Report: Working Seminar Colombo 2019

In partnership with FARU (Faculty of Architecture Research Unit), University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and the Akuru Collective, ATypI held the first Working Seminar in Colombo on 22–23 March 2019.

Around sixty educators, professionals, and students, came together to exchange information and discuss the teaching of typography in universities, colleges, and self-contained courses in the broader region.

Highlights from the ATypI Working Seminar Colombo


The Working Seminar employed a structure combining presentations, open-ended Q&A sessions, and hands-on workshops. Informal discussions during the breaks, lunches, and dinners enriched the experience and reinforced our emerging network.


Main themes of the discussion were the use of archival material in the design process, multi-script design, and common challenges in teaching typography in the region. Research and teaching typography in the regional scripts is a challenge, as is teaching in bilingual and multilingual environments. Lack of resources, nomenclature and frameworks for describing histories is a shared challenge in the region.

DAY 1 Friday 22 March 2019
Talk by Gerry Leonidas  video
Q&A with by Gerry Leonidas video
Talk by Shaima ElBardawil video slides
Q&A with by Shaima ElBardawil video
Workshop session by Gerry Leonidas
Public Event  Forum on Typography, text technologies and fonts as infrastructure for culture and economy


The discussions and the themes of the second day revolved around design education; research, teaching techniques, curriculum and course development. The interprations of Latin-centric typography concepts in the the context of local scripts and generation of new interpretations raised questions about the required research. By extension, educators in the region face challenges in demonstrating the value of design research. Typography related research is unheard of in some institutions, making it much harder to build a case for funding and support for research, and participating in knowledge exchange programmes such as conferences and other events.

Another area of discussion covered the various types of typography modules and fundamental differences in approaches towards experiment and originality in typography, and how these are discussed in undergraduate levels. These terms are related to the perception of what typography is in the course, and could be interpreted to focus on building a deeper understanding of the tools and techniques which influence the forms and shapes of letters, and how they relate to document genres.

DAY 2 Saturday 23 March 2019
Talk by Sumanthri Samarawickrama video
Q&A with by Gerry Leonidas video
Talk by Keith Tam  video
Q&A with Keith Tam video
Workshop session by Keith Tam video
Closing remarks video

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The Working Seminar Colombo is the first Working Seminar in 27 years for ATypI, and certainly the first of its kind in the region with exclusive focus on teaching typography.

The term ‘Visual communication design’ is replacing graphic design courses and it shows the expanding landscape of communication mediums. Lack of resources and knowledge on fundamentals and basics will only become much more pressing issues when it comes to teaching type and typography in regional scripts. Further to the knowledge and insights on teaching typography the event highlighted the importance of regional initiatives, with focus on building shared open resources and coordinating to organise more regional knowledge exchange programmes. A conscious effort to be inclusive and enable local communities is essential, as is the making available of resources in a manner that these communities can access.

Bringing together people from the region in an intimate environment to focus on a narrow scope is the aim of Working Seminars. The Colombo event was successful in proving this model. The structure of the event and the cap on the participants allowed more personal discussions leading to more fruitful exchanges. The local team and the volunteers got an opportunity to participate in the event, and students participated actively in the workshops. Raising ATypI’s profile in Sri Lanka and the region was a key benefit, and is certain to lead to future local initiatives.


Sponsors and partners

Support from our local and international sponsors and partners made this event successful. Thank you!

Gold Sponsor Google