Typecon’s 2013 Educators Day

What do type nerds do for fun? They attend Typecon!

The educators’ day at the Typecon conference in Portland, Oregon, covered a whole range of topics with the underlying theme of change and its affect on how typography is being taught today. The biggest take-away that I got out of this inspiring day is the shared learning that educators have with their students. Students are teaching educators about the expressive qualities of letters, the meaning of words, and managing technology in ways that empower and enable amazing results. Educators are continually faced with finding ways to manage the changing landscape of design education and funding, and well — the solution is sitting right in front of us. Let students show the way!

The day began with an insightful presentation by Jillian Coorey on a peer-to-peer learning approach used at Kent State University in Ohio where the pure tech courses have been removed from the design curriculum. To address technology, students are divided up into ‘tech’ teams at the very beginning of their course and tasked with supporting each other in learning software tools — if they run into a problem, they consult their team — self-directed learning at its best, just like in professional practice. Students develop leadership skills, increase their retention of complex processes, and gain a deeper understanding of their software ‘tools’ through participatory learning. Jillian shared the student typography projects and it seemed that the students were able to develop their skills more quickly with this approach and produce good work much sooner. Check out the student work here  http://www.kent.edu/vcd/work/index.cfm#

The concept of participatory learning really set the tone for the presentations that followed. At the University of Illinois, Bradley Tober and Matthew Peterson’s iBook project introduced the vertical studio and group work versus team work where the focus on peer-based learning and “owning” the project led to success in learning new media. Participatory learning was again wonderfully demonstrated in a story project initiated by Daniela Marx, from Loyola University in Louisiana where French immersion 2nd graders became clients for design students taking an Advanced Motion Graphics course.  The students synthesized story telling, local culture and typography in one project.

The synthesis of culture and typography was demonstrated in several other presentations including “Type Eh,” a Capilano University student led project depicting Canadian history. Without the direction or support of faculty, 14 third-year students designed and exhibited a series of typographic posters  http://www.typeeh.ca/ — this is experiential learning at its best with students applying what they have learned outside of the classroom.

Bill Moran from the University of Minnesota shared another approach to experiential learning in his “travels in typography” where students are immersed in “primary” experiences creating artifacts using ancient methodology and learning about regional contexts through University collections and European field trips. This approach resonated with the entire audience  http://www.travelsintype.com/

Expressive typography was the theme for the presentations that focused on projects. Whether it was looking at type as form, data, history, or emotion, the results were inspirational.

The day ended with keynote speaker Adrian Shaughnessy giving a talk on his expansive publishing career — and a dinner out with fellow Canadians and type nerds, Patrick Griffin, Canada Type; Steve Ross, Adobe; Naoko Masuda CGD, Alberta College of Art and Design; Carol Aitken, Capilano University; and Rod McDonald FGDC, our local Canadian type hero. We enjoyed a tribute to Portland’s retro culture with ‘fondue’ and shared interesting type tales.

Karin Jager, M.Ed. CGD
Design Educator, University of the Fraser Valley, Mission, BC
VP Education National, GDC