Visible Language

An independent scholarly journal published continuously since 1967.

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Visible Lanuage

Visible Language 47.3   •   April 2014   

The disciplinary literature of graphic design education calls for the inclusion of design history in studio students’ education. Yet evidence that the discipline has successfully answered this call remains scarce. This paper asks design educators to consider how our rhetoric might be misaligned with our practice on the subject of teaching graphic design history. It also asks educators to consider the need to develop an explicit, detailed body of case study literature dealing with the ways in which historical learning can be incorporated into the studio classroom. Design educators need to document and inter-rogate the specific ways in which we have been incorporating design history into the studio classroom. Enabling students to construct a functional model of design history requires more than a disparate and loosely defined set studio projects with history as their subject matter. Design educators need a way to learn about successful models and develop disciplinary best practices. Toward this end, the last section of this paper offers a detailed case study that documents one way to incorporate graphic design history into the studio classroom.

Critical Writing Strategies to Improve Class Critiques

Jillian Coorey , Gretchen Caldwell Rinnert

ProQuest  EBSCO

A crucial part of a design student’s education involves the class critique. In the traditional design studio, work is displayed, reflected upon and discussed. This method, used across many design schools, lacks the contemplation and thoughtful reflection design students often require. We propose the add-ition of critical and constructive writing to the classroom critique. To engage students in a deeper reflection and to provoke them to ask key questions and foster insightful discussions, writing components were added to design studio projects.
This paper discusses methods employed in the traditional studio classroom: post-it note critiques, online digital critiques, project documentation and round-robin writing critiques. While many instructors employ writing at the completion of proj-ects, there are many benefits of incorporating a writingcomponent into class critiques. Writing affords students the ability to pause and reflect. Writing allows for a deeper reflection, encouraging questions of the work’s purpose: Does it communicate effectively? Does the concept fulfill the needs of the client? Is this an obvious solution?
Writing enables students to consider their position, ideas, ethical philosophy and design concept while employing the use of design vocabulary and principles. The more proficient design students become with their written responses, the more prepared they are in a presentation or classroom dialogue.

Letterpress: Looking Backward to Look Forward

Alexander Cooper , Rose Gridneff, Andrew Haslam

ProQuest  EBSCO

This paper explores the value of retaining letterpress workshops within art and design schools, not merely as a tool to understand our past, but as a means to critically reflect upon our future.
The benefits of teaching letterpress to graphic design students as a way of improving their understanding of typography are well documented. There is an argument for preserving ‘craft’ subjects including letterpress within the curriculum, as they foster immersive learning. The letterpress process is a significant teaching tool that complements, and can act in conjunction with, computer-based design education. This paper seeks to build upon these debates, examining the intersection between the practice and theory of an otherwise technologically outdated process. The paper focuses upon 6x6: Collaborative Letter-press Project as a case study. The project brings together six leading UK Higher Education Institutions with active letterpress workshops. It encourages the sharing of best practice within a specialist subject area, through the creation of a collaborative publication where students and staff are linking their practice with critical and reflective writing in relation to the medium. Traditionally, workshop areas have been concerned with the acquisition of a skill, often taught through rote learning or technical demonstration. By positioning students at the centre of the process they have been encouraged to form their own perspective on the discipline. Through the examination of evolving letterpress paradigms, it is possible to question why we do something; as opposed to how it is done.

The typographical naivety of much scientific legibility research has caused designers to question the value of the research and the results. Examining the reasons underlying this questioning, the paper discusses the importance of designers being more accepting of scientific findings, and why legibility investigations have value. To demonstrate how typographic knowledge can be incorporated into the design of studies to increase their validity, the paper reports on a new investigation into the role of serifs when viewed at a distance. The experiment looks into the identification of the lowercase letters ‘j’, ‘i’, ‘l’, ‘b’, ‘h’, ‘n’, ‘u’, and ‘a’ in isolation. All of the letters originate in the same typeface and are presented in one version with serifs and one version without serifs. Although the experiment found no overall legibility difference between the sans serif and the serif versions, the study showed that letters with serifs placed on the vertical extremes were more legible at a distance than the same letters in a sans serif. These findings can therefore provide specific guidance on the design of individual letters and demonstrate the product of collaboration between designer and scientist on the planning, implementation, and analysis of the study.

Document designers combine a range of stylistic and structural typographic attributes to articulate and differentiate information for readers. This paper explores how the kind of typographic differentiation used in a document influences readers’ impressions of documents. A preliminary study indicated that three patterns of typographic differentiation (high, moderate and low) might underlie participants’ impressions of magazine design. Subsequently, a set of nine magazine layouts with controlled content was purposefully developed to systematically examine the impact of high, moderate and low patterns of typographic differentiation on participants’ impressions of documents. These documents were used in a repertory grid procedure to investigate the kinds of impressions readers articulate in relation to typographic presentation and whether readers are likely to formulate similar or differing impressions from high, moderate, and low patterns of typographic differentiation. The results suggest that typographic differentiation influences a range of rhetorical and experiential judgments. For example, participants described high differentiation documents as the most attention-grabbing and easy to skim-read, while they considered moderate and low differentiation documents to require deeper reading strategies. In addition, participants assumed high differentiation documents to be much more sensationalist than moderate or low differentiation documents, which they generally perceived as authoritative and credible.


For issue 47.3

Mike Zender


Katie Carrotherss


Sheri Cottingim

Circulation Manager

University of Cincinnati


Merald Wrolstad


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