Its over

From 1997 I have been teaching type design at Ensad, the major school in France for the graphic arts. To give you some idea of the importance of the institution, the build was designed by Philipe Starck.

In the normal process of teaching I have put all courses, notes, results, etc, for the courses I have taught, on to the web. These are accessible by all (perhaps this was a mistake?). Of the communications between the students and myself just a small part was accessible on a dedicated server (original server at Ensad is now unavailable). The senior lecturers at the college decided to terminate my courses, removing them from the programme: Francis Dumas told be of this in a meeting three days ago. It is clear from our contract that they can do this, but on a personal level there are no clear reasons given to me. Even after an hour of discussion the reasons for this decision do not emerge.

I can understand that they don’t want me any longer, whatever the reasons may be. But to end a type design course started by Frutiger, then Boton, then myself as successor – I don’t understand. Especially as it was a success, well regarded by students, and internationally in the design community.

I always have the feeling that type design was not a headline cause for the college, such as the more glamourous multimedia course, which Erik van Blokland pointed out. Typography is just the building blocks, the basics of design. There is no concurrence between the two areas, no crossover. But as many of the students realise type design helps, like basic drawing skills, to open the eyes and stimulate the critical senses of the students. Following the courses the students can generally choose a suitable typeface for a project – not just adopt a face like DIN because their lecturers think it is trendy. They report improvements in many other aspects of their work as designers too.

An aspect that I didn’t refer to in my original French version, is that the students complain to me that other courses are not well organised. They have the feeling that they waste time – six months go by on a project with no deadline, and perhaps not much achieved. An interesting complaint, given that due to EEC rules the course will move from four to five years duration – the students will dia before they graduate! Though perhaps this will help improve the courses overall.

This contrasts with my courses (and some others I am sure – we can’t trust 100% what the students say) we have deadlines, when the students do not meet these then they receive bad reports. At the end the students have a good portfolio of type projects. With three hours per week across the year (October-May) they have produced four complete typefaces from scratch. Additionally each student has completed a small presentation on type designers and various other subjects, such as calligraphy or typeface drawing. They have also learnt some real world skills like editing type in Fontographer or FontLab and about font formats like OpenType and Unicode.

Right now I don’t see too clearly what to do. I’m a bit puzzled by this decision by the college. Your comments are welcome, and I will pass them on to the Ensad team.

13 July 2004 update Thanks to Clive Bruton for the the text editing.

Jean François Porchez, 9 July 2004

typographie, design, typofonderie,