how to talk about type

I will be giving a talk on how to talk about type this fall:

At 4 pm on October 12 in Victoria
At __ pm November 15 in Vancouver

Type is all around us. The ability to view it critically opens the door to hidden messages, ideas, and visual pleasures. 

Up until very recently most people outside of design experienced typography unconsciously. Nowadays, learning to understand it has become a basic life skill for everyone, not just designers. The average person has access to menus of fonts and is aware of handful of iconic and/or infamous fonts (Helvetica, Comic Sans), but these cultural changes haven't come with the opportunity to practice evaluating type critically. In the same way a person doesn't need to paint to appreciate art, a person doesn't need to lay out type in order to appreciate design.

I created this talk after teaching introductory typography classes for ten years and developing a simplified approach to this complex subject. It is not a crash course in designing a layout, it is intended to make our experience of graphic design and typography richer, as well as more integrated with other creative fields. It is also an opportunity for designers to reflect on the meaning of our profession, and how to communicate our values and connect them with other creative fields.

The talk provides three things:

· An introduction to the culture of typography which moves beyond Comic Sans and Helvetica. I will explain what typography is, and walk through some well known designs which shed light on our contemporary attitudes to typography. I will also talk about why typographic choices sometimes make some people so passionate or even angry, and look at what is at stake when people fight about type (and how to navigate that without stress).

· A way to describe your personal relationship with typography. We will look at how typography connects to other other cultural (practices), such as music, fashion, literature. Going beyond what each of us "likes" or "doesn't like" and noticing how our opinions about type relate to our larger cultural values and interests.

· Simple approaches to describing and assessing type. I will provide a small amount of typographic terminology and then apply the terminology practically to several designs. I will explain how the layouts are working technically, what they signify culturally to designers, and how to evaluate whether the type is doing its job.


Robin Mitchell Cranfield