Cross-Platform and Dynamic Reading
Typography III is the culmination of the RISD Graphic Design department’s typography curriculum sequence, with an emphasis on typography and contemporary display platforms. Advances in software and hardware have created new opportunities for how language is written, sequenced, and accessed. Projects in this semester depend on altered states, where the content, composition, and context all are potentially at play. Students will continue to develop proficiency in designing for static compositions while extending the meaning and voice of that work across multiple platforms. Students will have ample opportunity to further shape their perspective and individual voice in relation to contemporary typography.
Due to family health circumstances, I’m teaching the course online for this semester. However, even though my presence and interactions will be mostly Zoom– and Slack-based, I’m designing the course to accommodate both remote students and those who would like to collaborate on-campus, during or outside of class. The goal is to make Typography III as active as possible.
Each class will vary in programme, including discussions, reviews in small groups and one-on-one of your progress, lectures, readings, student presentations, hands-on workshops, and group exercises. The active presence, listening, and participation of everyone in the class is crucial (and will make it a lot more fun and interesting): in presenting your own work, supportive and respectful critique of your classmates’ work, and in class discussions of texts we’ll read, typographic news and history, and other relevant (sometimes tangential) topics.
Each member of the class will have their own Slack channel for uploading and sharing progress, research, content materials, links, and to function as a place for classmates to make thoughtful comments & suggestions, and for general discussions and feedback.
This is a studio course, so aside from the above, a lot of the time we will be making use of class time to get work done. In both the classroom and in my practice, I define work as the obvious (typesetting, composing, experimenting, testing, prototyping) and the perhaps less obvious (researching, reading, discussion, thinking, reflecting). Class is a just as much a space for contemplation as it is for activity. (I argue that contemplation IS an activity.) Join each class prepared to work with all materials that you will need that day. Each week we will review what is due the next week and what you should plan to work on. Get to class on time, if not early: 1:10pm.
A laptop, strong internet connection, and relevant software including Adobe Creative Suite, Slack, Zoom, Figma, and Google Docs will be required. (I’m here to help if current circumstances make any of these things difficult for you to access.) Related to all this, please read RISD’s Student Code of Conduct for Remote Learning.
Please note the new Covid-times printing processes we have with GD technicians John Sunderland and Ed Brown (see forthcoming info at typeshop.risd.gd). Leave ample time for printing prior to class. If you can afford it, we recommend getting yourself a small ±$100 Letter (A4) format black and white laser printer. Something like this Brother or this HP: you could then tile larger formats for actual size posters, or print separate pages and tape together for book design spreads. My faculty colleague Anastasiia Raina also recommends this really good, still relatively affordable, Letter/A4 format Xerox colour laser printer (around $250 or so).
I’d like us—as a class that’s part of an institution physically located in Providence, Rhode Island—to acknowledge the peoples of the Narragansett and Wampanoag Nations as the original inhabitants and enduring stewards of the lands and waters upon which RISD is situated. Let’s commit ourselves and our work to create more equitable, respectful, and honest open cultures and societies.
Although I know this class is mostly virtual and some of us are remote, we are using Zoom, video and audio conferencing software by an American communications technology company that actually operates from an international network of physical data centres, many of which are also located on occupied land (in places like San Jose, Toronto, and Sydney). The list of occupied lands only gets longer. Check out this work-in-progress map of worldwide Native lands, an initiative of Native Land Digital, a Canadian non-profit governed by an Indigenous board of directors and funded by individual donors and supporters.
Teaching & Learning in 2020
None of us can fail to acknowledge that we are currently in the middle of a serious pandemic, a global health crisis which is impacting so many people, communities, and cultures in profound ways. My aim as a teacher and designer is to be reasonable and understanding. We’re all just human beings trying to do our best. As our colleague Minkyoung Kim reminds us in her Type 3 syllabus, please be reasonable with yourself, reasonable with others in the community, and allow yourself plenty of time for reflection. As I mentioned above, reflection is work too.
When we talk about typography—in Western culture, at RISD, in our curriculum even—we are admittedly referencing a tradition that has been defined by Western/European principles and ideas. I join my Type 3 colleague Ramón Tejada in one of the goals stated in his own syllabus: for you to discover and enjoy making typography in your way, and pushing it beyond these often traditions, which have been very exclusive. Bring your own languages, scripts, letterforms, cultures, and personalities to our class and to your projects. I want to encourage you to develop a typographic practice that is open, fluid, iterative, complex, and allows for your knowledge, point of view, and lineage to emerge confidently.
RISD is committed to Social Equality and Inclusion and has a newly-created campus initiative to support this (SEI). This is a long-held personal commitment of mine too: to challenge accepted design history and canons, and to embrace different cultures, languages, scripts, approaches in both my teaching and in my practice. It is important to me that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives are well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs are addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity students bring to this class are viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit. I strive to present materials and activities that spotlight underrepresented voices and are respectful and representative of diversity: in gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture, perspective. Your suggestions about how to improve the value of diversity in this course, and your challenges to me as a teacher in an acknowledged position of power, are always encouraged and appreciated. See also: RISD’s non-discrimination policies on titleix.risd.edu
Attendance and Participation
You are expected to attend every class: on time, and ready to work. Please notify me (by email or Slack) if you anticipate missing a class. More than two unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for the class. But: I know these are the most unusual and challenging times. Let me know if circumstances are making it difficult for you to attend classes. We can find ways to make things work. This course is a three credit course that meets five hours per week. You should plan on spending at least five hours each week on this class outside of class time.
Academic Honesty & Generosity
During the course of your work throughout the type sequence (and in general at RISD as a student) you will experience a range of opportunities to be inspired and influenced by other designers and artists. While plagiarism with the goal of deception will not be tolerated, it’s normal to explore the work of others in new and original ways, and to express that influence through a variety of techniques—including homage, parody, style, derivation, and appropriation.
Citing your inspirations, references, and sources and giving credit where it’s due are ethical, political practices. I’m actually paraphrasing Shannon Mattern (Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research) in that previous sentence, and I’m going to further cite her below, where she in turn cites Sara Ahmed (British-Australian feminist scholar) and Kishonna Gray (Assistant Professor in Communication, Gender and Women’s Studies, and affiliate in Black Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago):
“As Sarah Ahmed and Kishonna Gray acknowledge, citations are a means of determining ‘who appears,’ who counts, whose work gets validated. Our citational choices have the power to build communities, as well as to dismantle and build and reform canons and disciplines. … Keep in mind that citation is more than just a bureaucratic obligation.”
We expect all GD students and faculty to maintain an open perspective towards these concepts, discussing it freely, and to use class as a safe testing ground for exploring influence, with the guidance of faculty. For more information, see John Caserta’s “It’s Probably Not Plagiarism.” Make sure you read through RISD’s Definitions and Rules of Academic Misconduct.
RISD is committed to providing equal opportunities for all students. If you are a student with a disability or condition that may require accommodations to complete the requirements of this class, I encourage you to discuss your learning needs with me prior to or during the first week of the term. Once an approval letter from the Office of Disability Support Services is submitted, accommodations will be provided as needed. For more information on how to receive accommodations, please contact RISD Disability Support Services at 401 709 8460 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grades and Evaluation
Grades will be based on the following criteria:
Quality of work, including concept, design, and the timely completion of assignments; working process and craft; personal initiative, exploration, and risk-taking; and, last but not least, the appropriate and thoughtful application of typographic principles
25% Stasis & Flux (Print & motion typographic compositions)
25% Paper & Pixels (Complex typography from print to screens)
25% Bits & Pieces (Comprehensive typographic systems at various scales)
25% Class Participation
Positive attitude toward learning and the class as a whole; regular and unsolicited participation in class discussion and group work; the ability to give and receive useful criticism; enthusiastic and generous sharing of thoughts, ideas, references; and most importantly: presence (in mind and in person)
At mid-term, you will receive a warning if you are slipping. Grades are given as follows:
Strong design process / good listener / ability to come up with many different ways to approach assignments / thorough research / mastery of form, functionality, and craft / frequent participation in critiques and discussion / focused / attentive / ability to articulate ideas / risk-taking and broad exploration
Solid , well-done work / could improve on the items noted in the A list, in particular: better process, more solutions, better craft and attention to detail, more class participation
Average work / fulfills assignments but not much else / doesnt re-work or refine projects, doesn’t do much beyond the requirements
Limited effort / incomplete work / lack of skill and enthusiasm / chronic tardiness and unexcused absences / does not follow instructions / poor craft
Your final grade will be based on the above criteria as well as on the final portfolio of work turned in at the end of the semester. Keep in mind that any project can be re-done or improved upon throughout the semester. Such improvements will be taken into consideration when grading the final portfolio.
As each assignment concludes, students will meticulously document work and upload to a Google Drive folder containing a portfolio of all of your assignments (in PDF form), as well as materials that document your process. It is important that you save all of your work and not just the final results. Please keep all iterations and versions of projects, sketches, process notes, photography, &c., as well as iterations of your digital files.
You are strongly urged to set up and maintain a solid backup and archiving strategy for your work. Operate on the assumption that your hard drive will die, usually when you least expect it. You will not be excused for preventable loss of data. Backing up means on-site, off-site, and a bootable clone. Read more about a three-legged backup strategy here. Ask me for advice, and about how I learned all this the hard way.