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
March 5th, 2013
It’s been a busy few months since the start of the year with four new World Film Location books hitting the shelves at once; Vancouver, Marseilles, Chicago and Venice. It’s a joy as ever to work on these books as each editor puts heart and soul into delivering a well researched, well written and entertaining manuscript for me to beautify. I can’t quite believe that we’ve now produced 22 titles in less than two years. The accumulation of content and the fantastic feedback I’ve received about the series as whole is both gratifying and encouraging.
The series has recently come to the attention of the V&A in London who invited me to talk about Los Angeles and film to coincide with their Hollywood Costume exhibition which ran from October last year until January 2013. My lecture accompanied others by Prof Clive Webb who spoke about LA as a city of angels and demons and Prof. Greg Votolato who’s lecture title was ‘the Architecture of Autopia’. The talks are part of the V&A’s Style Cities series. It was a real honour to speak at such a prestigious venue and, following a talk given last weekend about Venice onscreen, I’ve been asked back to talk about Berlin in June and New Orleans in September, both of which are cities that we’ve produced books for. The lectures are great fun and it’s been a real treat to meet so many knowledgeable people from such a diverse range of academic backgrounds.
Covers for the Fan Phenomena series are now done, so marketing can begin in earnest for the run-up to publication of all six in September. It’s been a long, hard slog getting this new series up and running but I’m so pleased with the content for each – again, the editors have been fantastic and have gathered together so many important and influential people involved with each one of these treasured fan subjects. I’m really looking forward to getting some marketing weight behind these now to raise awareness at conferences, on blogs, websites and through the press.
The covers will have a die-cut roundel that reveals the main iconic image through the hole. Colour matching the thick cover and text pages will be tricky but I’m hoping the overall effect will help the books stand out from the other shelf-fillers. The icons chosen and created had to be recognizable enough while leaving room for a touch of creativity, although there wasn’t much that needed doing to the Batman logo or Doctor Who Tardis. Six further books have now been commissioned for Spring 2014, so rejoice all fans of Sherlock Holmes, Audrey Hepburn, The Hunger Games, Marilyn Monroe, Supernatural and The Big Lebwoski – your cries of ‘what about us??’ have been heeded.
Categories: Education Film