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Slow or Fast?


  • By OSNS

    Published on 4 September 2012

Slow or Fast? How do you like your typography served? That is the question, and a very interesting one it is. This post will share with you all that happened in our Short Courses and Program last week ending Friday 31 August 2012 at the New School for Typography and Design.


Last week our crafty  school was honored to receivea delightful and thought provoking visit from a rare breed of Typographer who values craft above all else, and a true advocate of the art of slow typography,  Niko Spelbrink. 

Spelbrink was Icograda President, 1987-1989 and served on the Icograda board from 1983 until 1991. He was also a founding partner of what evolved into EdenSpiekermann Design consultancy in Amsterdam The Netherlands. He came to Melbourne approximately 20 years ago from Holland and became founding partner of Ography here in Melbourne and quite an important player in the high standard of Typography teaching at RMIT. 

As a person he is thoughtful, deliberate and precise in his speech and actions with beautiful manners of the old fashioned variety. He talked at length about “Slow Typography” which to me is a very interesting concept. 

So what is Slow Typography? Essentially it is typography in its pure form, working to provide ease and comfort of reading for the viewer. It is not about (to quote Spelbrink) "showing off". In fact, Spelbrink is not afraid to speak disparagingly of many well-known contemporary typographers who he refers to as “those show off types” who he would describe as "Fast Typographers". 

No, he says that its more important for students to take the time to recognize the reading qualities of different faces for different purposes. Nothing more. And “That you cannot teach that showing off stuff”. He has a point, in that so many designers seem to instinctually work with the style driven aspect of their work. Can you teach that? is something that I thought about long and hard for the rest of the week. I suppose that speaking from my own experience as student and teacher, a risk free learning environment certainly nurtures the expressive side of considered style driven typographic design. I see that it too has its place, but it is important to be able to make the distinction. 

Learning the art of creating crafted typography that is comfortable and clear to read needs to be taught, and hence Spelbrink coins the term "Slow Typography". "When people want to do their typography fast it is often not good typography because they have never learnd slow typography". He says solemnly and without prejudice. I can see that this is also the same for drawing and image making which is often style driven with little knowledge of the underpinning knowledge of how images are made. 

Which is perfectly in line with our philosophy that good design takes time, and so we are delighted that Spelbrink will be teaching our second year specialist typography module called "Just Type” which is an advanced exploration of the use of contemporary and classic typefaces for reading clarity and comfort. He will also be running some advanced master class workshops in 2013 at Old School concerning the art of "Slow Typography" which will provide type purists with a rare learning opportunity.

Communication Design Program - Secrets of Typography

Our inaugural program commenced 5 weeks ago now with bang when our niche group of dedicated design students collaborated together in the first learning module titled "The Secrets of Typography" which is now complete. 

Along with fundamental knowledge, special emphasis was given to the power that typography has to influence the behavior of audiences when it enables us to focus on what is instinctive. To inspire us, and articulate complex ideas and messages. 

The value of this focus toward the mission of the School cannot be stressed enough as we believe that students need to understand the value that their skills provide them with as Cultural Producers, to create design solutions that help to create social change and make the world a better place. 

Students collaborated together on a shared learning journey when weekly they critiqued one another’s project work receiving valuable feedback from one another and their lecturer on ways to refine their project work to a very high level of resolve via a continual iterative process. At the same time they learned how to effectively explain their design decisions. 

This week students will commence their next module titled “Type and Image” that involves developing successful techniques of integrating type with image to communicate ideas and communication strategy. 

The First Dimension

Drawing - Week 2

Last week students learned how to correctly see and interpret what is in front of them instead of vaguely making it up resulting in a drawing that is equally vague. 


This week, continuing to work without local color they further built on this new skill, learning how to adjust the quality of line to add depth and volume to a drawing and also express surface qualities. 

Students are completely blown away by discovering an ability that they never knew they had. They are amazed in their day-to-day lives when they now see and observe shapes and spaces for the first time thanks to their new perception, and they can’t wait to come to their class and make further discoveries of how to visually interpret the world around them, 

It is incredible when you discover that what we think we see, and what is actually there are completely different. When our student Linda Shaba returned home after her first lesson, her husband and son mocked her, asking “is that all you did?” when she showed them a chair she had observed an drawn so carefully. So Linda told them to try drawing a chair as good as hers. They had to eat humble pie when they realised they could not do it. 

This is indeed a very exciting journey for those that take it.