In my :: mumbles number of years :: pursuing design education I can recall quite a bit. I recall the few stand out projects that have become incredible teachers, the few stand out teachers that have become incredible friends, and definitely the few stand out friends that have become incredible projects… all of which made my all-encompassing undergraduate experience invaluable to my general design learning… but it’s actually quite difficult for me to recall many singular, stand out class sessions that not necessarily demanded but titillated my attention. In fact, there’s only really one such class that will top this very, very short list. And it wasn’t even part of my Formal Design Education*.

The exercise was simple enough: we were given 800pt glyphs of Helvetica, maybe 5 or 6 each, along with a pair of scissors, and we were told to cut them out and turn them into something new. The professor then proceeded to tack up a few tabloid sized copy paper sheets on the wall, and gave us some jade adhesive and paintbrushes, and gestured to the wall.

We worked together to create a collage of type, exploring possibilities without intimidation of words and critique, for three hours.

I can’t help but wonder what made this class so special. Was it really about cutting up type and repurposing it? Was it about collage, or working together, or working individually together, or what? None of us were sure, but we felt it in the moment, and we worked with that momentum. For three hours straight we worked in almost complete silence. Sometimes we pasted things together, sometimes we tore up each others work for the advancement of our own vision. But in that short exercise I think I learned more about the spirit of curiosity in design than I did in most classes of FDE. Long after the session was over, we learned what the professor truly thought: ”There were no rules. Only true freedom. One of the best class sessions I’ve had.”

*formal being the institute at which I spent four years scrapping together enough credits to grant me a degree. We’ll call it my FDE from now on.