While virtually all graphic design professionals and educators alike profess typography to be the backbone of a graphics education, no design program has integrated the training necessary for its students to appropriately match typefaces to the mood of a document. Convinced that the ability to hear the inner voices of type was key to setting a document’s tone center, I was not only surprised that imparting that capability to students was absence from the curriculum, but even more perplexed that such a vital aspect of graphics education seemed to have so thoroughly escaped the attention of the experts since its omission is tantamount to running a music program without the benefit of ear training, a likely factor for the general typographic tone-deafness of virtually all graphic trainees. Disconcerting as that was, the above mentioned educational deficiency afforded me the unique opportunity to attune our students with the type of training that has hither to been unavailable elsewhere.
If our graphics program could awaken our students’ sensitivity to distinguish the subtle tonal nuances amongst the myriad of typefaces as would enable them to give voice to the overtones of a document, I was certain that acquired visual acuity would deepen their appreciation for the texturality of the text in harmony with the textual content that would hopefully distinguish them in their profession. Inasmuch as I was their typography instructor, and insofar as I had uncovered this pedagogical blind spot, it fell upon me to bring to light this puzzling oversight. Motivated by the prospect of deepening our students’ typographic appreciation, I have for the past dozen years devoted considerable effort towards the formal analysis of typefaces needed to serve as the baseline towards its instructional performance. In the beginning, not only did I lacked the background to conduct this type of in-depth inquiry, but I did not even possess the visual acuity to perceive the formal subtleties that articulate the textural diction necessary for making such typographic judgments, let alone write about it. That task was made all the more difficult by precious little preexisting formal analysis upon which I could base my own. With little available anterior scholarship, I began to question if the lack, thereof, was not indicative of the fact that the experts had considered such queries, but had stop short, realizing the gain was indeed not worth the trouble, or if the keen sensibility required for discerning the subtle tonalities of the text needed to harmonize its textual timber with its textural weave had not foretold a scholastic journey so obscure and arduous as had dissuaded even they therefrom. While those doubts exposed the daunting task ahead, it deterred me not from the mission of rectifying its omission from the graphics curriculum, even though the lack of anterior scholarship meant to taste its typographic fruits entail biting into the absence whence others had yet not. Faced with the daunting task of penetrating this virginal subject, I sought only such cardinal knowledge as necessary to validate the efficacy of this textual quest.
By 2001, the outcome was sufficiently promising to recommend its continuation, and the understanding attained from the preliminary probe had imparted ample textural experience to deepen subsequent penetrations as necessary to advance typography from an ineffable mystery to a sensible discipline. Thanks to a Faculty Improvement leave in 2005 and a sabbatical in 2008–2009, the results of that research has now reached the level equivalent to what I had expected from external sources when the notion for this kind of typographic training first occurred to me. Thus far, only the students of Youngstown State have benefited form my research, but inasmuch as the results have already demonstrated its worthiness, perhaps the time has come to impart the insights therefrom to the greater graphic community so typographic ear training can finally be integrated into the graphics curriculum.