Workshops with Design Students:
where they forgo digital tools and hand construct craft into type
A workshop with design students at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Students working with Barmer applique craft at the Typecraft Craft-Design Methodology Workshop. Students are not allowed to use computers or any mechanical device. All work is done by hand.
Students showcasing their letters, after studying the craft, the forms and designs possible in that craft and how those would translate to letters.
Our Craft-Design Methodology Workshops provide an exciting and challenging opportunity for design students to think and work creatively and collaboratively with an emphasis on understanding the craft communities and material culture. It is a way for the students to engage with their own culture as well as those of others.
Students are encouraged to leave digital tools behind and only make things by hand. They begin by deconstructing and decoding a craft given to them. They unpack the craft in terms of its lexicon — how it is constructed and what forms are possible with the craft. Then, they repack that understanding to construct shapes possible and "allowed" by the craft back into letterforms in both Latin and Indic scripts.
In this manner, students get to work with forms that are new to them while learning design fundamentals so crucial in the world today. While these workshops are not limited to just designers, it is usually done in a college setting.
Depending on the length of the workshop, students eventually get onto the computer to take forms made by hand and start developing letterforms and eventually a typeface.
We use crafts in our workshops as it is something that's out of context to what the students are used to working with — as this helps to spark new ideas.
Since design methodologies still tend to be biased towards western aesthetic sensibilities, we are careful to strike a balance where possible, between our sensibilities and those of the crafts communities, by trying to coax students to get to more complex and authentic solutions that resemble the craft and the tonality — such as boldness, fragility or intricacy of the craft.
In this sense, this exercise is also a type of branding where students need to carefully study the forms the craft can take — without the luxury to actually make those crafts. They are also sensitized to how the crafts are adorned and used and how it defines and reinforces the identity of the craft group.
However, in future workshops, we plan to create collaborations between craftspeople and design students in the same workshop.