What I didn’t learn in school
You never realize how much you didn’t learn in school until you try to teach in one. Teaching forces you to figure out what it is that someone else needs to know, and then to devise a set of experiences that will expose them to it, and, finally, to provide the proper context in which to learn it.
For example: I learned a lot about typography in school but it wasn’t until I started to teach that I realized I didn’t have in my head a simple notion of what typography really was; a construct that would help make sense of it for my students. It was only then that I recognized that graphic design is distinguished from all other design disciplines by its roots in language. I gradually came to see typography as a set of simple conventions, developed over time, which allow us to express, on paper, the structure and content of spoken language.
Size, weight, slant and spacing are the only variables the typographer has to work with. Font form, weight and slant are also variables. This is the kind of limited set of rules that characterize good games, and the intellectual exercise of deploying these simple typographic conventions in response to a specific text is always fascinating. Making a certain typographic choice means something. Typography gives us visible access to language.
Compared with the rich infections, nuances and rhythms of oral speech – not to mention the crucial context of facial expression and body language – typographic expression is relatively arid and abstract. But now, with the introduction of time, motion and sound as part of the typographer’s palate, typographic expression has been freed from the mute flatland of print and its potential to approach the richness of spoken language increases considerably. All this I learned by teaching.