The notion of decolonizing type is massive in scope: from its history, to its design, application, technology, and future.
Laura Rossi García Professional Lecturer DePaul University
This research examines the history, practice, and pedagogy of typography. Typography is at the core of design—both implicit and explicit in its role in shaping language, culture, and power structures—but it is mired in “racial homogeneity and dominated by white men.”1 The selection, use, and application of typography—from style to legibility—can uphold or disrupt dynamics of power: who can read it, who uses it, who made it, whose voice does it carry—human, machine, the included or the excluded. While there is great movement to decolonize design, less is happening specific to decolonizing typography, or decolonizing type pedagogy. “Letterforms are loaded cultural objects” 2 —a container for language— and an “extension of the spiritual, social, political, and historic mind-set of nations”.3
The very notion of decolonizing type is massive in scope: from its history, to its design, application, technology, and future. How do we broaden and re-frame the structures and systems that exist in order to make room for oppressed and marginalized voices and make inclusive the societies in which we live? This presentation will introduce a series of case studies that serve as examples for how to reconsider the very root of thought around type systems and their effects and influence on our students, the field of design, and ultimately our products, systems, and societies.
1. Munro, Silas. “Typography as a Radical Act in an Industry Ever-dominate by White Men,” AIGA Eye on Design, August 26, 2019. Accessed: December 15, 2020. URL: https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/tre-seals-is-turning-typography-into-a-radical-act/ 2. Munro, Silas. Ib, id. 3. Shehab, Bahia and Haytham Nawar. “Early Arabic Printing” in A History of Arab Graphic Design. American University in Cairo Press: 2020. pp. 29-41.
Educators need diverse representation in course materials—students must feel seen in order to truly succeed.
Mia Culbertson Assistant Professor Kutztown University
Typography is central to design, yet the standard curriculum centers around Western, able-bodied, straight, white, and male figures, frequently misrepresenting or excluding marginalized communities. In educational and professional spaces, this can have harmful effects on BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled designer and student communities. Creating a typography classroom that prioritizes equitable representation will avoid alienating minority student communities and reduce stereotyping through uninformed design decisions.
There has been a recent push in our discipline to decenter and decolonize our curriculum with the publication of resources like Decentering Whiteness in Design History Resources (Pass et al., 2020) and Extra Bold (Lupton et al., 2021); in this presentation I will discuss the importance of doing so specifically within the realm of typography. As the visual preservation of language, typography can be intricate, particularly when positioned within the larger context of world history. As often seen in other fields, minority communities’ contributions are often excluded from the canon despite frequently serving as the foundation on which Western designers expanded on; for example, facets of typography in the Belgian Art Nouveau movement can be linked to traditional Congolese motifs.
To send emerging designers out into the world who truly understand the cultural nuances of typography and creating with rather than for communities, educators need diverse representation in course materials—students must feel seen in order to truly succeed. Teaching non-Latin communications such as the ancient Vai syllabary and introducing designers from marginalized communities like Angel DeCora empowers students and ensures these significant contributions to the development of typography are not forgotten or “othered”; it also helps ensure students’ broad perspective and historical context as they develop their own typographic practices, avoiding stereotypes and appropriation in design. Decentering pedagogical perspective in the typography classroom has widespread implications for marginalized student communities and our discipline at large.
This process relies on steps familiar to designers: problem identification, research, and the cyclical process of iteration, making, and user testing.
Dori Griffin Assistant Professor University of Florida
Writing, like design and design education, is an iterative process which benefits from informal peer critique. Type Specimens: A Visual History of Typesetting & Printing (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming December 2021) is a global narrative of typographic history. It considers the problem of typography as a tool of capitalism and colonization and — according to Reviewer Two — “irresponsibly shows beginners too many [global] examples that aren’t canonical.” The Cary Fellowship at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Design Incubation Fellowship, among others, have supported its development. Throughout, social media played a key role as a process tool in the book’s research-writing-design. This approach echoes how designers and educators deploy informal peer critique in the studio as a community-driven teaching and learning tool. This presentation explores how social media can support meaningful design-writing scholarship. This process relies on steps familiar to designers: problem identification, research, and the cyclical process of iteration, making, and user testing. As design develops a disciplinary literature of its own, designers can bring visual ways of knowing and learning to the process of writing our own diverse and often previously unknown histories. We can leverage tools seemingly alien to the scholarly writing process: sketching, informal peer critique, and social media texts, images, and discussions. I’ve approached Type Specimens as a project framed by code-switching and multilingual text production; the visual is, after all, a set of languages. Social media has been a powerful tool to fuel and document this process. This presentation shows that journey.
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.
Contemporary type design history of emulating hand manipulation of a brush.
Ryan Molloy Professor Eastern Michigan University
Single-line fonts—also known as engraving fonts, pen plotter fonts, and stick fonts—have a long history ranging from architectural hand drafting to use on pen plotters and engraving devices. As applications of digital fabrication—cnc milling, 3D printing, laser engraving, pen plotters, and craft cutters—have become more commonplace the demand for single line fonts has increased. Majority of the fonts produced and used today are outline fonts, enclosed and filled vector graphic forms. In contrast, a single-line font is composed solely of single vector lines (not enclosed). In applications of digital fabrication the use of single-fonts significantly reduces production time because machine paths are not duplicated.
Contemporary type design has long had a history of emulating the contrasting strokes created through hand manipulation of a brush. The increased demand from maker communities for single-line fonts has led to the development and commercialization of new single-line fonts or tools to convert outline fonts into single-line fonts. However, despite the traditions of type design and the movements of the machine allowing the potential to mimic traditional form of lettering most single-line fonts are designed only for a constant stroke weight. This presentation will showcase a number of personal typographic experiments and typefaces created in an attempt to find novel solutions and applications to the design of single-line fonts. From pen plotters, to engraving, to the creation of letterpress wood type, and drawing inspiration from calligraphy to graffiti the work seeks to ask how can we further reinsert the hand into digital writing.
The first phase of a research project to develop and find the place of the emerging technologies in typography
Taekyeom Lee Assistant Professor Illinois State University
and design have been in a symbiotic relationship, and the demand for the
typography with 3D printing has already arrived. Like the digital revolution
with the introduction of personal computers generated radical changes in
typography, the new digital fabrication techniques urge designers and educators
to embrace the new possibilities. As 3D printing has become more refined,
efficient, and accessible, what designers can do with the new printing technology?
This project is the first phase of a research project to develop and find the
place of the emerging technologies in typography.
Designers can use a variety of printing techniques to produce visual materials and to solve visual problems. 3D printing can change the notion of printed text and how we experience materialized type since the tangible type does not lie on the static surface or live on-screen as a mirrored image. 3D printed tangible type acquires characteristics such as dimension, structure, materiality, and even physical interactivity. For this project, various conventional and unconventional materials in 3D printing were used to explore both the challenges and potential for typography. 3D printed tangible type not only amplified visual but physical interactions. The tangible type provides engaging tactile experiences, which would be more intuitive, expressive, and memorable. It also became relatively challenging to ensure the legibility of the written text and write a long text. More investigations should be followed as the technology will get more refined. This project could be inspirational for both professional practices and educational settings, such as typography, graphic design, and digital fabrication courses. As the outcome provides three-dimensional experience and substance, a new application of this design could be used for spatial typography and developed for people with vision impairment.
A panel discussion among design innovators about their design and use of type in today’s changing environment.
Saturday, November 9, 2019 2pm–4pm Type Directors Club 347 W 36th St., #603 New York, NY 10018
Typeface design and the implementation of typography has never been more exciting. In many cases, type is presented on monitors, tiny and huge electronic visual displays, i.e., screens. In collaboration with the Type Directors Club, Design Incubation will moderate a panel discussion among design innovators about their design and use of type in today’s changing environment.
Liz DeLuna St John’s University
Dan Wong New York City College of Technology, CUNY
Walk through the process of project creation to meet learning outcomes, evaluation of success, and mapping outcomes to student learning.
Andrea Hempstead Assistant Professor Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
No matter your design school pedagogy, the need for
defined and executed assessment and student learning outcomes is important for
institutional and programmatic accreditation. This can seem a daunting task for
most educators, and particularly so for those teaching in creative disciplines.
When academics hear “assessment” and “learning outcomes” they often become
angry. This anger, is often fueled by fear that the “institution” is trying to
control classrooms, or worse, justify teaching positions and approaches.
Ultimately, these institutional measures have the best interests of the student
at heart. Done correctly, assessment and defined student learning outcomes help
to guide instructors to create and revise curriculum to meet student needs and
are flexible enough to allow for unique classroom experiences.
Assessment models favor a tiered approach to learning.
Typically, there are touch points throughout curriculum where student learning
outcomes are introduced, reinforced and mastered. Ideally, outcomes are not
addressed solely in one course, but built upon as the student learns and
progresses through the program. Once developed and implemented, these learning outcomes
can be assessed to evaluate where student learning could be improved, but also
can reinforce successes and program strengths. Additionally, program
assessments can serve as documentation to reinforce the
need for program funding to improve areas of weakness. Assessment documents can
serve as justification for improved facilities, software purchases or even
This case study walks through the process of project creation and implementation to meet course student learning outcomes, evaluation of student success regarding course outcomes, and mapping these outcomes to how program student learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced and mastered. Assessment of the project includes analyzing student course outcomes and progression of overall program student learning.
A synthesized, inductive approach using Itten’s contrast of extension and Albers’s experimental color studies in application to the visual gestalt of typography.
Jeanne Criscola Assistant Professor Central Connecticut State University
Much has been theorized about the transformation of communication from cave paintings to written language and how humans employing materials and technologies impacted their evolution. In 1493, Johannes Gutenberg’s technologies marked a milestone for communication and its distribution with the mechanization of movable type printing. The transition from hot type that went obsolete in the 1950s, to cold type that met its demise around 1985 with desktop publishing, was short-lived. Now, digital typesetting technologies offering myriad configurations of size, font, and layout—in seemingly infinite spectrums of color—present limitless opportunities for the practice of communication design.
This fusion of type and color presents challenges for
pedagogy and discourse in the fields of typography and color where they have
historically been considered separately in books and in coursework. In typography
books, examples typically use letterforms in varying degrees of sizes and
contrast to demonstrate colors’ influence on legibility. In books on color theory,
the properties of color are often demonstrated with pie-shaped diagrams, color wheels,
grids, and in continuous bands. Each pedagogy falls short of modeling today’s communication
technologies where typography and color are intrinsic, inseparable, and synergistic.
Methodologies that facilitate the study of typography and
color in context and in situ would be welcome by educators and professionals
alike. For educators, infusing color theory into the study of typography has
advantages for curriculum and course development. For the design student,
learning color theory with letterforms integrates their study and practice.
This paper sets out to initiate a synthesized, inductive approach using Johannes Itten’s contrast of extension and Joseph Albers’s experimental color studies in application to the visual gestalt of typography.