Presentation details
Teaching type in the city

Karen Cheng

Saturday 15 September | 14:15 – 14:45
Location: Sallis Benney Theatre

Presentation | Theme: Landscapes | Duration: 30 minutes

Type design is, in some ways, an old-fashioned subject within a graphic design program. As the field of graphic design matures, emphasis has shifted away from traditional issues of craft, visual skills and formal innovation to also include communication theory and strategy, often in a wide variety of social and cultural contexts. Additionally, advances in digital technology continue to transform communication media and platforms, further expanding the desired capabilities and competencies of new graduates.

Therefore, for the contemporary instructor of type design and typography, the key question has been formulating curriculum and course projects that maintain the formal value of studying type design, while also engaging students in a meaningful investigation of content.

Over the past few years, I have developed one such project, "City Typefaces," that attempts to bridge typographic form and content. In various configurations (individually, and in teams), students are asked to design a typeface that expresses the unique character of an American city. The typeface must be, to a certain extent, practical (i.e., it should work reasonably well across a variety of applications, including brochures, posters, magazines, billboards, etc., but need not be optimized for signage or low-resolution screens). However, communication of the unique attributes/personality of the city is just as important as legibility and visual balance.

This paper will define the "City Typefaces" project and reflect on its success, both pedagogically and typographically. As such, the presentation should interest educators of type design/typography, as well as students and design professionals.

Speaker details

Karen Cheng Assistant Professor University of Washington | USA

Karen Cheng is Associate Professor in the Visual Communication Design program at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she teaches type design and typography. She was previously an instructor at the School of Design at the University of Cincinnati, where she received her Master’s degree in Graphic Design. Karen is an active practitioner whose design work has been recognized and published by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Communication Arts, Print, Critique, I.D. Magazine, the American Center for Design, P.I.E. Tokyo, and Rockport Publishers. She has won multiple gold and silver medals from the Society for Publication Design and the University and College Designers Association. Her book, Designing Type, was published in 2006 by Laurence King (U.K.) and Yale University Press (U.S.)

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