Elizabeth Carey Smith. Picture by Katharina Brenner.
Elizabeth Carey Smith is a inventive director whose focus is on furthering the overlap of New York’s kind designers, artwork administrators, and their purchasers. Carey Smith often speaks and writes for conferences and publications around the globe, and this 12 months picked up the torch coordinating SVA’s Residency in Typography program. (Disclosure: I’ve lectured and taught there.) I used to be curious to speak to her about her first 12 months directing this system, the interlayering of her method, and the way completely different it felt from the extra conventional lecture rooms by which I’ve taught.
“All training is a cumulative course of.”
In an period of web tutorials and an ever-expanding gamut of kind packages, what makes SVA’s Residency in Typography stand out?
I take a look at it as essentially the most enjoyable summer time camp a kind nerd can hope for—which is why this 12 months I included subject journeys resembling Colossal Media’s hand painted outside promoting studio. Maybe that wasn’t so relevant to kind design, however it added to the entire slew of the way you may see letterforms in a brand new setting. That’s what I’d actually like to tell apart, that this program is a enjoyable exploration. It can provide help to with kind design, however it’s not going to offer an apples-to-apples comparability to your every day life, or your every day work. That’s as much as you to extrapolate from this system—the way you’re going to see issues after.
A month isn’t a very long time to coach your eye, and I believe most typography is absolutely about seeing.
That jogs my memory of one thing I learn lately, which was, “I can train you all the things I do know in fifteen minutes. Then you definitely simply should go residence and follow for fifteen years.“ Contemplating that, what’s necessary in these fifteen minutes? What do you begin with?
All training is a cumulative course of. With kind design particularly, you need to begin with sure supplies or instruments from which you’ll construct one thing. If you happen to begin off asking a scholar to make something they need, it may be overwhelming, and it could actually set them up for lots of you saying “No, that’s not an ideal thought.”
On this 12 months’s program, college students began with a number of days of calligraphy. It was necessary to me for them to have tangible issues that that they had made, so they might begin excited about them by way of making an unique typeface. Our teacher, Lynne Yun not solely taught them the basic rules of letterform building by way of calligraphy—making shapes of letterforms, understanding why strokes are the way in which they’re—but in addition how calligraphy may in a short time flip into one thing extra experimental through alternate instruments resembling balsa wooden.
There was one thing very fluid in the way in which you coordinate completely different instructors and influences coming out and in. It felt like a symphony quite than a relay race, which I discovered good.
Most different kind packages are fairly dogmatic, and that’s not a nasty factor. However we solely had a month, and that’s not a very long time for studying methods to make an unique typeface from scratch.
“Most typography is absolutely about seeing.”
I needed to have a high-low stability—we had [field trips to see] vernacular lettering amid the grittiness of Coney Island, but in addition [visits to] the Grolier Membership. I needed to not get locked down into the dogma of anyone specific particular person’s method. For instance—and to not say you two are essentially reverse—however we invited each you, Ksenya Samarskaya, who has a self-described anarchist viewpoint, and Tobias Frere-Jones, who I don’t suppose would describe himself as that in any respect.
One of many issues I used to be actually glad about was that each one the instructors, together with Christian Schwartz within the last critique, actually emphasised the truth that you may make issues as bizarre as you need, however they should look intentional. In case you have one thing that’s bizarre and that’s additionally badly spaced, it”s arduous to know which was supposed, so it’s about making issues bizarre inside the constraints of creating them well-crafted.
Now that we’ve talked about what this system does, who would you say this system for?
Effectively, I admire that it was full of individuals from completely different backgrounds and from all around the globe. I’m really contemplating, perhaps subsequent 12 months, I’d simply take this system with them. Be a scholar in this system, in addition to coordinating it. You might do it yearly, and do a special venture, and get a very completely different consequence.