I am currently working on an app for anyone who wants to learn more about Typography. It draws upon the research I have done in classrooms around New York City, the photos I compulsively take of found type, and what I know of interaction design. This effort is all coming together under the title Type for All, an all encompassing welcome into Typography using key hand skill-based lessons and living examples from the streets of Brooklyn. The resulting tablet app is being prototyped and tested this year.
Origins: Letterform Tracing
When I started teaching Typography 1, I was shocked to find most of my students had no real hand skill training: they had no confidence or endurance when it came to learning how to see or draw letterforms. I have to act fast. Tracing letters was doing nothing to help them. I finally realized that using a scaffolded grid exercise could give just enough support to the students as they realized their own ability and gained confidence.
Origins: Handcarved Type
I also discovered students had no real ability to see the negative space around typography. After a few false starts, I went back to how I learned the concept: from printmaking, specifically letterpress. I had them bring in erasers that we then collectively carved into our own letters.
In one glorious and messy day, the students started to grasp leading and kerning with ease. I was asked to help rewrite the course and was able to incorporate this lesson for all future City Tech advertising design department students.
On-ramping other instructors
I have had a hard time getting other instructors to use this lesson consistently, so I have tried to ease the way this handouts, videos, and other efforts. The thing is, so many practitioners are not comfortable with the mess, risk, and general chaos of introducing college students to their own hands.
Origins: All for Type
The last vein I am working into the app is a hearty welcome into a nerdy love of letters and type and signals. I use a few lessons to help with this, such as the name tag exercise. Students meet each other on the first day, interview each other, then make name tags for each other that evoke some of the details about that person. Then each person is introduced by the interviewer, who also explains design choices s/he has made.
I also have elements I have gleaned from my own obsessive cataloging of public type and the conversations which have stemmed from it. Honestly, people love to take apart typography once they feel even the tiniest bit comfortable.
And lastly, I play on any previous knowledge to reveal to the student that she already belongs in the world of lettering and typography, as in this Edible Type exercise I had a group of disaffected culinary students create: