A survey to discover what educational backgrounds we all have

jshen's picture

Dear typophiles,

I am doing background research for the TypeCon Education Forum this summer where we will discuss what might comprise a post-graduate degree program in typography here in the U.S.
Please look over the list below and respond by identifying any areas which you have been educated in, have had training in, or have investigated on your own in order to further your typographic work.

This survey is meant for anyone who considers that typography is central to their main line of work. You do not have to be a type designer. Also, feel free to add any areas you think have been overlooked. My objective is to learn what kind of backgrounds those who are currently working in the field have.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. This information will have a direct effect on the panel discussion planned for TypeCon in Los Angeles, and the more responses, the more meaningful the data.

Juliet Shen

Latin font design
Non-latin font design

History of aesthetics of type design
History of technology of printing/type

Digital font production (e.g. fontlab)

Font hinting/programming

Calligraphy
Handlettering
Typesetting (stylistic principles)

Printing technology (offset, screen-to-laser)
Hand printing (letterpress, printmaking)

Quantitative reading research
Empirical research methods

Advanced (college level) mathematics

Linguistics
Writing Systems

Graphic Design
Information Design
Book Design
Web Design

jshen's picture

Thanks for your response, Peter. I hadn't thought of fine art, if only because it is so well covered in MFA programs, but I bet a fair number of typography people started out in fine art. I did myself. I think cross pollination could be a very healthy thing if, say, a university offered programs in both areas.

To your other comment: there is no implied importance to the order of topics. It was just a matter of getting down the more unusual things first so I wouldn't leave one out. The design disciplines came last because I knew I wouldn't forget them.

Chris Dean's picture

I've often thought that a practicing typographer with good copy writing/editing skills would make for a pretty powerful combination. I consider Bringhurst to be a good example of this.

pachooey's picture

--------------
Linguistics - my main focus
Writing Systems - ties in with lngx
>> I work with a lot of languages, historical and present, most of which are not well digitally typeset

Quantitative reading research - strong; due to lngx
Empirical research methods - strong; experimental phonology is part of my dissertation topic

Latin font design - beginner; needful for many languages
Non-latin font design - beginner; extremely needful for even more languages to represent
>> tying in with the commentary two clusters up, in working with historical/epigraphical materials and documentation of languages that are far from the mainstream consciousness, I have an extreme need to learn how to progress in non-latin font design...

Digital font production (e.g. fontlab) - extremely needful for guidance and help
Font hinting/programming - ibid
>> this follows with the above cluster's exposition on needing to be able to create fonts for non-market purposes
>> I really really need to find somewhere/-one local to get myself started properly to be able to move a lot of projects forward

Calligraphy - dabbler (western, chinese & korean [moderate skilled], arabic [decent skilled])
Handlettering - minimal
Typesetting (stylistic principles) - have tried to read up

Printing technology (offset, screen-to-laser) - basic
Hand printing (letterpress, printmaking) - nil

Advanced (college level) mathematics - basic

Graphic Design - nil
Information Design - nil
Book Design - practical applications for academic publication (basic)
Web Design - practical applications for academic and personal web publication (unrefined)

History of aesthetics of type design - nil
History of technology of printing/type - nil

Cameron Williams's picture

Latin font design

History of aesthetics of type design
History of technology of printing/type

Digital font production (e.g. fontlab)

Calligraphy
Handlettering
Typesetting (stylistic principles)

Printing technology (offset, screen-to-laser)
Hand printing (letterpress, printmaking)

Quantitative reading research
Empirical research methods

Linguistics
Writing Systems

Graphic Design
Information Design
Book Design

David Sudweeks's picture

Cameron, your responses appear to be invisible.

.00's picture

I've often thought that a practicing typographer with good copy writing/editing skills would make for a pretty powerful combination.

When I worked as a magazine art director, I became a very good editor since there was always an instance where a paragraph needed to be edited to improve the rag or lose a widow. I learned very quickly that if you brought the problem to the editor and asked them to re-write it, they would either refuse or have you wait. So I would re-write the problem passage and then show it to the editor for an ok. I alway got the ok.

raph's picture

Intrigued by the math angle, as it does seem to fit, kinda.

Latin font design: self-taught, also learned a lot from my father
Non-latin font design: self-taught

History of aesthetics of type design: lots of reading
History of technology of printing/type: lots of reading

Digital font production (e.g. fontlab): Mostly using FontForge

Font hinting/programming: self-taught

Calligraphy
Handlettering
Typesetting (stylistic principles): lots of reading

Printing technology (offset, screen-to-laser): 20+ years experience writing software
Hand printing (letterpress, printmaking): wanted to get into this but didn't find the time

Advanced (college level) mathematics: Mathematicians wouldn't count Computer Science, but my PhD (on splines and font design techniques) is very math-heavy.

Linguistics: light reading
Writing Systems: quite a bit of reading

Graphic Design
Information Design: read Tufte and a few related texts
Book Design: read Tschichold and a few related texts
Web Design: been doing it a while

microspective's picture

Sketched a lot a kid, with a superficial interest in letters from an early age.

Discovered drums at age 10, forgot about sketching; maintained a passive interest in letters.

In high school, I realized I could do "cool things with fonts" in Microsoft Word.

Majored in music in college, where I got to play Carnegie Hall, study music in India, and won a jazz award in Chicago and two DownBeat awards as a participant in the best recorded orchestral music category. Spent the majority of my non-academic time experimenting with Photoshop.

Brief career in music, growing interest and knowledge about type. Taught myself InDesign and Illy.

Started spending so much time with Adobe products (and getting good at them) I decided to try to make money using them.

Discovered that "typography" as a craft exists as a focus in the field of graphic design. Slowly honed/honing skills in type and design.

Full-time career in design (print and web), no longer playing music (actively).

My family doesn't understand me anymore.

In addition to the background survey, perhaps a psychological study of typographers and typophiles may be appropriate.

Nick Shinn's picture

...a psychological study...

Based on our handwriting?

Ray Larabie's picture

Classical animation 3-year program

jshen's picture

Ray,
Is this what you are trained in, suggesting as a course for typographers…?
Thanks,
Juliet

dberlow's picture

I think I'd be statistically insignificant, or I'd play. Its a great read though, thanks!

Cheers!

microspective's picture

..."psychological study..."
"Based on our handwriting?"
"Is this what you are trained in...?"

No, it was just a silly comment based on my aforementioned unrelated (non)qualifications.

Chris Dean's picture

Does anyone know of a survey that has been conducted of undergraduate design programs in the U.S? That would be a good place to start, and essential to answering the question.

I have met design students at a masters level who don't know what a serif is, and some who are capable of conducting graduate level research combining cognitive psychology and typography right down to data analysis. An extremely broad spectrum.

microspective's picture

Christopher, my day job is as an in-house graphic designer for a national non-profit. Every academic semester we get lots of applicants for undergraduate intern positions. I have the fortune of being able to select the best one or two applicants for each semester. Yet, with a couple shining-star exceptions, many of these design students don't know a thing about setting type (and almost nothing at all about printing; I have had to thoroughly explain and demonstrate the concept of "bleed" to every intern I've ever had here. Oh, right—type! I think I let my undergraduate program frustrations get the better of me...)

So, yes, I echo your thoughts about undergrad pedagogy and hope that, if any such survey exists, professors take heed!

dezcom's picture

AIGA used to survey and rate design schools a few years back. They must have some sort of data, for what it is worth.

jshen's picture

Thank you to everyone who responded. My experience has also been that typography is neglected in undergraduate design programs. However, when I have succeeded in getting a student to really get into type, there was no masters level program for them to go into in the U.S., and not all students can afford to go abroad. Since this node is now buried in the site, if anyone wants to respond to the survey later, please contact me directly at juliet@shendesign.com

Thanks.

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