Monday, July 1, 2013

Why Teachers Should Care About Typography

Please check back for Part 2: "Why Students Should Care About Typography."

Source: PRINT
The purpose of typography is to communicate. That is its essential function. Any classical definition will tell you that font families and typefaces exist only to craft the most effective message for the most appropriate audience. Any design, therefore, that works to undermine that goal is a suboptimal type.

That is why teachers should care about typography. They are both in the communication business. In fact, if you take the classical definition above and replace a few words, it sounds like a fairly appropriate description of the role of an educator: to deliver information and to design insight.

For a detailed overview of the role that typography can play in the classroom, we recommend these two earlier posts:
Source: Macworl
Teachers have actually been teaching about typefaces for years. They regularly scaffold formal outlines with Roman numerals and lowercase letters to show students what is more and less important. The traditional third-grade instruction in cursive lettering is another argument for the time-honored importance of word-craft. Elementary schools recognize the higher-level thinking and the patient practice required in transitioning from block letters to fluid script. In fact, the current consternation over whether to abandon cursive writing for the laptop generation centers on whether to give up on a refined art that was once held sacrosanct.

If you haven't yet seen the video above, by Ben Barrett-Forrest of Forrest Media, that's been making the rounds of blogs and Twitter, it's a must-watch. Tracing the history of typography in stop-action, hand-and-paper style, the clip marches engagingly through all of the innovative advances in printing and lettering.

A shorter, lower-tech clip from Art Factory that focuses on animated or kinetic typography is another good gotcha film for grabbing student attentions and introducing the potential of well-chosen styles.

Typography Sample from Art Factory on Vimeo.

By taking typography into account, teachers can't help but help students. Whether filling in PowerPoint slides or typing up worksheets or writing unit tests, teachers can make purposeful decisions regarding letter families. A crisply arranged page makes information delivery neat and tidy. A gaudy or funky font on the screen elicits smiles and coaxes curiosity. Carefully laid-out assessments can mean all the difference in students' ability to demonstrate learning. In fact, many children with IEPs or distinct learning styles have genuine trouble making sense of dense fields of words. Considerations of spacing, leading, and kerning can help these learners do their best (and also fulfill what may be legally mandated by district classifications).

The following articles offer valuable resources for learning and teaching about typography. The first post is especially relevant, with a thorough, visual explanation of how to format pleasing text and how to avoid frying the eyes of viewers.
Source: Design Taxi, Yulia Brodskaya
Finally, the example above from designer Yulia Brodskaya is a nice graphic to use in a classroom discussion of fonts. It's right on the tipping point between flash and substance. Teachers can throw it up on the screen and ask students about the pluses and minuses of the colors, shadows, and swirls as an overall communication elements. Typefaces, in this case, exemplify our favorite mantra in student projects, which is "content first, pretty second." Our kids enjoy chanting it when we go through various PBL steps in class, and they'll probably enjoy repeating it for typography, too.


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