Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Students Should Care About Typography

Please check out our earlier post in Part 1: "Why Teachers Should Care About Typography."

Source: Behance
Students hate Times New Roman. They hate it more than they hate Courier. At least to them Courier seems like a quaint typewriter. Times New Roman, however, has a stupid name. The three words hardly go together. The font is boring enough to be boring and ornate enough to be annoying. Also, at 12-point, which all teachers seem to demand, it doesn't fill up a page nearly as much as Trebuchet or Verdana. Amid a lengthy drop-down menu of fonts, virtually no student can offer a compelling explanation about why Microsoft (old!) and teachers (old!) are fixated on Times New Roman.

Students love Comic Sans. Elementary learners love seeing it on their homework pages. Some skeptics might say they like it because they don't know any better, but in fact they know enough. Kids respond to Comic Sans' "non-font" status. It looks like child chalk, not parent script. It is not fussy, it is not adult-ish, it is not foreign to a marble notebook, and it is not counter-intuitive to a child's handwriting.

Source: Comic Sans Criminal
Students like Comic Sans because Comic Sans likes them. And with a little bit of exposure, they would happily pick from a cornucopia of other more interesting fonts, should they be given the chance to control their destinies.

Most tech-types disdain Comic Sans for its overuse and undersophistication. There is a popular Ban Comic Sans website, a Kill Comic Sans video game, a Comic Sans Project Tumblr, a Comic Sans criminal pledge, and a satirical Comic Sans song.

Michael Stevens of Vsauce, however, has produced the brilliant "A Defense Of Comic Sans" video that explores the reasons for Comic Sans' pop-culture proliferation. As he notes, "when words and letters are printed, they have to wear the clothing of a typeface, a font family. We don't always think of it this way, but you cannot type without using a typeface."

In essence, the video offers a quirky (and surprisingly scholarly) history of how typefaces ("Textura") emerged from the Guttenberg press, and how French pieces that had to be melted ("fondue") ended up establishing the nomenclature of letter forms ("fonts"). Other fascinating revelations include the reasons for the lower- and uppercase names and the actual origins of Comic Sans in the cartoon imagination of Melinda Gates.

Source: BBC
Amid all of the debate, Corey Holms points out that "Comic Sans is proof that design works. The public understands that type means more than words." That's why children like it, because it appeals to their imaginative sense. And David Kadavy argues that, "Just as interchangeable type led to a spread of literacy, Comic Sans and the personal publishing it comes along with should lead us toward a spread of design literacy." This thesis reinforces the reasons why we as educators should explain to our students each visual choice that we make. We should mention why we have formatted our Keynote slides in a certain way, or why we have selected a particular typeface for a particular use. In drawing back the curtain on our own aesthetic rationales, we model for our classes the possible thought processes that they, as designers, might make in their own projects.

Source: Splashnology
Kids live in a web world. They scroll Instagram comments and Twitter updates. They subconsciously digest the letter forms used on these popular sites. They don't understand, therefore, why their term papers should be typed in priggish serifs. They want their Wuthering Heights words to scaffold the screen in contemporary letters. They want the multi-tasking efficiency of their daily regimen to be somewhat echoed in the academic crispness of the letters they clack onto the page.

If you show us a blog that's written in Times New Roman, we'll show you a blog that kids aren't reading. Try an experiment in class: tell your students to open up Microsoft Word or Pages, and tell them to pick a font for their writing. We'll bet our morning coffee they don't pick TNR.

As digital natives, kids today are bombarded with ads in YouTube clips and web banners. They aren't yet trained to dissect and repel these media influences, but they see them, and they know them, and they make choices about them. That's why students should care about typography. Because in the same way that glitzy logos attract their respect, other fonts could give credence to their creative in-class projects and could boost their grades in open-ended PBL endeavors.

Source: Smashing Magazine

If you tell students that a font will raise their grade, they'll listen. If you tell students to choose a design scheme that will complement their message, they'll skip the default blueprint and instead choose an inventive layout.

Students think Gothic or Roman fonts are old-fashioned, until they realize that Juicy Couture for years has intentionally been playing off the heritage reputation of an over-styled letterface in its tween marketing campaign. A realization of the power of type could mean wondrous outcomes in student projects, such as Prezi presentations or iMovie embeds or Tumblr pages.

Source: Smashing Magazine

The following resources offer terrific examples for student learning and in-class use. The first link is particular instructive in laying out the essential definitions and distinctions of font choices:
Source: 1st Web Designer


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