About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2323-2325
Publication year: 2013
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain

HELPING GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDENTS BETTER UNDERSTAND TYPOGRAPHY THROUGH LEARNING VIRTUAL AND TRADITIONAL TYPESETTING METHODS

P. Curran

Iowa State University (UNITED STATES)
Graphic design students today develop page layout skills primarily through learning software programs such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress, but how can students begin to understand typography and its nuances?

While current software programs allow students to quickly arrive at typographic solutions, students often fail to comprehend the finer points of typography. For example, many students neglect the significance of using the pica measurement system. While their work may communicate, are students appreciating the qualities that can render good typography better, such as tracking, kerning, and leading – qualities previously learned through traditional methods such as setting type with wood or lead?

Beatrice Warde, in her 1930s seminal article, “The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible,” states, “Printing [typography] demands a humility of mind…. There is nothing simple or dull in achieving the transparent page. Vulgar ostentation is twice as easy as discipline.”

Traditional typesetting methods require discipline of mind and action – for example, understanding the pica system and column width restrictions is imperative when working with traditional typesetting methods. Experiencing the sheer effort and time it takes to track or kern typography helps students appreciate better the computer they use.

Through a case study I will demonstrate how students at a U.S. Midwestern experienced a hands-on typography workshop in which they set type using the Intertype (Linotype) machine and wood type. More importantly, however, prior to the workshop, students prepared for the hands-on experience by using “LetterMPress,” a $10 (USD) downloadable app. This app realistically allows student to set wood type using some of the equipment and parameters they will encounter in the hands-on workshop. LetterMPress uses realistically photographed letterpress equipment, from the wood type itself to the furniture, quoins, and keys, and a facsimile of a Vandercook proofing press. The type is even set “reading wrong.” Students “printed” broadsides using LetterMPress without ever getting their hands dirty!

Shortly after the LetterMPress experience, students visited a local letterpress shop in which they learned to set type using wood type, an Intertype (Linotype) machine, and the Ludlow Type Casting System. They then dirtied their hands by printing their broadsides using a Chandler and Price platen press. Although students were quite knowledgeable of digital typography, they learned to appreciate the time and humility it took to set and print a simple one-page broadside.

Students were excited to learn the restrictions and freedom in setting type using traditional typesetting methods. They were impressed too, with the variety of printed results they achieved by varying paper texture, color, weight, ink color and number of impressions. “Sure beats using a laser printer any day!” One student declared.

In my presentation I will show student examples of their LetterMPress and letterpress work. Students will talk about their experiences with both LetterMPress and letterpress and address how these experiences influenced how they now approach digital typography.
@InProceedings{CURRAN2013HEL,
author = {Curran, P.},
title = {HELPING GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDENTS BETTER UNDERSTAND TYPOGRAPHY THROUGH LEARNING VIRTUAL AND TRADITIONAL TYPESETTING METHODS},
series = {6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2013 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-3847-5},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {18-20 November, 2013},
year = {2013},
pages = {2323-2325}}
TY - CONF
AU - P. Curran
TI - HELPING GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDENTS BETTER UNDERSTAND TYPOGRAPHY THROUGH LEARNING VIRTUAL AND TRADITIONAL TYPESETTING METHODS
SN - 978-84-616-3847-5/2340-1095
PY - 2013
Y1 - 18-20 November, 2013
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2013 Proceedings
SP - 2323
EP - 2325
ER -
P. Curran (2013) HELPING GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDENTS BETTER UNDERSTAND TYPOGRAPHY THROUGH LEARNING VIRTUAL AND TRADITIONAL TYPESETTING METHODS, ICERI2013 Proceedings, pp. 2323-2325.
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