September 14, 2010

OT: Life as a parent and a designer

As the parent of a 16 year old girl, one would expect to fight many a battle on a variety of topics. However, I was totally unprepared for what transpired yesterday. In all honesty, I'm struggling with the whole thing.

In school, my daughter is taking a required class on Microsoft Word. As if that weren't bad enough, in class yesterday, her teacher gave them a project: Create a document that uses at least 8 serif fonts and at least 8 sans serif fonts, all of various point sizes. Extra points were awarded for those who added color (the teacher justified this by stating that if everyone used Black, she couldn't award points for originality if students used the same fonts).

I used to think that all those people who believe that they must use every font on their computer for every document, and use all the blindingly bright RGB colors in Word was Microsoft's fault. As a parent though, I try. I really do. My daughter uses Apple's Pages for all of her reports, and they all look clean, neat, and lovely. Being my wife and I are both designers, our home and our conversations are filled with examples of good design.

The parent in me says not to teach her to contradict her educators. The designer in me says to tell my daughter to rebel and to type a single letter-spaced word set in Helvetica, colored black, at the center of the page. Wait, I guess that would be Arial. Sigh.

24 comments:

accessoire said...

Go against the teachers! Spread the word of good design :)!

patrick foster said...

I'm with him. Tell the teacher how much better her resume will look with these skills instead of the instructor's.

Gregor said...

Absolutely question authority. Especially when you think its wrong. More is learned from the word "why" then any other!

Anonymous said...

What good is an education if it is wrong?

On the other hand, using 16 varieties of different typefaces seems like an interesting design challenge. Maybe the document can be more art than functional.

Devlin said...

I always hear that schools are going down hill. Now I believe it. Hopefully your daughter gets an A+, though it will most likely be set by the teacher in vibrant red comic sans. Or maybe Papyrus? Joker-man?

Andreas Galster said...

You know what's funny? I got "fired" two weeks ago (working contract ended) and I'm looking for a new job. I joined a programme where I'm 3 days a week where all people write job applications, get help like proof reading, practising interviews and so on. There I was in a similar situation.

There is one girl and we're good friends by now. Her job is something in the office, so it's the typical type of "I can't design" person. Her application looked horrible, especially because the suggested layout from the support team looks horrible.

I changed her layout and everyone is happy with it, even the people who insist on using the suggested design ;).

As Gregor said, just following instructions is bad. At least in Germany I see a lot of young (younger than me so about 18-) people not thinking about what they are doing, instead they are just following the instructions and they aren't thinking on their own. Kids nowadays should see things from different perspectives and then should be encouraged to decide on their own what is best for them.

Let's hope she doesn't choose Comic Sans ;)!

dblatner said...

I feel your pain, but there is another lesson here: Teaching kids to see that there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences between typefaces.

Years ago I taught a week long class, and on day 3 a student approached me and said, "You know, I've been a printer for years, but this is the first time I ever noticed the difference between Times and Helvetica."

We all sense the difference, but we need to see it, and sometimes that takes a teacher telling us to use all those fonts together.

James Fritz said...

While I agree that you should educate the teacher on proper design, you probably don't want to have your daughter causing problems. I would recommend that she create two documents.

1. Following the rules (but make it look the best she can)
2. Design it correctly.

This way she can educate the teacher and everyone in the class on proper design.

Philwebservices said...

I really salute to those designers who are also as parents. They are very strong and I idolize them.Thanks for posting that very inspiring information.

Julie Oakley said...

How about regarding it as the most amazing design challenge? If you can choose the content, then maybe it could be like concrete poetry. Reduce most of the fonts to the smallest size so that they simply become a background texture.

Katharina said...

Wow... nice Articel

Mordy Golding said...

In defense of the teacher, the class is a Microsoft Word class, not a design class. The point of the exercise was to familiarize the students with how one goes about adjusting the appearance of text. By choosing at least 16 different typefaces and colors, they got the repetitive experience of going to the right menus or panels. My daughter said the teacher instructed them to type their name over and over with the various settings -- so it was obvious they weren't creating a real document. In truth, I do the same in Illustrator when trying to decide on a type face for a logo or type treatment.

OK, I'm able to sleep again. Thanks everyone for your support and comments :)

Anonymous said...

I had a similar problem with my daughter, when her teachers (this has happened in elementary and middle school) try to teach PowerPoint. I've sat through way too many bad PowerPoint presentation to let my daughter create another one.

I took the time to teach her how to make an effective presentation, contrary to how the teachers' instructions. I also pointed out that the teachers are probably just focusing on how to use the tools in PowerPoint and not on making good presenations.

Adam said...

If this were a design brief, I'd definitely put forth two documents, 1 being what was asked for, and the 2nd being my proposed solution. But since this is essentially a muscle-memory exercise, I don't think its worth the high-road fight. Tell your daughter to just take the easy A+ and move on with her day!

Chandani said...

Is the subject matter of the document up to the student? My first thought was to create a document per the given requirements, but have the text be all about why using all these different fonts is a hideously bad idea.

Gez said...

She can question the authority and get an A+ for her originality.
Just tell her to write:
"Mi dad says that using so many typefaces and bright colors makes my documents look cheesy". Of course using different colors, fonts and sizes in each word.
Epic win! :-p

Anonymous said...

Why the shots at Microsoft and Word? Good design has nothing to do with the platform or software you use.

Simon Hall said...

I'm looking forward to this with my children. From what I remember of school, the teachers knew very little about the subjects they were teaching, just how to put forth the curriculum. Being quite highly strung, I can imagine myself giving alsorts of proper design advice to my kids that would be considered improper by the powers that be.

Mind you, they're only 2 + 3 years old at the moment, maybe I'll have calmed down by the time my judgement is called upon.

Kris Dietrich said...

I think this is a great home teaching moment. A big part of life is learning How and When to give someone what they ask for because it is part of living in a world of non-designers. However, at home you can have the conversation about good design and how the object of this lesson is not design but to teach the specific skill as Mordy indicated..... and in that look for creative ways to fulfill the assignment while still looking at any opportunity to inflect or maybe infect good design into it. :-)
More positive change is made in this world in a relational context of respect and understanding than in simply getting in the face of 'authority'

Kevin said...

As a teacher, though, I have to ask what the teacher's goals were. If he/she is teaching design, then perhaps you should have a *professional* discussion with her (akin to a doctor discussing erroneous medical linformation presented in a class.)

OTOH, if the goal is to familiarize students with how to access and manipulate fonts and their properties, that's an altogether difference can of worms.

John Kallios said...

Late to this post. I would have suggested to my kid to write an article about poor design and show examples illustrating misused color and multiple fonts. (Hi Mordy)

Anonymous said...

Bad teaching is rampant, speak up.

Deborah Lee said...

I'm frequently told 'off the record' by my son's school to go against the official teaching line.

This would be another reason to do so!

Paul said...

Mordy, I'm not really sure what your problem is. She was given the criteria. Her job should be to create the most compelling document based on that criteria.
The fact that she has snooty "Apple-type" designer parents is something she will have to deal with beyond the scope of this project.
sigh....