Down with type abuse!


Newsrooms around the world have benefited from the typographic philosophies and sensibilities of Kimberly Elam, chairperson of the Department of Graphic & Interactive Communication at Ringling College of Art and Design. Her rules of typographic usage:

I WILL NOT stretch or squish type.
I WILL NOT outline type.
I WILL NOT stack type.
I WILL use prime marks and quotation marks appropriately.
I WILL appropriately use hyphens, en dashes and em dashes.
I WILL honor the classic families of type.

I PLEDGE not to commit crimes against typography.

Kim once asked me to take some time away from newsroom duties at the St. Pete Times to teach several courses in typography and graphic design studio at Ringling, and – with formal training only in journalism – I was quickly forced to absorb as much of her wisdom and teaching style as possible, to translate to the students. This clarity and structure in my thinking about type immediately benefited my designs at the Times, as well as my lectures at Poynter and SND, and consulting with newsrooms all over the globe. Examples of Kim’s work with Ringling students were always a huge hit in seminars, and she remains among the most popular guest instructors we’ve invited to Poynter.

So I was delighted to see a lengthy interview with her in a recent edition of Perspectives, the Ringling College magazine. (Download the article.) A highlight was a bold reprint of her typographic pledge (excerpted above), which I encourage design managers to print out large (in a classic type font, of course) and post in their newsrooms.

In a wonderful interview about the rapid and impressive changes in the curriculum at Ringling (which I hope to obtain for reposting here soon), Kim was asked by the article’s author, Marty Fugate: “What excites you more – the changes in graphic design or the evolution of typography?” Her reply: “Both. Typography is the heart and soul of graphic design; you really can’t separate the two. Type is the lifeblood of communication and visual culture.”

Truer words were never spoken about modern visual communication in print or digital form. Something to remember as we dive into 2010 with enthusiasm, and maybe a bit of trepidation, about the prospects of digital tablets to transform the news industry!

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Download the Perspectives article about Kim Elam. Those with an interest in graphic design education may wish to visit Kim’s website, Studio Resource Inc, “a consortium of educator authors who are publishing the most successful results from their teaching.” Links to several of her books are here, and a bit more about her typographic teaching in particular can be found here.

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1 Comment

  1. Kessling1968

     /  February 28, 2010

    You fail to address the No. 1 typographic abuse by newspapers (maybe you have done so in another post) and that is, either horrifically small body text which no one over age of 21 would want to read, or just otherwise horrible characteristics of that type – squished, bad leading, tracking, etc. But yes, all the other abuses are seen in poor newspapers everywhere.

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