Higher-level education in graphic design

From book culture to digital culture

Graphic design education today must bridge the divide between book culture, which began in the fifteenth century with the development of printing, carrying with it a certain concept of time, and its transformation under the impetus of new technologies. Making this distinction does not pit one culture against another, nor announce the demise of one for the benefit of the other. It is to be aware of what is taking place within a historically-constituted culture with the emergence of a new culture that encourages the de-territorialisation of information and knowledge, making them both temporary and fragile.

In art schools under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and Communication – either within a design or communication major, or in a specific graphic design course – the teaching of typography and type design is dispensed within a conceptual framework in the course of a typographic project. This project can be in any one of a number of areas (publishing, digital, public arena) and on various scales.

Students may choose between a short three-year curriculum leading to the Diplôme National d'Arts et Techniques (DNAT) and a five-year cursus leading to the Diplôme National Supérieur d'Expression Plastique (DNSEP), a master's level diploma, punctuated with the Diplôme National d'Art Plastique (DNAP), awarded following three years of high-level studies.

During the three- and five-year programmes, students learn about writing, the graphic symbols that form them and in generally all types of media. They are encouraged to use appropriate characters that they will use both in their graphic creations and in the design and articulation of their projects. To observe and understand letter-shapes is to grasp the core of graphic design. The spatial dimension of corporate identity (logos, store decoration, advertising) and signage are also considered. The contribution of linguistics is also critical to certain sign-based typographic research, and an introduction to this discipline is part of some programmes.

France's art schools are fully cognisant of issues involving new forms of communication.

Lasting relationships are established between the understanding of the anatomy of symbols and layout, as typography is part of the student's basic toolbox throughout his or her studies. Students discover that letters can take on new meanings and books can have new forms. Some even design their own characters.

Lectures are supplemented by workshops and seminars to which international graphic design professionals are invited on a regular basis, including Wladyslaw Pluta, Alejandro Lo Celso, Philippe Millot, Gerard Unger and Olivier Nineuil. These individuals address themes such as writing, reading and typography.

France's art schools are fully cognisant of issues involving new forms of communication brought about by new technologies, and have set up research teams to address them. They play an active role in the design and development of structures regarding reading, learning and innovative visual research in the digital environment providing access to tomorrow's reading and visual skills.

For some artists like Pierre Ponant, a teacher at the Ecole Supérieure d'Ert in Bordeaux, who entitled his workshop graphisme(s) hors limite(s), graphic design is a zone of operation where anything is possible. We need to be guided by these possibilities, be schools such as those in Amiens, Besançon, Bordeaux, Bourges, Caen-Cherbourg, Cambrai, Épinal, Lyon, Nancy, Paris (ENSAD), Pau, Saint-Etienne, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Valence, which, though their contribution to the Garamond project, improved our knowledge of higher education and research in graphic design. We offer our warmest thanks .