Typography: RVCC

Once you can set type, you can master any other aspect of composition!

I developed my own approach: I help the students trust their eyes and hands with key haptic exercises.

These include drawing letters as we learn the history of typography and then we spend time carving and printing letters to master white space. Only then do we move to the digital realm, fully in control of our abilities. I based this on my work in metacognition and my own love of printmaking. I have found it to be a wildly successful way to spark students’ passion for typography while subverting the thrall of computer-driven typesetting.

My students can see and build compostionions with real mastery, not by relying on presets from Adobe.

The first thing I needed to do was get everyone excited about letterforms.

We were working remotely, some students were still far from home due to the pandemic shutdown, so I needed to unite them as a group and excite them about the letterforms they had all been writing since childhood!
Assignment One: Biographical Name Tags

Students interviewed each other and created custom name tags designed to introduce their classmate. Then we took turns introducing each other!

Next, we built up from bedrock.

I gave all of the students a review copy of a textbook I have been developing. They volunteered to complete the exercises therein and give me feedback–not for a grade, just to see how it helped them master white space.

These exercises consist mainly of transferring letters using a graduated grid system, building the student’s confidence in their already developed perception of the glyph space.
Typography Now: my self-published workbook

The only way to master typographic space is to make it yourself!

We moved on to carving our own crude mini sets of letters in order to develop a natural sense of kerning, leading, and tracking. I have found that spending 4-5 weeks working on haptic lessons vastly improves student performance.
We then printed postcards for a small mailed exchange.

Digital typesetting began.

Once the class was ready, we moved to Illustrator for digital typesetting. We chose personally meaningful quotes and worked to find ways to incorporate fonts that spoke to us. Once again, I wanted the students to feel the skills they were bringing with them already. That makes it so much easier for them to finally confront The Grid and other supposed mysteries of design–there is no way they can balk once they have had a few successes.

Personally Meaningful Quotes

We then conquered InDesign.

I am a firm believer in preparing the student for the digital design space. I do not like to simply launch into a program and insist the student form their perspective from within that matrix. When I have prepared the students to be confident and curious, we can master most tenets of InDesign in a few weeks, cementing typographic knowledge along the way.

Type Book
Students created their own personal typographic manuals using their favorite celebrity’s name.

Above is a sample of the completed Type Book.

We ended with a flourish.

The last assignment before the final portfolio submission is a Type Designer Interactive Presentation. Since I have many students not yet equipped to code, I chose to use InDesign’s online publishing feature to teach some immersive design.
Interactive Research Book

Students researched a type designer and created an 8-page interactive presentation using their subject’s aesthetic.


Libby Clarke / Studio
I make things and teach people to change the world for the better.
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