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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

You go girl!

Awhile back, I mentioned in passing (ok, maybe I gushed a little bit) that my lovely and talented wife had transcended her role as a graphic designer, and had landed a university-level gig teaching the tools and methods of her trade to a class of eager graphic design students.

Zahava cut her design teeth during that innocent period just before computers took the graphic design industry by storm. No sooner had she learned the ‘black arts’ of hand drawing and paste-up than the first design programs placed many of the ‘exotic’ skills of her trade into the hands of amateurs who had not paid their dues.

A brief struggle ensued between the Luddites who resisted computerization and the progressives who saw this as an entirely new design tool with infinite possibilities. Luckily Zahava was among the trained artists who embraced the new technology. Rather than making her knowledge obsolete, each new generation of design software took her skills and talent to ever-higher levels.

However, along with previously unheard of conceptual and execution possibilities came the pretenders. Just as the advances in ski equipment have allowed even the most untalented skiers to ‘shoosh’ and ‘carve’ their way down even the expert trails, the plethora of low cost desktop publishing and graphics programs heralded an era where nearly everyone with access to a computer began calling themselves Graphic Designers.

Despite the fact that most of these newly minted ‘designers’ had no foundation in concept, color or composition from which to launch their careers, a sizable portion of the marketplace eagerly embraced their bargain-basement prices.

Over the years, Zahava has been fortunate to have always worked for high-end design firms and clients in the upper echelons of ‘the corporate world'. For the most part, this helped insulate her from the cannibalization that was taking place in the parts of the industry closer to ‘the street’. However, when our kids got old enough to need a parent home before and after school, Zahava made the sacrifice and launched her freelance career.

I have listened quietly as Zahava has struggled to educate her freelance clients in the basics of good design principles. Sometimes she’s been successful, and other times the job has been lost to a brother-in-law with ‘PageMaker’ on his new home computer. The most frustrating thing for her has been that many of the clients couldn’t tell the difference.

Another phenomenon that Zahava discovered was that many young religious Jewish women were going into the graphic design field. On the one hand, this was wonderful, as Zahava had first hand knowledge of how the profession lent itself to people with family responsibilities. Unfortunately, most of them (even the very talented amateurs), were eschewing formal art training because it entailed exposure to Christian culture, co-educational classroom environments, and nudity (not theirs, of course)... basic elements that are part of nearly any organized art program.

The teaching position that Zahava landed is an opportunity to right a multitude of wrongs. It is part of a very ambitious design curriculum for religious design students who are spending their junior year of college in Israel.

The subject she has been assigned could not have been a better fit: Typography. In order to understand the perfection of this fit, you need to come with us some time to the movies. Zahava’s idea of a ‘movie trifecta’ is:

1. Authentic period costumes
2. Tears running down her cheeks
3. Being able to shout the name of the font the instant the credits start to roll

Seriously, she knows the name of more fonts (not to mention their history and creator) than I know…um… well, I don’t know anything quite as thouroughly as she knows typography!

So, why this… and why now?

Because today is Zahava’s first day teaching and she left the house this morning with a bad case of self-doubt and jitters. I, for one, am quite sure she will blow these students away and infect them with the passion she has for the subject and the profession.

To say I am proud of her doesn't begin to describe my feelings!


Posted by David Bogner on October 27, 2004 | Permalink


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Rest assured...if I had the chance, I'd consider myself happy to enrole and learn from your wife all there is to learn. I've been thinking it ever since you first mentioned it here.

I'm glad you just proved my assumption about the move towards gd in Israel. I thought I was making up things...

About the pros vs. illiterates struggles - we've talked about that. And even though I am "only" self-trained [i.e. no degree], I don't think much about those who call themselves "designers" because they own a copy of corel [or worse] and have 'designed' their friends' wedding invitations. I use to say "I do graphic design", but I'd never dare calling myself designer. I simply have too much respect than to hover myself onto that same level.

By now, your wife might be back home -- so I hope she has lots of good stories to share of today!

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Oct 27, 2004 5:56:40 PM

Tell her I said she'll do great. A little doubt is normal. :)

Posted by: Lachlan | Oct 27, 2004 8:05:10 PM

I too have a love of typography. (despite my current 'techinal' position, I have a degree in Graphic Design) I can relate to Zahava's frustration with the insurgence of desktop design on every home computer.
These folks don't know kerning, or x-height, or picas, or leading... and Times New Roman is NOT the same as Palatino...
Teach them well Zahava.

Posted by: lisa | Oct 27, 2004 9:15:40 PM

Gee...amateurs poisoning the well? Never thought of that one before. Every jewish kid who know zmiros is a singer, and some of them get much more money than you or I.
You know she is going to be a great teacher. When do we start the nudity?

Posted by: Jordan | Oct 27, 2004 11:09:21 PM

I can't wait to hear all about it.... please update us with her first day at school experience!!!!

Posted by: val | Oct 28, 2004 12:13:50 AM

Oh thank goodness! Another person I can call to play "Name That Font!" My family thinks my daughter and I have totally gone off the deep end when we get into it!

Go get 'em, Zahava! There's no doubt in my mind anyone taking your classes is going to learn a lot if they're open-minded.

(FWIW-It doesn't matter how good or expensive the software program is. It's the person who is sitting behind the keyboard who makes the design decisions. The program is just the tool-obviously.)

Posted by: jennifer | Oct 28, 2004 1:13:29 AM

Mademoiselle a... You fall into a small category between the two groups I discussed. You may not be formally/classicaly trained, but you have clearly done your homework, and more than paid your dues. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were largely self-taught and didn't know the first thing about how to 'properly' transcribe the scores of hit songs they wrote together. I don't think anyone could make a convincing argument weren't musically gifted.

The same can be said for many, many artists.

I've seen enough samples of your creative work to know that you and Zahava would probably have a lot of fun working together and swapping ideas.

Lachlan... I agree (and yes, it seems to have gone quite well). As a musician, I have found that a little stage fright adds a special edge to the performance.

Lisa... OK, now you've gotten me in trouble! Zahava just yelled at me for not telling her you had a graphics background! [As if she could have possibly liked you any more than she already does!!!]

Jordan... "When do we start the nudity?"
2:00 AM this Sunday morning in front of King Tut's Wa-Wa Hut in the East Village. If we're not there, start without us!

Val... Unless Zahava asks to make a guest appearance here, you'll have to wait for her next chatty e-mail.

Jennifer... You would be my bestest friend if you would take over my movie obligations with Zahava. If I see one more 'chick flick' followed by 'name that font', I may do something I'll regret (e.g. hang out at the snack bar for the duration of the film).

Posted by: David | Oct 28, 2004 11:15:32 AM

If it were only limited to movies, that would be half the trouble. We play "Name That Font!" *eeeverywhere!* This is one reason it takes us so long to order in restaurants and we have more than once asked to take a menu home with us. :D

Am I being offered to see a chick flick with Zahava? Anytime! Since I work until 10pm or so, it might be a logistical operation. ;)

Posted by: jennifer | Oct 29, 2004 8:34:01 AM

I'm sure my lovely wife plays the game anytime/anywhere there is printed material... I only encounter it when we are at the movies and I am itching to get out of the theater.

As to the outing with the Mrs... Maybe we could arrange a double date... you and Zahava could go to the latest Jane Austenesque film, and your hubby and I could go see whatever real entertainment is in one of the adjoining theaters. :-)

Let's make it happen.

Posted by: David | Oct 29, 2004 10:23:40 AM

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