In an age of new media and multiplatform digitisation abundant with ebooks, digital magazines, Androids and Apple iCulture, Stephen Banham, a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD), declares that typography has never looked sexier. Why? There are a number of reasons. It may be related to the proliferation of savoir faire design courses offered at institutions across the globe that are dedicated to the contemporary construction of the letterform and the hungry design-savvy students who are determined to be trendsetters in the changing industry at large.
More simply, this alleged rise in not only sexiness, but also prominence, could be related to the creative value attributed to the typographic industry, which in recent years comes as a result of technological innovation and the internet. Regardless, typographers, graphic designers and communication professionals are rejoicing. Cheers, Digital Age.
Setting the bar for typography is the ISTD – an authoritative body for typography based in the UK that is managed by typographers, graphic designers and educators, for typographers, graphic designers and educators. Open to all students studying at degree-level or higher, the organisation comprises a multi-stage assessment process that evaluates creativity and typographic ability across the interrelated areas of interpretation, practical research, strategy, realisation and presentation.
Founded in 1928 by Vincent Steer, the acclaimed author of Printing Design and Layout – The Manual for Printers, Typographers and All Designers and Users of Printing and Advertising (also referred to as the Typographer’s Bible), the society takes pride in critically examining visual experimentation, exploration and expression through logical reasoning and lateral thinking techniques that are akin to Maltese thought provocateur, Edward de Bono. Steer’s creative and community-driven ideal was to “…bring together in friendship and mutual help, all those with a love for the printed word”; however, contemporary times now dictate, of course, that Steer’s ideal can no longer be applied solely to the printed word, as digital design techniques continue to emerge, challenging traditional design values and fostering a new culture of multi-platform designers in the online sphere.
In 2009, after 81 years of the organisation’s operation in the UK, a fortuitous chain of chance meetings and events saw the launch of the Australasian component of the ISTD.
Sessional lecturer in typography and now co-deputy chair of the ISTD, Becky Chilcott worked alongside notable typography professionals and educators – including former ISTD professional awards judge Vince Frost, New Zealand-based coordinator at Massey University Annette O’Sullivan, ISTD fellow and the educator heralded for instigating the first Bachelor of Design course in Australia Bob Miller-Smith and head of Communication Design at Swinburne University Nicki Wragg – to implement the first assessment – an evaluation structure modelled on the longstanding success of the UK scheme.
Selective in mindset, yet all-embracing in operation, the ISTD assessment scheme is measured in three stages by a division of board members, educators and industry professionals who strive to preserve and nurture dynamic typographic practice across the globe. Assessors are separated into teams of two – one a practising designer and the other an educator, who together evaluate submissions in 30-minute sessions that are then approved by a moderator to guarantee objectivity. Approximately 30 percent of students meet the intimidatingly high standard of typographic quality and sophisticated marking criteria required to pass and join the society, yet all applicants receive constructive feedback on their submissions.
The ISTD calls for students to immerse themselves in contemporary design culture, but simultaneously acquaint themselves with the history of design development and traditional patterns of visual thinking to improve their chances of bridging the gap between education and vocation.
Being accepted into the ISTD probably wouldn’t hinder prospective job offers in the future either…
For more information, head to istd.org.uk.
Thumbnail: Katherine Bevin.