Teaching Character

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Created: 10/16/12
Last Edited: 11/20/12
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1530
Description
typographic installation
  • Teaching Character is a story that ran in the New York Times Magazine (a Sunday insert) as well as on the New York Times website. The paper has a circulation of about a million, and the website is the most popular American newspaper website with 30 million estimated unique visitors annually.

    A unique idea is cropping up in some American Schools, and that is the idea of teaching character as well as academics. Success, they believe, is not the result of being smart, but also of having ingrained character traits that allow one to handle failure, have empathy, posses gratitude etc. In the story, seven traits are characterized: Grit, Optimism, Curiosity, Self-Control, Gratitude, Zest... and that old chestnut, Social Intelligence. Our objective was to infiltrate the actual school grounds with these words to illustrate the idea that these character traits are as much of a part of the school as the walls, doors, textbooks and biology specimens. Our target audience was the informed reading public, and our strategy was to enchant them with a magical installation of a simple idea.

    Once one realizes that our installation is not Photoshop, but rather a 3-D application of painters tape in a real school environment, we hope that that the delight of seeing carefully executed typographic anamorphism illustrating a provocative article might bring a sense of satisfaction to the reader. I don't know if this is positively "innovative" though I haven't seen a strategic use of typographic anamorphism used editorially. I do know that it was a real delight to watch the installations come together, and that the team assembling them with me—as well as the kids in the schools—were thrilled to see each one take shape so that the word, distorted from all angles but one, finally, seemed to magically float in space in front of us, defying gravity. The Times posted a stop-time animation that we created of the installation of GRIT, and it has been viewed over 130,000 times.

    Photographs by Stephen Wilkes

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