Making a Type Manual with Students

In my COMD1167 class this semester (Type & Media, City Tech), my class and I are trying to create our own definitive Type Manual. We are hand printing some elements, writing our own content, and designing everything together. I wanted to start writing about the process as I am thrilled/scared and completely proud of my students. They are engaged, willing, and working hard.

My methods:

  • Each session, we cover a major topic and work separately on our own attempts on the page.
  • We submit our work for online critique (I am just implementing this, so I am nervous but very hopeful).
  • In the next class, we collect the most successful solutions and apply them to the collective edition.
  • Each person is required to talk to another classmate for 10 minutes every class period, eventually speaking with each person at least once.


I want my students to own typography from the bottom up. I have to get out of the way as much as I can while still instilling some rigor and criticality. I hope to introduce project-based thinking and ambition in even the greenest student. I have come to believe that I am better at teaching this way of thinking than I am at an exercise-based approach. I gutted my approach to the class this semester. I ditched the fixed exercises that had been in place, choosing to let the students come up with solutions to questions I posed. The students need to  figure out how to best express concepts and then we can hone in on the way we want to go in our final piece.

I am using Google Drive as our class cloud storage so the students can collaborate and edit their work after I have gone over the initial attempts.  I have also instituted crit cards to encourage students to start speaking to one another.



Honestly, I am improvising a bit on the moment-to-moment thinking: the students have been so engaged and willing, I am confident they can design solutions to issues by which I am stymied. My job is to keep the room a safe space in which they can grapple with and conquer the basic tenets of typography while gaining confidence as young designers.