind, designers can assume that the purpose of typography is capricious and always changing, such as the fluid nature of letterforms and negative spaces. Image-like typography (Typo-Image) is highly referential, especially today when visuals deal with creativity and re-appropriation. Our society has also become more communication-oriented. So it has become more critical than ever to realize that typography has the potential for meaning and interpretation.

3:20 pm

Q & A Panel

3:40 pm


Networking Opportunity

Part C: Inclusivity & Collaboration

4:05 pm

Charmaine Martinez

“I Can’t Read That Yellow Type” and Other Tales About Accessibility

Whether students are taking their first typography course, creating a presentation, developing an interface, or preparing a portfolio, they should consider accessibility an integral part of the design process. This talk will provide examples of how students can apply an inclusive mindset to any design project, thereby improving the legibility and functionality of their work.

As students build skills in typography, they also need to develop companion skills in designing for accessibility. This presentation includes case studies from sophomore through senior level design courses, and will demonstrate how incorporating accessibility requirements and color contrast testing into assignments impacts typography. Presentation tools such as Adobe Portfolio will be viewed through an accessibility lens and, found lacking, further demonstrate the need for students to apply critical thinking to all projects with type.

Takeaways include fundamental principles of accessible typography and simple tools that can be incorporated into one’s design workflow, so designers at all levels can make informed and ethical design decisions in their creative work.

4:30 pm

Richard Hunt

International Students, International Scripts

The teaching of graphic design in North America and Europe is based on European traditions. We classify scripts using Vox-AtypI or something similar, and we work almost exclusively in the context of the modern Western roman alphabet.

Other writing systems differ from Roman in many ways. Chinese script gives insight into how writing systems communicate to some degree independently of spoken language. Arabic and Persian systems reveal the potential and challenges of contextual alternates far more than Roman scripts do. Other writing systems, such as Japanese, use syllabaries and logographic systems. Designed scripts such as Korean, also invite students to be open-minded in their approach to typographic structures and practice.

This presentation discusses how we can appropriately incorporate other script systems into typography class, both for their own value, and to enrich their student work with Roman scripts, while at the same time valuing the knowledge and practices of students who are familiar with other script traditions.

4:45 pm

Natalie Snodgrass

Facilitating Diversity: The Designer’s Role in Supporting Cultural Representations Through Multi-Script Type Design and Research

Though there has been increased discourse on non-Latin type design practice within the type design community in recent years, there still exists a need for many more high-quality digital typefaces in most of the world’s written languages — societies, who, without these resources, are less able to contribute to global discussions.

This talk will present thesis research that analyzes the pathways in multi-script type design research and investigates the relationship between cultural studies and the type design process. The questions posed include: How does one become prepared to design an effective and well-researched typeface in a new script? How does one research an unfamiliar script? Does the use of anthropological research methodologies increase a type designer’s understanding of a script’s cultural context, and therefore increase the success of their design practice? If so, to what extent, and which aspects of the contextual typographic culture should the designer investigate? As a catalyst for further practice and discussion of these topics, a comprehensive research framework outlines best practices when pursuing type design research in a non-native script.

5:00 pm

Jan Ballard

Experience is the Teacher: Innovative Collaboration Brings Mentors and Students Together

A case study of an ongoing industry/academic program in Dallas–Fort Worth brings professionals at Dialexa together with eager students in design, tech, business, and engineering to problem solve real-world projects in an eight week, sprint-based experience.

Three takeaways:

  • Leveraging mid-career and seasoned professionals in a mentoring relationship with area college students creates learning outcomes for both groups, including industry practices, project management, and networking.
  • Expanding opportunities for cross discipline learning by fostering multi-talented teamwork in an agile environment, intensified by pandemic virtual experience in collaboration, creates successful outcomes for all participants.
  • Incorporating three universities with three academic majors (design, engineering and business) and inviting new UXers, establishes convergent thinking which creates a stronger tech hub hiring pipeline for the North Texas region.

5:12 pm

Closing Remarks

5:15 pm

Q & A Panel