August 12th, 2014
It was an honour to present at this year’s Typecon in Washington D.C. as part of their annual Education Forum. This was my first visit to the conference run by SOTA (the Society for Typographic Aficionados) so having my esteemed colleague John Paul Dowling, a past presenter, to accompany me on the podium made the experience that little less daunting.
Our presentation was entitled ‘If at first you don’t succeed… : Affecting a Change in the Referral Process of Design Education’ and looked at how adjusting the graphic design course curriculum in respect of the referral process can foster a learning environment that embraces the notions of ‘trial & error’ and learning from mistakes both for students and staff.
The 25 minute presentation went well with some great feedback at the Q&A session, particularly from educators in the US who teach in institutions that rarely allow for module or project ‘retakes’. I think the positive response was also due in part to our emphasis on the student as an individual – each of whom enters a university course with a whole set of inherited or learned character strengths and weaknesses. Teachers, like parents (or even psychiatrists) need to have an understanding of these issues in order to help support students ideally before, but certainly at, the point of ‘failure’.
From left: Juliet Shen, Gerry Leonidis, me and John Paul Dowling. Photo by Helen Lysen
The common misconception that failure is primarily due to laziness disregards the fact that all learners – like all children (for those parents out there) are different. Some seemingly know what they want and how to express it from an early age, while others have great difficultly articulating what they want or need.
Motivations differ too for each student, so attempting to understand these motivations can help to steer them away from disaster toward self awareness.
We delivered our presentation on the first day of the conference which meant we could relax and enjoy other speakers waxing lyrical about such things as Cyrillic scripts, hand lettering, (not so) new Swiss design, Symbology from Victorian-Era Calling Cards and historical type revivals.
Keynote speaker was Tobias Frere-Jones (he of celebrated and recently split type duo – Hoefler & Frere-Jones) who managed to make what could have been a yawn inducing near-two-hour presentation on the design of US currency immensely watchable and relatable. Also good to see him receive such a rapturous welcome considering the recent brooha surrounding the duo’s acrimonious split and he seemed visibly moved by the audience’s show of genuine support and affection.
Tobias Frere-Jones. Photo by Helen Lysen
It’s fair to say we were both pretty ‘typed out’ come Sunday afternoon and saw the closing night’s bowling party as a welcome relief, even though some still couldn’t resist the urge to analyze the font adorning the venue’s neon signage.
I can’t say we saw much of D.C. beyond the usual tourist spots (Capitol Hill, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian museums) but a few jaunts to the outer rim locales of Georgetown and Arlington at least gave us a sense of the city’s geographic identity.
Overall, the experience was a good one. I got to rub shoulders with some pretty high profile font nerds (Matthew Carter, Frere-Jones, John Downer), ate some famed D.C. chinese food, Mexican waved my way through a Nationals baseball game and finally managed to stand in Abe Lincoln’s imposing shadow.
Until next year Typecon. It was fun.
Categories: Design Education
June 17th, 2014
I was recently invited to run a two day poster workshop at Anadolu University in Turkey to help celebrate 100 years of Turkish Cinema. The workshop was organised as part of the 16th International Eskishehir Film Festival which ran from the 2nd-9th May. This was a return visit for me following a presentation I gave in 2012 about Istanbul onscreen to coincide with the release of World Film Locations: Istanbul.
The workshop was a lot of fun. I had help from graphic design and film studies course leaders who gathered 20 students together (10 from each department) to work in pairs in producing their posters. Day one was dedicated to a lecture I gave on the International Typographic Style of poster design so prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s by luminaries like Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hoffman and Jan Tschichold, as I wanted the students to produce their posters based on this ‘style’ of design. Next, students brainstormed ideas and sketched out initial designs before moving onto the computers for final artwork. I was really impressed by the level of playful experimentation and collaboration as many of these students hadn’t worked with others outside of their department. There was a real buzz to the session and some really good results were produced.
On day two all the posters were screenprinted while I ran short portfolio sessions, looking through the work students had completed as part of their course and in preparation for their degree show.
Turkish design students are taught far more broadly than those on my course, being encouraged to fill their portfolio with a range of techniques and styles; Illustration, animation, branding, painting, packaging, ceramics and so on. A real strength for all the students was illustration as this showed a lot more expressive risk-taking and personality. Turkey – like Cyprus, Greece and other countries in this region – has fostered a tradition of this more ‘organic’, colourful and expressive form of design since the early 1940s so its no surprise to see it in the student’s portfolios. It was a shame to hear of the lack of opportunities available to them and the general lack of support for design as a whole in Turkey. Many of them will be applying to do work abroad but it’s costly and takes them away from family and friends. Let’s hope there is a bit of a culture change shortly as there is a wealth of talent across the country if the students I worked with are an indication of what’s happening elsewhere.
I hope to return to the University next year to build on the working relationships that have begun – especially with the students, as they had a great attitude and were simply a lovely bunch of people.
Categories: Design Education Film
February 25th, 2014
Well as is usually the case with websites, time flies and the lack of updates to it adds to a sense of neglect.
Rather than a lack of activity to report, which could account for the dearth of posts since March of last year, 2013 was pretty packed with various projects, trips and speaking engagements balanced alongside my ongoing lecturing duties at UWE.
The first six volumes of the Fan Phenomena series hit shops worldwide last September and seem to have reached a responsive audience as all six titles went into a second printing just 2 months later. I’m hoping for the same positive reaction to the next set of titles which are due out April to June this year. Titles include The Big Lebowski, Hunger Games, Audrey Hepburn, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes and Marilyn Monroe. It will be interesting to see whether ‘character’ fan studies of Hepburn and Monroe are received in the same way as tv series or movies as these have a unique fan following. I do believe though that movie stars – when they become icons – can engender a fan following equally as ardent as that for say Star Wars or Doctor Who, primarily because they convey a mythical or archetypal quality which is at the root of much fan devotion.
The World Film Locations series continues apace with 12 new volumes being published in the last year. A few of the more popular cities have finally made an appearance, including San Francisco and Barcelona but it’s been good to see such a positive response to some more ‘off kilter’ locations such as Sao Paulo, Prague and Liverpool – all great movie cities in their own right with great cinematic traditions, but not necessarily the first places that spring to mind for ‘cine-tourists’ to visit. I took on editing duties for the book on Rome which has been alot of fun, affording me the chance to watch loads of classic Italian Neo-realist films that I’d been meaning to catch up on but never seemed to have the time. The series is drawing to a close as we approach our milestone 40 published volumes, but I am hoping that we can find some way of extending it in some manner as there are still so many locations to explore, and which people seem keen to write about.
Work is being completed on a book about street fashion in Havana for Intellect’s ‘Street Style’ series and I was so grateful for the opportunity to spend a week out in Cuba with my very good photographer friend Martin Tompkins, documenting the fascinating (and highly fashionable) people of Havana. The book will show just how diverse and ecclectic the fashion tastes of modern Cubans are at a time of real change for a nation that has made the most of very little over the last 50 odd years. I can honestly say that Cubans are some of the most generous, intelligent, honorable and diligent people I’ve ever met – with a grass-roots determination for facing each day with a smile and an industrious spirit that really was beautiful to be a part of. I finally got to meet Connor Gory, the main author of the book and a key collaborator for crafting an informed and engaging narrative to accompany Martin’s photographs. A US transplant to Havana, she has her fingers in more pies than I could count – running the first English bookshop in Havana, creator of the city app havana-good-time and generally buzzing around the city like one-woman creative queen-bee. her energy and enthusiasm will no doubt help to bring the book to life in a way no-one else could.
Categories: Design Film Photography Uncategorized