Type Tectonics: Typography, Technology, and the Transformation of Work


Before desktop printers and the designer as author, a massive typesetting industry turned copy into printed matter. For most of the 20th century, the International Typographical Union set the terms and conditions of work in the field. But the union’s power was eroded by its inability to adapt to the introduction of new technologies and a shifting political climate. From the ITU’s ashes was born the contemporary creative hustle. Join us for a discussion between the design scholar Dakota Brown, and journeyman typesetter, labor organizer, and sociologist Michael Neuschatz for a discussion on the relation of Typography, organized labor, technological transformation, and the prehistory of the contemporary Designer.

Dakota Brown has been a graphic designer for 20 years. As a current PhD candidate at Northwestern University, he is developing a reinterpretation of the late twentieth-century design discourse in light of global shifts in the nature of capitalism. He teaches art and design history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Michael Neuschatz worked in sheet metal fabrication plants, shipyards, restaurants, post office before becoming a typesetter in the early 1970’s. He served as a shop steward, union insurgent, and labor organizer while typesetting. He later earned a PhD and became a science education researcher for the American Institute of Physics.

Sponsored by Dgenerator, The Chicago Design Museum, and the UIC School of Design.