Sometimes, the conversations we have after work provide the greatest insights into the mission and vision of what we are doing at work. The insight you’re about to indulge in is based on one of those very conversations. While both working in the same company; our own office spaces, the way we work and how others work have changed rapidly, nudged on by COVID 19 and the resulting experiences of this peculiar year, 2020.
During one of our discussions, on the ways we are working and how the screen and the tools have evolved so rapidly, we couldn’t help but reflect on the vision of the Schools Digital Strategy (NSW Department of Education) and how the plan involves a ‘responsive, efficient and seamless education experience.’
This lead to a discussion about the Crystal Goblet.
The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible written by Beatrice Warde (1900 -- 1969) is an essay written about wine being tasted from a crystal goblet, and how this visual of the crystal goblet is a metaphor for quality typography. There is almost infinite combinations in which type, space and layout can be combined in order to communicate a message, but in her essay, Ward alludes to the need for the typographic treatment to be invisible, unseen, or transparent (like crystal) making space for the story, the most important part, to be enjoyed. She notes that the typographer “may work in what I call transparent or invisible typography. I have a book at home, of which I have no visual recollection whatever as far as its typography goes; when I think of it, all I see is the Three Musketeers and their comrades swaggering up and down the streets of Paris.”
Ward refers to the idea that if you chose a crystal goblet to taste your wine, you are doing this to reveal rather than hide the contents of your glass. Transparent pages to read from are of the same ideal – to reveal the story, characters, information, perceptions, mysteries and what the writer wants you to know.
The same could be said of technology. Technology is the tool on your desk, a wonderful piece of equipment at home, or an application of scientific knowledge designed to make your life easier. When it fails, the battery is dead or the file disappears for some strange reason, it could equate to Beatrice’s ‘vulgar ostentations’ of typography. Not pleasing on any count to say the least. And sometimes quite worthy of a few vulgar words spoken!
But when it works…oh how it works! It becomes invisible. The knowledge you are absorbing is elating, the work you are producing flows without obstruction. Your thinking is all that there is and the device or software no longer hinders you. This is technology nirvana. When devices, tools, applications and finding the flow in any computational thinking is working the way it should – the joy we feel is incomparable because our state of flow is no longer obscured.
This has become part of our mission to ensure that our jobs and tasks might achieve this goal. That our schools’ leaders, teachers and students are able to learn using the invisible tools so that the most important part, the learning and teaching can be enjoyed. This is the lesson of the Crystal Goblet. Learning and quality pedagogy are at the centre of the system. Technology is the ‘invisible’ tool that supports it.
Only then, can we experience the true joy of a nice glass of wine in Ward’s Crystal Goblet.
 SDS – at a glance. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://education.nsw.gov.au/about-us/strategies-and-reports/schools-digital-strategy/schools-digita...
 Warde, Beatrice. “The Crystal Goblet, Or Why Printing Should Be Invisible.” Graphic Design Theory (2009): 39–43.
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