Five links about design education

Posted on 8 April 2010 in:

For the past three semesters, I’ve worked as a part-time instructor at University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany. Even this brief description makes my role sound more significant than it is; I just offer a single class in typeface design. During my first two semesters, this class met one day per week. This semester, I combined all of my hours into a nine-day workshop. Someday, I will post more about the work from those classes. Let me just conclude this paragraph by writing that my students are all in the Hauptstudium phase of their studies.

My students are from Darmstadt’s Faculty of Design, which is still on a German Diplom degree track; the switch to Bachelors and Masters degree curricula is yet to come. A Diplom curriculum is divided into halves: the Grundstudium and the Hauptstudium. Between these two parts, students complete an intermediary degree called a Vordiplom. In the past, many German design departments have considered the Grundstudium curricula to be the equivalent of foreign BA programs, making the Vordiplom a BA equivalent, and the Diplom an MA equivalent. Other countries often interpret the German degree system rather differently. The in’s and out’s of this are far too complex for today’s post.

During the past two weeks, a number of online articles on design education have caught my attention. Some of these are specific to typeface design, but not all of them. Also, two are written in German. However, I would like to recommend all of them to my readers.

1. A Case for Type Design Education
First, Canada Type’s Patrick Griffin makes the case for a type design degree program in Canada. I’m not sure whether he is suggesting a new undergraduate degree program (i.e., a BA), or another graduate degree program. He mentions in the article that the only two places in the world where type design may be studied are the programs at the University of Reading or in The Hague.

This is not quite accurate. There is a graduate certificate program in type design at the Zurich University of the Arts. Also, a unique program under the auspices of Fred Smeijers is on the books at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig. This seems to be someone separate from the standard Diplom curriculum at that school, and only available to advanced students. Still, I think that it should be considered postgraduate education as well—although this ties into the international accreditation of the older German degree system, which I touched upon above. I believe that in Latin America, there is at least one Spanish-language MA program, and there may be another in Spain as well. Patrick also does not mention that type design courses are offered as electives at many universities in several countries, but this may acceptably be left out of the article, as single semester classes are not a substitute for a dedicated curriculum.

I’m sure that Canada as a whole, or perhaps Toronto or Montreal specifically, do have the resources necessary to support a postgraduate type design course. However, I would be willing to bet that, if universities in North America were to start founding type design courses, the first institutions to do this would probably be in the United States, rather than in Canada. In fact, the Savannah College of Art and Design already lists a graduate certificate in typeface design on their website, although I am not personally familiar with the work made on that course, or with the course’s current faculty, students, or graduates.

2. Die richtige Ausbildung für Webdesigner
Not only is this article in German, it is quite Germany-specific. Author Oliver Jensen interviews two web designers (surely Germany has more than two web design experts?), asking them their opinions about web designer training. Germany still has established apprenticeships in certain fields, so it is not necessary to study graphic design (or anything else at the University level) in order to work as a web designer. This article runs through some of the options that many secondary school graduates face when considering a career in design—all design fields in general, not just web design.

3. A few things I’ve learned about typeface design
On I Love Typography, Gerry Leonidas reflects on his experiences as Reading’s MATD course director. As far as I know, this is the first good write-up about what goes on in type design at the University of Reading to have been published online. Two KABK graduates have written about their experiences during the Type]Media 2008 course on I Love Typography as well. But Gerry’s article tackles the problem of type design education as a whole, rather than reflecting on the actual activities that students go through in the course of such a program.

4. Werde Lehrer für Typografie und Schriftentwurf and A conversation with Dan Reynolds on Bachelor & Master
Both of these links may be a little self-serving, but TypeOff. is my blog, and I am free to write as I please!

Today, Indra Kupferschmid posted a mention on her blog about a new staff position at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design (in German). This is a very interesting position at a renowned institution, but the paygrade assigned to it is miserably low. I second Indra’s question as to what sorts of applicants they hope to attract for this. She writes, “show me the person with a masters degree and work experience who is willing to move to Stuttgart to work 39.5 hours per week for a TV-L 9 pay grade position, which has a starting gross salary of 2,229 Euro per month.”

My second link to her blog is a little older. it summarizes a Facebook discussion that she and I had last year about the pending Bachelor and Master degree reforms to the German educational system (in English).