March 2019, Colombo, Sri Lanka
In partnership with FARU (Faculty of Architecture Research Unit), University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and the Akuru Collective, the ATypI Working Seminar in Colombo took place 22–23 March 2019.
This event marks the revival of the series of Working Seminars that ATypI organized from 1974 to 1992. For more, see Announcing: ATypI Working Seminars (Gerry Leonidas, September 2018).
Around sixty educators, professionals, and students, came together to exchange information and discuss the teaching of typography in universities, colleges, and self-contained courses in the broader region.
The Working Seminar employed a structure combining presentations, open-ended Q&A sessions, and hands-on workshops. Informal discussions during the breaks, lunches, and dinners enriched the experience and reinforced our emerging network.
Programme & videos
- Full programme with videos — 4 presentations, 4 Q&A sessions
- YouTube playlist
by Pathum Egodawatta (co-organizer)
Main themes of the discussion were the use of archival material in the design process, multi-script design, and common challenges in teaching typography in the region. Research and teaching typography in the regional scripts is a challenge, as is teaching in bilingual and multilingual environments. Lack of resources, nomenclature and frameworks for describing histories is a shared challenge in the region.
The discussions and the themes of the second day revolved around design education; research, teaching techniques, curriculum and course development. The interprations of Latin-centric typography concepts in the the context of local scripts and generation of new interpretations raised questions about the required research. By extension, educators in the region face challenges in demonstrating the value of design research. Typography related research is unheard of in some institutions, making it much harder to build a case for funding and support for research, and participating in knowledge exchange programmes such as conferences and other events.
Another area of discussion covered the various types of typography modules and fundamental differences in approaches towards experiment and originality in typography, and how these are discussed in undergraduate levels. These terms are related to the perception of what typography is in the course, and could be interpreted to focus on building a deeper understanding of the tools and techniques which influence the forms and shapes of letters, and how they relate to document genres.
The Working Seminar Colombo is the first Working Seminar in 27 years for ATypI, and certainly the first of its kind in the region with exclusive focus on teaching typography.
The term ‘Visual communication design’ is replacing graphic design courses and it shows the expanding landscape of communication mediums. Lack of resources and knowledge on fundamentals and basics will only become much more pressing issues when it comes to teaching type and typography in regional scripts. Further to the knowledge and insights on teaching typography the event highlighted the importance of regional initiatives, with focus on building shared open resources and coordinating to organise more regional knowledge exchange programmes. A conscious effort to be inclusive and enable local communities is essential, as is the making available of resources in a manner that these communities can access.
Bringing together people from the region in an intimate environment to focus on a narrow scope is the aim of Working Seminars. The Colombo event was successful in proving this model. The structure of the event and the cap on the participants allowed more personal discussions leading to more fruitful exchanges. The local team and the volunteers got an opportunity to participate in the event, and students participated actively in the workshops. Raising ATypI’s profile in Sri Lanka and the region was a key benefit, and is certain to lead to future local initiatives.
Further thoughts from participants
- Thoughts on ATypI Working Seminar Colombo (Tanya George, Alphabettes) — a very useful and thorough review of the Working Seminar.
- Teaching typography across cultures: a few tentative thoughts by Keith Tam.
Sponsors & partners
Gold Sponsor: Google
Support from our local and international sponsors and partners made this event successful. Thank you!