Deirdre Moore | January 2014

Typography and Elements of Design

When I think back to my earliest days of teaching, I can see so many missed opportunities for meaningful arts integration.  How many book jackets, posters, travel brochures and presentations did I assign over the years without ever teaching my students any principles of design to help them create something that would really grab the attention of the audience or effectively communicate information in a visual way?  Somehow it just did not occur to me to explicitly teach design when assigning such projects.  Arts integration involves not just drawing and painting, dancing, making music and acting but it includes all methods of expressive communication.  If we want our students to become really effective communicators, it would behoove us to be sure we are helping them create clear and effective visual presentations with intentional use of the elements of design.

One thing students love to play with when working on a computer is typeface.  They love to experiment with size, color, font type and spacing.  Computers make creating effective visual aids and presentations so much easier and allow even the youngest creator to have an impressive product.  It’s so wonderful to be able to capitalize on something children tend to love anyway and give them some concepts and vocabulary to help them make informed choices as they play.  I happened to stumble across a YouTube animated short on “The History of Typography.”  It’s a fun and informative 5 minute video that could really open some eyes to the subtle differences between font design (it certainly opened mine!) and could be a great jumping off point to discuss effective use of font when creating text for visual presentations of information.

The ideas of emphasis and contrast are important ones for all artists and teachers often address them in the teaching of writing.  They also happen to work in concert as an element of design.  Because you are probably teaching your students about emphasis and creating contrast for emphasis in writing, it is an easy segue both for you and your students into a discussion of how that is done in the arts.  If you are like me and are not well versed in design, I found another internet presentation that would not be appropriate to show your students but might be helpful to you in determining considerations for teaching your students about effective use of typography for visual presentations of information.  By arming students with an awareness of how the choice of font, size, color and spacing can affect an audience, students can intentionally create more effective presentations and become more confident and adept communicators.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.