A brilliant, and absolutely crazy journey into typography

Teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai

Sarah Hyndman took Type Tasting to the Ecole Intuit Lab, a design college in Mumbai, India, where she spent a week teaching typography to sixty second and third year students. This is the experience of the week in the words of the students: Neha Godambe, Ruchi Mehta, Shruti Vidyanand, Tvesha Shah and Zahra Dhuliawala.

“The entire week was full of experiences that exposed us to the instinctive nature of humans to judge letterforms. We had an incredibly marvellous time, while actually learning so much more about type. My outlook towards type has changed. I have realised type has something more to say, and now I have started to use a lot more different typefaces.” 

Would like to arrange a Type Tasting course with Sarah Hyndman for your college or organisation?

What did you expect of the typography week?

ZD: ‘Type Tasting’ isn’t exactly a term you hear very often. The uncommonness of the term, however, was most definitely reflected in the week. Until the workshop I think, as a designer, I had seriously underestimated the power of type.

NG: I have always been intrigued by the mysterious ways in which type works. We thought learning about type by trial and error was a mammoth task as we didn’t really connect with it, but as the week passed by this misconception slowly changed.

NG: It turned out that I know a lot about type just based on my intuition and common sense. Even though the games we played were quick and based purely on our instincts, I found I subconsciously created a rationale that supported my answers. In the end it was all about tapping into the psychology of people.

What is unique about Sarah’s approach?

NG: What fascinated me was Sarah’s way of understanding and explaining type. It isn’t just about what type looks like; it is about how it makes you feel. We looked at type in ways that we had never considered before, and we felt it through all our senses.

TS: The week was filled with surprises. There were experiments done in class to see how much type talks to us, the results made it clear that type speaks to us in ways we do not consciously imagine.

ZD: We took part in a series of activities and games, relating to how type affects us psychologically—from associating it with different emotions, to smells and even food.

RM: Through design we learnt psychology and the way our brain and heart react with basic instincts to everything around us, and how every tiny detail influences all the decisions we make.

SV: The history of type was made, for the first time ever, interesting to a class of teenagers.

NG: Sarah has a unique and fun way of putting her point across, which is often through playing games.

Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai
Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai

Give an example of one of the games?

ZD: Our first task was to categorise different ice cream based on the kind of typeface used and, surprisingly enough, most people’s answers matched.

SV: The challenge was to decide which font suggested a creamier ice cream, which was expensive, which was sorbet, and so on. Before my brain could comprehend the oddity of the task it came up with answers for what it thought was a creamier font, what was expensive, which wasn’t ice cream enough. It astounded me that my responses were so instinctive.

RM: This has changed the way I look at ice creams or any other brand for that matter.

Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai
Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai

What was your favourite activity?

ZD: We did a lot of great activities over the week, such as describing how we felt using a typeface, making font fortunes (where we described a person based on the typeface they’d pick), what kind of typeface you’d trust, what kind you’d date, and what kind you’d never consider dating.

SV: I would pick the expressive type exercise. We changed the positions, sizes and letterforms to alter the way the audience modulated the word “Hello”.

TS: My favourite project was the one where we described what kind of a person somebody is from the particular font he or she likes. Our predictions were about 90% right and you could see people smiling and laughing as they read their description, thinking it was true.

ZD: One of the exercises I enjoyed most was when each of us picked our favourite font and described it as a food item. It was absolutely incredible how detailed everyone’s descriptions of the food items were. Before the workshop I’d have looked at you weirdly if you asked me what I though Garamond tasted like, but now I can tell you exactly what kind of chocolate cake it’d be, with how many layers, and what style of frosting.

Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab MumbaiSarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai

What did the multi sensory activities reveal?

ZD: One day was dedicated to the senses; especially smell, sound and touch, and we spoke about what kind of typefaces we’d expect to go with particular sounds and objects or textures.

SV: We were asked what kind of smells and memories we associated with sharp, smooth and script type styles. The global nature of our answers was really surprising—that our senses convey a similar message to all of us, despite us being designers who aim to do things differently.

RM: The way fonts influence you into thinking that something is richer or tastier is a very fascinating concept and since then I have not stopped analysing type.

ZD: We took part in an experiment with two jars of perfume labelled with different fonts. We were asked to describe the smell by rating certain characteristics, such as woody, floral, etc. We rated the one with a script typeface as more sweet and floral smelling. The one with a sharper, more jagged typeface was described as more woody, and citrusy. It was later revealed to us that they were both exactly the same smells.

SV: This experiment showed that our brains comprehended the smells as different just because they were labelled using different typefaces.

Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai

The main theme of the week was to explore how typography can represent different moods. How did you learn about this?

ZD: We began by associating type with different moods and emotions. You hardly ever open your font library looking for a ‘sad font’ or an ‘angry font’. But once you start trying to categorise fonts on what emotion they evoke, it seems incredibly obvious which fonts are sad, which are happy, or which are angry.

RM: The workshop made us realise that the details are important, whether the font should be edgy, curvy, tall or short, and that is what matters to us as visual communicators.

ZD: For the final project we designed the packaging for a product with the goal of indulging a mood. Each of us was given a mood and the product could be absolutely anything. Our final designs used type and no colours, other than greyscale, and we ended up designing a wide array of products with the wildest kinds of packaging.

SV: As a result of everything that we learnt during the week we produced amazing pieces of packaging in a day, complete with mock-ups.

Sarah gave a Master Talk at the end of the week to an audience that included other colleges and industry professionals. How did the talk sum up the week?

TS: We helped to prepare materials for the Master Talk, which was fun. It was nice too see our work and the results of our experiments in the presentation.

SV: The Master Talk was like a trailer for the movie of the entire week: it was a review of our fun experience and a beautiful conclusion to one of the most memorable workshops we have had.

Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai
Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai

What did you learn from the week?

NG: My outlook towards type has changed. From just alphabets that make words, and those words form sentences; to words that speak and sentences that express.

SV: I have learnt how I can make type work for me, and that when I want to know if a font works for a particular project it’s about asking the right questions. Instead of “does this font work?” I ask, “how does this font make you feel (or taste/smell/hear depending on the project)?

TS: Previously I would only use sans serif and geometric shapes, because I thought they looked neat. But since the workshop I have realised type has something more to say, and now I have started to use a lot more different typefaces.

How would you summarise the week?

SV: The entire week was full of experiences that exposed us to the instinctive nature of humans to judge letterforms, based on not just what the words meant, but also on how they looked.

TS: The workshop taught me how every word can mean something completely different, not only from what it says but also when it is written in a different typeface.

RM: Learning type psychology with Sarah Hyndman has helped me a lot as a designer and I have started making more conscious decisions of everything I use in my design work.

ZD: The workshop was a brilliant, and absolutely crazy journey. We had an incredibly marvellous time, while actually learning so much more about type, which is something we thought we had a good understanding of. And most of all, it has completely changed the way I look at ice cream.

Book a Type Tasting workshop or masterclass with Sarah Hyndman
The week long Type Tasting course with Sarah Hyndman took place at the Ecole Intuit Lab, Mumbai, India. Type Tasting offers a selection of workshops and masterclasses, click here to find out more, or get in touch if you would like to arrange a workshop for your company.

Sarah Hyndman teaching typography at the Ecole Intuit Lab Mumbai hello-all-animation

Selection of the final projects are shown above, the brief was to design the packaging for a product created to indulge a mood: 1. Excited: Condom packaging. 2. Angry: Extra spicy burger packaging. 3. Happy: Expensive candy floss for grown ups. 4. Playful: Jelly for grown ups, squeezing the ‘sensible’ serif typeface is an invitation to be silly. 5. Playful: ‘invisible ink’ that vanishes. 6. Happy: Life’s too short to have boring hair. 7. Calm: Box of calming colours. 8. Angry: Scourer to channel aggression. 9. Excited: Roller coaster experience. 10. Sad: A corner to sit in and indulge your sadness. 11. Angry: Sound box to shout into.

Play the student’s ‘hello’ karaoke game yourself.

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