CEP811: Creating a MOOC

This week we explored MOOCs, Massively Open Online Courses. The goal with these courses is to bring education to the masses. Free courses can be taken through services like Peer 2 Peer University and Coursera. I have also personally experienced something similar specifically targeted at those interested in the arts and design through Skillshare which offers a range of courses for free or for a small fee (less than $30). In both cases, these courses offer interested learners a chance to gain access to material and industry leaders that they may not otherwise have access to through the traditional education model.

Create Your Own Typeface
In my Create Your Own Typeface course, my peers will master developing a typeface from initial hand-drawn concept to completed useable font by beginning with sketching and then moving to a finished digital format of the typeface. As part of the course, the students will learn about type anatomy and terminology, which are essential for successfully developing a typeface. By the end of the course, the participants will make a complete typeface including uppercase and lowercase letters and basic punctuation in digital form.

This course will be designed to attract anyone interested in creating their own typeface for use. The course will target beginners who may or may not have familiarity with typography and type anatomy. The course will be mainly aimed at graphic design students or professionals who are interested in the subject but may not have known where or how to get started. While the course would be targeted more at those with at least some graphic design background, the course will not assume any previous knowledge so that anyone with an interest in creating a typeface could do so. As the target audience is graphic designers or graphic design students, the course materials will focus on industry standard software, but will provide links to resources for those who may not have access to the software.

The course participants will interact with each other via forums. Each participant will set up their own thread explaining the typeface they are developing. The participant will continue to post sketches and other images along the way for continued feedback during the project. Their coursemates can then offer feedback at each stage to help the participant improve their work, solve problems, and other feedback.

Week 1 – Typeface Anatomy and Terminology
This first week is designed to familiarize all participants with the basics of type and the terminology associated with it. Participants with design education/experience may not need to spend much time on this, as it will most likely be review. However, for those without the experience, it would be essential to their success in the course. The goal of this week is to provide the participants with background information.

You will learn:

  • What is a typeface? Font? Type family?
  • Basic Type Terminology
    • X-height
    • Baseline
    • Serif vs. Sans Serif
    • Readability
    • Legibility
    • Leading
    • Kerning
  • Type Classification
    • Serif
    • Sans Serif
    • Script
    • Decorative/Display
  • Type Anatomy
    • Ascender
    • Descender
    • Arm
    • Leg
    • Terminal
    • Counter
    • Bowl
    • Tail
    • Spur
    • Loop
    • Link
    • Ear
    • Stem
    • Stroke
    • Crossbar
    • Swash

Materials for the week:

  • Videos on terminology, type classification, and type anatomy
  • Reference sheets for type anatomy and classification

Tasks for the week:

  • Review videos
  • Post introduction on discussion forum, set-up thread student will use in coming weeks

Week 2 – Defining Your Project
This week the participants will define the goals and theme for their typeface. The participant will determine what type of typeface he/she wants to create—serif, sans serif, script, or decorative. The participant will also define what the typeface may be inspired by or what will influence the design decisions. For example, the participant may want to create a typeface inspired by chromatic fonts found in letterpress spec books. Participants will also be provided with things to consider when making decisions about the typeface and pitfalls to avoid.

You will learn:

  • Defining goals for your typeface
    • Choosing a type classification – serif, sans serif, script, decorative
    • How will the typeface be used
    • Will it be readable at small sizes or just at larger sizes
    • What will it be inspired by
      • Book
      • Movie
      • Art Period
      • Historical Type
  • Pitfalls to avoid
    • Don’t just base your typeface on an existing typeface
    • Don’t just digitize your handwriting
  • Searching for inspiration
  • Setting up a Pinterest board with your inspiration

Materials for the week:

  • Videos speaking about how to get started
  • Resources for finding inspiration
  • Guide to using Pinterest

Tasks for the week:

  • Write a two or three sentence statement about the direction you plan to go with your typeface including what type classification it will fall under
  • Create a Pinterest board and pin images that inspire the direction you plan to take with your typeface
  • Post your statement and link to your Pinterest board to the forum
  • Comment on fellow participant projects

Week 3 – Sketching Your Typeface
This week the participants will begin sketching their typefaces on paper. The week will start with a guide to how to get started. The participants will be encouraged to start with pencils and other tools like protractors, compasses, rulers, and French curves. The participants should use their statements from last week as a jumping off point. The participants should feel free to explore beyond the statements if they find they are not satisfied at that point. The material will discuss the creative process and how ideas can evolve from where you start. Participants will post their sketches at the end of the week for feedback from fellow participants.

You will learn:

  • What to start with
    • Establishing the x-height for the typeface
    • Ascenders and descenders
    • Cap height
    • What letters to start with
    • How to use consistent elements
    • Paying attention to type anatomy
    • Double and single story lowercase a and g
  • Tools to use for assisting with the sketching process
    • Pencil and paper
    • Ruler
    • Protractor
    • Compass
    • French Curves
    • Other tools
  • Creative process
    • Evolving ideas
    • Changing direction

Materials for the week:

  • Video tutorials on getting started and the tools to create your sketches with
  • Feedback from instructor and fellow students as participant works through the process

Tasks for the week:

  • Sketch typeface – may not sketch every letter, but should sketch enough to work from when creating the final digital version
  • Post sketches to the forum including questions, challenges or issues you want assistant with from other participants
  • Comment on fellow participant sketches

Week 4 – Perfecting and Scanning Your Typeface
This week the participants will finish perfecting their typeface sketches based on feedback last week. The participants will then scan in their sketches using a scanner. Participants will learn how to improve their scans using Photoshop or another photo editor. By the end of the week, participants should be ready to begin digitizing the typeface.

You will learn:

  • Inking your sketches to help improve the process of scanning
  • How to scan your typeface
    • Scanning using your scanner’s software
    • Scanning using Photoshop
    • Settings to help create a cleaner scan
  • Cleaning up your scans using Photoshop or other photo editing software
    • Focus on using Photoshop and how to get the cleanest file to work from in the next step
    • Provide students with resources to complete the task for other common photo editors

Materials for the week:

  • Video tutorials on scanning and cleaning up the image using Photoshop
  • Additional resource list for other photo editing programs

Tasks for the week:

  • Finalize sketches of typeface
  • Ink typeface
  • Scan typeface
  • Clean up typeface to get in ready for next week

Week 5 – Digitizing Your Typeface
This week the participants will work on digitizing their typeface. The participants should have already scanned in their sketches last week. They will then use them to create a digital version of his or her typeface. The participants will have a variety of software options to choose from to complete this task. Some will free and some will cost money. Participants that are designers will most likely already have access to Illustrator so my tutorials will revolve around that particular piece of software. However, I will provide links to reference materials for the other software programs. By the end of the week, the participants should have a complete digital version of their typeface. They will then post it for feedback by their fellow participants. Participants may choose to tweak their typefaces after receiving feedback.

You will learn:

  • Software to assist with creating a digital version of their typeface
    • Illustrator
    • FontLab
    • Font Forge
    • Font Creator
    • TypeTool
    • Fontographer
    • Glyphs
  • Assist students in deciding on the right software option
    • Cost
    • Ease of use
    • Functionality
  • Using the software to work from scanned in sketches
    • Choose one software program to provide getting started videos to assist participants
    • Direct participants to resources for other software products to assist them if they choose one of the other options
  • Address completing the typeface if participant did not sketch the entire typeface

Materials for the week:

  • Video tutorials on digitizing typeface from sketches
  • Pro/con list for comparing software choices
  • Additional resource list

Tasks for the week:

  • Create a digital version of participant’s typeface
  • Create the typeface in software program of participant’s choice
  • Post the finished typeface in participant’s thread in the forum for final feedback
  • Comment on fellow participant typefaces

Week 6 – Distributing Your Typeface
After designing a typeface, most people will offer the typeface up for use by the public. This week of the course will discuss both free and paid options for distribution. The course will also go over licensing and basic legal considerations a participant should know about before distributing their typeface. Participants will also create a graphic to promote their typeface.

You will learn:

  • Places to distribute your typeface if you so choose
  • Distributing your type face for free, donations, or for a standard amount
  • Licensing

Materials for the week:

  • Resources for distributing their typefaces
  • Examples of graphics to promote typefaces
  • Survey for feedback on the course

Tasks for the week:

  • Distribute typeface through one of the provided sources if participant chooses to do so
  • Create a basic graphic using Photoshop or other software to promote the typeface and show the theme for the typeface established in week 2
  • Complete survey to provide feedback on the course

Instructional Theories
The course, like most art and design courses, will utilize Constructivist principles. Constructivist learning theory purports that learners should be actively engaged, that activities should be interactive and student-centered, and that the instructor facilitates the process of learning. The student’s learning is self-directed and relies on them to explore their own interests or take on the material instead of just one prescribed approach. (http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html) While the course gives the users a set of tasks, the manner in which the student approaches the tasks is up to the individual participant. For example, each participant will develop a font based on his or her personal taste and interests. There is no right or wrong solution to the project. The instructor and the fellow participants provide feedback along the way whether in the form of critiques and suggestions to help improve the work, but the final solution, or typeface, is completely up to the student. Participants demonstrate interest in the material be choosing to start the course.

The course also fits into the TPACK framework. The TPACK framework involves the interplay of Content, Pedagogy, and Technology. (Koehler) Ideally, the three work together to provide the most effective educational experience. In my course, the content will be basic typeface anatomy and terminology along with the process of creating a typeface. The Pedagogy comes in the form of using Constructivism learning theories to develop the course structure and materials. The technology comes in the form of the course deployment software (whether I was to use P2PU or another service), the forums, the videos created to demonstrate concepts, and the software used to create the final digital version of the font. All elements come together to form the basis of what I hope is a positive, beneficial experience for participants.

“Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner).” Constructivist Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html>.

Koehler , Dr Matthew J . “What is TPACK? | TPACK.org.” tpack.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <http://www.matt-koehler.com/tpack/what-is-tpack/&gt>.

Note: Image is my own created using Illustrator and Photoshop.


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