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Rebellion Acceptance Overdrive: Type Design at CalArts 1988-2001

Experimental and contemporary type exhibition at the California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA), October 14-20, 2001. Hrant Papazian's harsh criticism of this exhibition and of the CalArts type program: "Nike typography. It appears that for almost 15 years now students of the type design program at CalArts have been taught to just do it. During the third week of October, CalArts staged a revealing (albeit severely under-promoted) retrospective of student work, dubbed Rebellion Acceptance Overdrive. Experimentation and discovery are at the heart of education, but this oeuvre had entirely too much deconstruction and not at all enough purpose. What is a type design program that doesn't teach you how to produce fonts others would like to use? Summer camp. Jens Gehlhaar was the one exception I noted, in terms of a student who took the CalArts philosophy seriously but refused to stop thinking, producing relevant experiments like the CIA Compendium, as well as tasteful, usable fonts such as Alfa Sans and Precrime. Then there was Lee Schulz with his dedicated craftsmanship and astonishing inspirational range: the hyper-decorative Antoinette; the gloriously organic Salome; the surprising low-res Batterie; the reserved Minister. But the bulk of the designs suffer from a clear lack of guidance, in the details as well as the roots. In the end, students who had both talent and intellect produced promising work from day one; the others were still producing crap upon graduation. What was the faculty teaching the students, exactly? Rebellion without a cause is just hooliganism. And now that the revolution has fizzled out, what will they teach, and who will want to learn it? The CalArts type design program has been about grunge typography. Although it's no longer fashionable to celebrate that, it remains relevant to discuss it, if only because it existed. This exhibit sparked - and could have helped answer - some interesting questions. What was destroyed/created when Ed Fella's entirely non-digital work was transmogrified into 99.44% pure bézier? What are the formal effects of our digital tools on the results? Why was Cholla converted from a botanical design to a mechanical one on its way to the commercial world? And the biggest question: how was this all worth it, to the students?". Read Lee Schulz's passionate reply.

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html