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.


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Libby Clarke is an artist, designer, and educator living in Maplewood, NJ. She received her BFA in Printmaking from James Madison University and her MFA in 2D Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Professionally, Libby has worked as an interaction art director for over 15 years for such companies as and She was an Assistant Professor at the New York College of Technology in Brooklyn, New York. She also served as the Director of the Studio School of the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. As an artist, Libby has produced a series of multi-media conceptual products under the name Monstress Productions since 1996. She gives workshops and lectures across the United States on the intersection of art, activism, and technology, and her pieces are exhibited and collected internationally.