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  • Tony Pritchard 9:08 am on September 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ISTD,   

    ISTD Condensed Article: Assessment 

    Here is my articled published in ISTD Condensed. It is primarily about my experience of assessing at the annual International Society of Typographic Designers’ Student Assessment. The article does cover why students struggle with the design process and what they can do in resolving their projects more successfully.

  • Tony Pritchard 2:23 pm on August 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , First Things First, , ISTD, , Poster, Tutorial,   

    Geoff White Interview and Poster Tutorial 

    Here is the transcript from the section describing the design of the John Miles poster:

    From October 2008 until November 2009 I was asked to design posters to publicise the Talking Graphics lectures. The posters reflected the individual themes of the speakers but also work stylistically as a related series.

    John Miles poster
    Here you see the completed poster of the example we are about to recreate stage by stage. I will explain how I made each decision.

    Enlarging the poster
    So that you can see more clearly we’ll enlarge the poster and look at the poster section by section. Here you see the main part with all the graphic components we will be working with.

    Now we focus in further until we arrive at the very first decision – which is the surname of the speaker John Miles. Note that the surname is tightly letterspaced but that the letters are not touching. When setting type large you can often afford to set the type quite tightly.

    John Miles
    Here we see the first name ‘John’ the same size as ‘Miles overlaying the surname. I have coloured it a transparent blue. John is positioned so that the vertical stroke of the ‘J’ aligns with the vertical of the lowercase ‘i’. The baseline of ‘John’ aligns with the x-height of Miles.

    John Miles plus colour
    A block of colour with a gradient applied is added above ‘John’ aligning with the cap height. Another block is added below Miles aligning with the baseline.

    Colour bands
    Two further colour bands are added. One colour band is to the x-height of ‘Miles’ and the other to the cap height of John. I have left the white ‘shining’ behind ‘John.

    Introductory text
    A large block of introductory text is added. The baseline of the last line aligns with the baseline of ‘John’. The type runs up from this point. The left edge of the type aligns with the ‘h’ of ‘John’. Within the text I have highlighted the date and time as important information.

    Adding the small blocks of type
    Next we move down the poster and towards the centre.

    First block
    First we add a small block of text to the left of the main body of text. The first baseline aligns through with the baseline of the large type next to it. The small text aligns left with the vertical of the ‘J’ of ‘John’.

    Second block
    A second small block of text is added. The baselines align through with the first block. I have overlapped the first three lines of the second block with the last three lines of the first block. This creates a satisfying step and allows for the small type to seemingly wrap around the large type without touching it. The type aligns left with the ‘M’ of Miles.

    Third block
    The third small block of type is added underneath ‘Miles’. The type aligns left with the ‘h’ of ‘John’. The space between the type and the baseline of ‘Miles’ above is visually the same as the space between the first small block and the cap height of the ‘J’ of ‘John’. You can see this demonstrated by the two small red squares.

    Fourth block
    A fourth and final small block of type is added to the right. The baselines align through with the third block. Again I have overlapped the last three lines of this block with the first three lines of the block to the right. The left side of the fourth block aligns vertically with the second downstroke of the ‘n’ of ‘John’.

    Three vertical rules
    I’ve added three vertical rules in progressively heavier weights. This is to emphasise the reading direction of the type as they appear to move from the background to the foreground. I have coloured them white to add contrast.

    Top of the poster
    We now move to the top of the poster. We are going to add the series title. First the word ‘Talking’. Then ‘Graphics’. The vertical of the ‘h’ of ‘Graphics’ aligns through with the vertical of the ‘T’ of ‘Talking’. This sets up a strong vertical alignment with the ‘J’ of ‘John’. ‘A series of’ is added next to ‘Graphics’. The baselines align through. The second line is added underneath aligning left with ‘h’ of ‘Graphics’. As does the third line. The notion of type stepping and wrapping is reflecting the design approach of the type below.

    Key alignment points
    We now reduce the poster down in size so that we see the main area of typographic design again. The red lines show you those key alignment points again.

    Eight of the series
    And here are eight of the series to finish with.

  • Tony Pritchard 12:34 pm on March 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ISTD,   

    International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) 2010 Student Assessment 

    Thirty-seven UK colleges took part with 270 student registrations. Annually about a third are successful in passing the student assessment. The pass mark is set at 60%.

    The ISTD Assessment Process
    I have been an ISTD assessor for the last three years. In that time I have been fortunate to gain an insight into both typographic and educational standards. The assessors are drawn from both higher education institutions and the profession. Individual assessment teams are comprised one education person and one industry person. Each assessment takes 30 minutes and is verified by a senior ISTD member. The verification involves ensuring that the form is correctly completed and that assessor comments do not conflict with the assessment criteria descriptors. Should there be any dispute the case is referred to an additional arbitration process. The assessment form is then typed up and produced as a PDF. Work is identified for photographic record and photographed on the spot. All this takes place in one room and you feel as if you are part of one assessment machine! It is a very rigorous and efficient machine. A very impressive operation. Pass or fail, students can feel assured that their work has received due consideration.

    The components of the project
    The projects enable the students to demonstrate their conceptual abilities allied to high standards of design and typographic practice. Projects include five components. Typographic interpretation involves the conception of an idea and how this is executed through visual proposals. Evidence of practical research and development is required including contextual research, data and information generation, idea exploration and visual experimentation. Students present a strategy paper outlining their thought processes. They are required to supply typographic and production specifications considering media, materials and format. Finally the overall presentation is judged, not as a substitute for a weak idea, but whether its coherence enhances the communication. All this is a tall order for undergraduate students. Most students don’t successfully achieve either the individual components or the complete integrated package. There are questions for the students but equally for us educators – primarily why is it the case that so many students don’t pass?

    Bridging the chasms of the design process
    The challenges designers face are how to cross the chasms between each phase of the design process. The initial challenge is how to get started. Phd students face ‘the research question’ the rest of us just face questions. What is to be communicated and to who, where, when and how? This involves us in a practical process of research. Research is not an isolated process it informs, and is integral to, all stages of the process. We need to establish data and put this into context to understand information. This information can be analysed and evaluated. The first chasm we face is how to cross from research to the development phase. The development phase requires us to develop visual propositions. This requires visual experimentation, exploration and testing. We cannot remain within the relatively cosy world of gathering information.This phase also requires ideas development. One can employ logical reasoning and/or lateral thinking techniques as expounded by Edward de Bono. We need to create the ‘environments’ for the ‘happy accidents’ to occur. The next chasm is between the development phase and identifying an idea to take forward for further prototyping and towards the final visual. This requires the ability to edit and make critical judgments. Design educators call this phase resolution. This is perhaps the hardest part of the process. Up until this point all the research and development can be very worthy but can it be translated and transformed into an engaging, pertinent, challenging, exciting, entertaining and informative piece of communication? You’ve followed the design process step-by-step – but is that enough? What are the attributes of a well resolved project? Can it be described? Is there a formula? I have written about the design process in previous posts. The articles can be found here: The Design Process Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

    Typographic interpretation
    My first piece of advice is to read and keep re-reading the project brief/assignment throughout the project development. Did you miss any of the subtle nuances on your first reading? As an assessor I think the answer is yes. Students need to consider the nature of visual communication and how to make ideas understandable. Complexity and ambiguity can be visually and intellectually intriguing but equally, to paraphrase Jorge Frascara, to deliberately mislead and confuse is abusive. When we conceive an idea it no doubt makes sense to us. But will others understand your idea and how will you know? How often do we test whether others understand our intention? Friends and family may well tell us what we want to hear to save our feelings. Although ultimately we all want to make visual communication that we have personally formed it is perhaps worth looking at previous examples of successful visual communication. My advice is to acquaint yourself with the history of idea development. There are patterns and formulas. Look out for them, identify them and learn from them. Build up your own visual database. This growing archive will become you reference points. By becoming a more aware designer, understanding the nature of influence, and that you are in a continuum of design thinkers, you will be able to make informed and insightful personal decisions. In my view this section is where you are likely to pass or fail and where you will lose most marks.

    Research and development
    Some contextual research is necessary to understand the area under investigation. The danger is to become trapped in endless gathering. It feels very purposeful to spend hours in the library, making visits to museums, interviewing people and constructing surveys. But what is the purpose unless it focuses you on to the next stage of ideas development? You have to analyse the research to understand potential directions. What does the research tell you? Where is it leading? Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t just draw the spider diagram because you feel you ought to. Do it if you have a reason to do it. Don’t just copy endless articles or print out internet pages – who do you think is going to read it? It needs to mean something to you and you need to articulate that meaning in some other way such as through concise reflective writing or a diagram. Show us how you are transforming data into information and into knowledge. Show us how you are applying your findings.

    When writing a strategy paper, my advice is to say what your idea is straight away in the first paragraph. The strategy is an opportunity to convey your thought processes. It is not just a log of actions you took but why you took them and how it influenced the course of the project. You are not at the ISTD assessment to present your work. You need to think about this when you write your statement. Often in professional practice you will have to write a report to accompany your design proposals. You may have to leave your portfolio with a client and a clear, concise report will prove invaluable in terms of clarifying any complex aspects of the project.

    Typographic and technical specifications
    This is the ‘money for old rope’ section. This is a technical section and shouldn’t be hard to pass. Don’t lose out on the stuff you can learn easily. This section requires you to tell the assessor how the item is to be produced in reality. It isn’t about how the visual is made. You would not produce a mass produced item on your Epson printer. If your item is printed you will need to know about the paper stock/substrate and weight; type of printing (eg 4 colour litho); and whether it is printed in special pantone colours or full colour process (CMYK). If you are specifying for screen you will need to consider resolution; pixels measurements; and appropriate colour systems. Educators…where in the curriculum is this information delivered?

    A bad idea presented well tends to fair better than a good idea presented poorly. It shouldn’t but I think it does. Learn the techniques of a good presentation. Don’t fail on this section. It is about taking care in how you organise things. Label things clearly. Attempt visual consistency across disparate items such as sketchbooks, research containers and the final portfolio. Think about the first moment an assessor will open up the folder – what will be their first impression? Clutter or order? You can really effect the disposition of the person looking at your work by some careful consideration regarding organisation. Think carefully how each item is made and finished off. It is demonstrating your level of care and attention. Why would a society want someone that doesn’t care about their own work? I have written about presentation in this article: Presenting research and development work.

    In this article I have tried to reflect on my recent experience of assessing student work. Questions of assessment criteria and achieving parity in application inevitably arise. The ISTD reviews these criteria and are open in their discussions regarding assessment practices. The society is determined to maintain the highest standards of typographic practice within education. If it doesn’t who else will? This is a tough assessment – if you pass it really means something. It is a great acheivement. In my view it means more that your undergraduate qualification. This is a professionally recognised qualification. This is important at a time when it is tougher to break into the profession. There are many graduates and not so many jobs. Graduates are now expected to undertake free placements or even pay for them (see paying to work for free). In discussions with professional colleagues at the ISTD assessment they were committed to paying a fair wage and not exploiting talented graduates. This ethical stance is important for the profession to embrace.

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