Typography for twelve-year-olds

Design is one of my favourite things to teach about  – whether at school or ranting at my friends! I recently told a class of 11 year olds I was allergic to Comic Sans and I sometimes catch myself trying to work out the hex colour of landscapes. I could get therapy, but I’d rather share some of the things that I enjoy about design. I think choosing fonts wisely is not something that anyone who ever types anything on a computer can afford to not care about – whether 12 or 22 or 62.

This presentation is one I’ve now used with that group of 11 year olds in our introductory unit on presentations – a delicious irony in using an entirely powerpoint-free “prezi” to help them use powerpoint better. It’s based on two things – one, the National Strategy unit 7.1 which encourages explaining serif/sans-serif fonts and the use of colour and font to emphasize text; and two, the title that popped into my head for a poster on using type in design. I made the poster with the thought that to use it in class I would need to show it bigger than an A3 print, then realising I already had the tool – prezi.com.

It is not exaggerating to call Prezi a paradigm shift in presentations – it works so differently to Keynote or Powerpoint that both designing and presenting needs to be approached in a different way. No more bullet point drive-bys, no more ghastly word-art, no chance to use 15 animation styles per slide, in fact no slides. No slides is a paradigm shift – and it works! Prezi gives you an infinite canvas where you can place text, imported images and videos and some simple lines and boxes. You then plot a path through the media, the route of the presentation. Of course, you can zoom out or in at any time on any part of the presentation – especially with an interactive whiteboard in a classroom.

In addition to the poster, you’ll see some other elements on colour and emphasis that really require me to explain live. The typography poster explains itself – there are three types of font, each has a time and a place. Use one at the wrong time, you can end up looking like an idiot, or at least tarnishing the message you’re trying to tell. Think like a designer – everything should have a purpose, so ask yourself “why” for every bit of your document/presentation/design.