Lukas Engqvist
Media Teacher

Typography – wax on wax off

I'm at the end of the school year, marking the last assignments and looking through course evaluations. I read a comment from a student saying they were expecting more typography… and I wonder what they mean and how I could be clearer. I guess it is a bit like Karate Kid where the kid comes to the master to learn to fight and is given chores, the chores prepares his body to defend agains onslaught, strengthens his muscles and prepares him… but he does not reflect over that it is the tedious chores that is his training. We see it as the audience and the "wax on, wax off" becomes and iconic phrase for our students. I must make a mental note to share this parallel with students the next time I teach InDesign.

So this class that has no typography, what did we do? We watched seminars from Cooper Type and similar playlists. Some in class, others I asked them to see on their own. They were given an assignment to find a typographer and make a magazine cover and spread with that typographer as the subject. We also wrestled with long documents, cleaning text, creating templates and discussing legibility and white space. Constantly telling them to print their work to evaluate it. Repeatedly asking them to make a minor modification and evaluate how it could some times make a drastic impact on the whole.

We also went through the smart functionality of master pages and running headers/footers, tables of contents, footnotes, cross-references, endnotes, layouting forms and much more. I hope one day they may understand, and hopefully reflect on the typography they learned.

How do you teach your students what typography is?

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steven zeichner

Posted on 6/20/16 6:14:13 PM Permalink

Hi Lukas,

It sounds like you thoroughly cover the mechanics of typography as it relates to page design, legibility, etc. I don't know if you do this in class but I wonder if the students were expecting to use type as a design element, a piece of art.

I teach 9-12 grade using Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. I teach the basics of typefaces, readability, etc. But I also have some fun exercises using typefaces. For example, the students create a poster promoting tourism in New Hampshire. One requirement is using text in a creative way. The most common way students accomplish this is filling a broad, bold font with images or creating a clipping mask from the font. One student, wanting to emphasize hiking opportunities in the State, created a scene with mountains in the background. They used the Pen tool to create a path along the peaks and then typed text along the path. The combination of the Helvetica typeface and the jagged path actually created a feeling of hiking along the ridge.

After an exercise like this, we spend time critiquing the work. Discussion will include various elements including why a certain font was chosen and if there might be a better choice. Does the typeface add or detract from the overall design.

Hope this helps.

Lukas Engqvist

Posted on 6/20/16 7:27:37 PM Permalink

Thanks for your response. Well these are higher ed vocational training… right after the summer they will do 12 weeks internship, I hope they will be thankful for what they learned then. We will have a debrief, when they come back from internship. Photo in text is a fun one :)