Archive for February, 2010

For every season kern, kern, kern…

Challenges // Curriculum: humble beginnings / Part Three
Rethinking curriculum for a program structured around applications

Case study: InDesign Hand kerning exercise

students manually kerning painted letterforms

Students manually kerning painted letterforms

Student: “Why are we hand-painting letter forms in an InDesign class?”

Teacher: “Because there’s a huge list of ‘fonts’ in the Type menu and I want you to be educated about your choices.”

I am always asked this question the first week of InDesign. And then about four students drop the course. Since it makes the class so unpopular, why DO I make students hand-paint letter forms? It’s not intended to torture, or long-lost nostalgia for my ruling pen and gouache… it’s simply to instill patience.

Many students today have never had to manually change the channel on their televisions. Or had rotary telephones. A record player. Or waited for a cassette tape to rewind.

We are spoiled with having everything instant—whether it be a flip of a TV channel, skipping a track on an iPod, or texting a friend about dinner plans. The Now is simply a touchscreen away.

Philosophically, I could write an epic prose—that making students hand paint letterforms creates an awareness and intimacy of the delicate curves and thicknesses with the design of each and every individual character—but that’s not entirely what this is about. (Sorry, typophiles!)

Ultimately, the exercise is about slowing down the student’s process—and getting them mentally prepared to understand that the design process takes time, and tries. Multiple, multiple tries. this is something that InDesign cannot teach us. It exists in the Now.

Hand kerning exercise (Assignment 1, InDesign)
Group project: Each student is required to hand paint two characters, each from a different type classification. The following week the painted letter forms are manually kerned on the wall. All students participate with the painting and the hanging of the characters.

Once the students master the “analogue” kerning, they use the same typefaces to digitally kern in InDesign. This exercise enables students to see the subtle spaces between characters, in context to type classifications, history and anatomy.

February 19, 2010 at 5:09 am Leave a comment


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