Typography in Education

Typography matters

Typography can silently influence: It can signify great ideas, normalise dictatorships, and sever broken nations — and it can do this as powerfully as the words it depicts.

Typography matters.

Typography usually strives to be invisible. Suddenly, people outside of the design profession seem to care about its many intricacies. For example, anyone on the internet can tell you that Comic Sans has become a joke. Also, do you remember this year’s Oscars? It put visual hierarchy (reading from top to bottom) on the map.

The difference between making an embarrassing mistake, and recognizing one. Image: benjamin bannister

Typography matters.

We’re not Afraid of big Blackletter wolf, or are we?

You’ve seen blackletter typography before. It’s dense, old-fashioned, and elaborate. It looks like this:

You probably know blackletter as the script of choice for bad guys, prison tattoos, and metal album art — and you would be spot on.

Blackletter looks esoteric and illegible now, but it started off as a normal pattern that people across Europe used every day for hundreds of years.

Why don’t we use blackletter anymore? I think you know, Nazi leadership used Fraktur, an archetypal variety of blackletter, as their official typeface.

In just a few years, blackletter went from ordinary to a widespread taboo. No printed matter of any kind could use Fraktur, for German audiences or abroad. Even blackletter handwriting was banned from being taught in school.

Fraktur typeface

Think about that: The government of one of the world’s great powers banned a typeface.

Typography matters.

Typography and Learning

Typography can influence how you ‘perceive’ something when reading. It adds an ‘extra bit of meta-data’ to the actually words. So why do we overlook such a massive thing in education?

Because educators are not designers. Educators focus on their content and knowledge. We can forgive them for this but now they should not forget about entirely.

Google Fonts — https://fonts.google.com/#ChoosePlace

It’s Hard to Text in Arabic

We take it for granted that we can type any word with a keyboard. Each letter stands on its own, while Arabic connects every letter in a word, allowing many letters to take on new shapes based on context.

Arabic lends itself to lush and poetic calligraphy, but it doesn’t square with traditional European methods for making typefaces.
Much of the Arab world fell under Western colonial rule, and print communication remained a challenge. Rather than rethinking or expanding the conventions that had been designed around the Latin alphabet, the colonial powers changed Arabic. What we see in books and newspapers to this day is a ghost of Arabic script, reworked to use discrete letters that behave on a standard printing press.
Yakout, a popular typeface designed by the German-British company Linotype and Machinery Ltd.

There are over 100,000 ways to format a word in English; the Arabic world only has about 100 typefaces to support communication between half a billion people. How do you square a round hole?

Reclaiming Arabic Typography

Rana Abou Rjeily, a Lebanese designer is reclaiming Arabic typography. After studying design in the US and UK, Rana developed Mirsaal, an experimental typeface to bridge the gap between Arabic and Latin text.

Photo Credit: Rana Abou Rjeily

Mirsaal looks for the right balance of western conventions to make Arabic work in a modern context. It uses simplified, distinct letterforms, but with the goal of making written Arabic more expressive and authentic.

This isn’t a purely symbolic exercise. The Middle East is dealing with political instability that stems from deep cultural divisions. It is not hard to imagine how a more robust written language might play some role in making a better future and better relationships going forward.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Trump during the opening of an anti-extremist center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Your challenge

So, the next time you go shopping, download an app or go past a building, take a second to look at the typography in front of you. Don’t evaluate it. Don’t critique it. Just observe it. What does it say? What does it say about you? What does it say about the world you live in?

The world is changing around us. We constantly debate and analyse the conflicts between the militaries, governments and cultures that surround us.

But there’s a visual war that’s happening right in front of our eyes, undetected. Its power — to divide us or bring us together — hinges on our choice to pay attention.

Typography matters.

There are over 600 typefaces in the Google web fonts directory. Many of them are awful. But there are also high-quality typefaces that deserve a closer look. Below are examples of these typefaces in action.

Typography matters.

Jagdish Singh Sohal