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Engaging Typography Students in the Classroom

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One of the most successful and engaging type review lessons I conduct in the classroom is playing Type Jeopardy. I start off by teaching first year students the history of type, and following up with short activites. Although I adore history and everything about it, not every student shares my exuberance. Naturally, my slides are filled with colourful photographs and I tell interesting stories about how art and type is influenced by the time and place in which it is created.

After the first class, subsequent classes begin with a review in the form of Type Jeopardy. I have categories to choose from (based on the previous class lesson). An early review week might consist of these categories: Movements and Eras; Terminology; Notable People; Type Styles; and Odds 'n' Sods. There is always a final question, as well.

So, as an example, under "Terminology", the questions might be:
100 The first letter or text is set as a larger or decorative letter used to introdue a section of type
200 Letters slanted to the right, distinct from Roman letters in their form, used for emphasis
300 Parts of lowercase letters that project above and below the boundaries of Capital letters
400 Connected letters or overlapped letters that scribes often made when handwriting, to save space
500 The Gothic lettering style was also referred to as this

Final Question: A publisher's emblem or inscription usually placed at the end of a book, giving facts about its publication is called what?

I break the class up into groups of 5 or 6 and they are allowed to collaborate. Each group has a group name and their scores are recorded on the blackboard, and added up in the end. One person from each group is given a bicycle horn to squeak when the group has an answer. Naturally, they have to state the answer in the form of a question. The winning group gets candy or dollar store prizes. It is truly amazing to see how hard they'll work for the prizes.

Do you have any successful and interesting teaching/learning methods? Please feel free to share them!

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ahh jeapordy was always a fun game for classes... I think thats the only game i remember playing. Some teachers would just ask questions and throw candy to the winners.

Uhm we played hang man in english... you could do hang man with type terms.

Or charades with type terms. Any of those games that you have to act out or use other words for to describe the term. You could come up with a set of terms and also a set of terms they can't say to describe it, so if the term is "Capital" they can't say large or uppercase or big, etc.

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That's an interesting idea, Jesse - I like that charade idea - or pictionary drawing of sorts. Like you could draw out hanging punctuation, ascenders, descenders - parts of letters. And the hangman idea is good too - thanks for the input!

Norbert: All you have to do is get a virtual candy fund happenning for virtual candy. I can almost see the candy dingbat now! : )

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Flash cards were always a good way to learn I think. So like personal jeapordy put a definition on one side and they gotta get the word. But you can do it with a partner so it goes quicker.

Or you could have one word on one side that relates to the word on the other side and they gotta guess what the other word is. Simple would be Uppercase/lowercase, kern/letterspace, kern/leading, or kern/squooshed, etc. That way they gotta know all the possabilities to get the right one. (just don't make tests like this because then they might come looking for me :P)

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Flash cards, eh? Interesting. I like the "get everyone involved in the classroom together" idea better but this is an interesting side step too. I can remember doing the flash card thing in elementary school, with math questions. Two lines of students and the teacher holding up the cards at the front. If you missed the answer, you went 'round to the back of the line you were standing in. The winner stayed on for as long as he/she could. That might work even better. Great help, Jesse - thanks!

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Though not confirmed yet, we are hoping to hold an open forum for Type/Graphic Design Educators and interested students during the Type Education Session at TypeCon.

The intent is to provide opportunity to exchange ideas, successes and shortcomings of Type/Typography curriculums in graphic design schools. I myself am hoping to launch a revised Typography I program this Fall (if the type gods allow) and hope to benefit from the exchange.

So keep those ideas flowing folks!

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I was just called yesterday by Montserrat College of Art, located north of Boston. They asked if I was interested in taking over the Typography I course and that I would have latitude in revising the existing curriculum. (That is, if I pass muster with their Dean!)

Seems that previously, one of the intructors focused on technical aspects and the one before that on creative aspects of typography.

I happen to believe both are integral, as it always has been historically... advancements in printing, metalurgy, photography, computers directly effect the shape and use of type, while it is up to the creatives to harness that power.

Oddly enough, Montserrat is the school that invited Hrant to speak and staged his A Line of Type exhibit this past April.

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  • 2 months later...

Amy Conger (at CCSF) once gave me the great bit of advice that an ice-breaker during the first class session can make a big difference. My ploy involved the strong parallel between shoe design/making and type design, and I asked the students to come up to the board and write entries in two columns: their ideal shoe; and the type of shoe they actually typically wear. The point being to distinguish between display fonts and text fonts. Plus I stepped out of the classroom as they were doing this, so they would be more comfortable, being anonymous. It worked like a charm: the apprehensive expressions at the start of the class immediately turned into involved smirks. (On the other hand, if most of the students were men it might not have worked as well. :-)


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hey norbert, congrats on the new position. On the mullen site, under work >> ineractive, the copy for the different sites overlaps the link for "view site". Also you need to get rid of the "click to activate" with the pop ups in flash.

Post up some new sites when you have them finished with mullen!

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That's an interesting idea about the shoes, Hrant. My favourite shoes are Fluevogs and I managed to pick up 2 new pairs whilst in Boston. One of the neatest things about Fluevogs is the type that is used on their soles. Well, that's the part that I like, anyhow!

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