The College for Creative Studies / BFA Communication Design department began a partnership with The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s Curators and Archivist
Susan LaPorte Professor College for Creative Studies
Communication Design and typography have been intertwined from the start, as the urge to express moved from the oral to the written, so has this partnership. Consider the enterprising graphic marks pressed into clay to communicate commerce by Sumerians, hieroglyphs documenting Egyptian rituals, the innovation of movable type first in the east, and then the west, to the typographic alphabet soup from the industry period, and ones/zeros that continue to document our thoughts through the words we write and the typographic expressions we employ to amplify their messages. The shape that typography has taken reflects the taste(s), technology(s), and need(s) of global citizens through time.
The College for Creative Studies / BFA Communication Design department began a partnership with The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s Curators and Archivists. The class was given their vast collections of objects and artifacts as a starting point for their type design inquiry. Each student documented typography/or graphic marks found or embedded within carriages, signage, broadside, machinery, games, as inspiration for a new typeface that expanded the sample and inspired new alphabet of their own vision. Additionally, the goal was for students to see the importance of research around a design can broaden their design practice; that design is not always about serving a client, but also expanding knowledge around our discipline.
A typographic history lecture was shared to broaden their understanding of type, written communication, and the technology that shaped information through the centuries. Students then focused their own critical research, to discover greater relevance of context and meaning to the design of their type specimens. The process of creating were iterative, critical, and resulted expanding the students understanding of design practice and original type designs inspired from the collection.
The results of this class and our partnership with the HFM, and with the financial support of the Ford Fund are a set of publications, entitled Gadzooks: An Embellished Connection Between Like-Minded Characters. It is a documentation of 13 new typefaces, designed by 13 new type designers, expanding our typographic legacy.
An open, collaborative index of Chinese typographic resources consisting of typefaces, bibliographic resources, and conceptual terminology
Caspar Lam Assistant Professor of Communication Design Parsons School of Design
YuJune Park Assistant Professor of Communication Design Parsons School of Design
Within Chinese typography, the lack of common reference points and conceptual frameworks have made it difficult for students and designers to understand this area of design. To address this gap, the Chinese Type Archive was launched at the start of 2020 as an open, collaborative index of Chinese typographic resources consisting of typefaces, bibliographic resources, and conceptual terminology. Conceived as a purpose-built resource dedicated to bridging and creating cross-cultural connections between Chinese and Latin typography, the Archive provides easier access to hard-to-find typographic material through linked data, lists of previously unnamed historic typefaces, and tracking of evolving conceptual terminology. In its origin, the project reflects a broader wave of renewed interest in Chinese typography from practitioners over the last decade. The first phase of the project began with a seed collection of data, university and design organization funding, and several rounds of technical iteration before its beta launch.
Now, one year later online, we present our continued progress with the project with reflections on community feedback and the project’s iterative methodology. These have led to new insights on barriers-to-entry, the cataloguing process, and the formation of online communities with networked, crowdsourced knowledge. Beyond the immediate impact on the discussion of global typography, the project has raised new questions on how designers should conceive of typography. In addition, the project has tangible ramifications on our idea of collections as a way of creating new sources of design knowledge that can engage designers at any level: student, professional, educator, and researcher. The insights gained from this case study has direct ramifications on design pedagogy and practice, particularly in how the acts of collecting and cataloguing can be powerful methods for learning, contextualization, and critical making.