Category Archives: Typography

Things I have learned in {this semester} so far

drift wood made beautiful by the elements

Things I’ve have learned in my life this far…a few reflections on the past semester.

Be quiet

I can be quite the talker and I am always more than willing to contribute to any classroom conversation. Yet, this semester I realized that my egarness to share may be inhibiting those who are less inclined to speak up in class. My disdain for awkward pauses will always come with a constant inner struggle for me to remain silent and let others speak. I don’t like dead air and feel like someone has to get the conversation started, but I’m working on letting others be that person. This, I feel, will always be an active process for me.

Ask questions (and find the answers)

I don’t know everything and would be hard pressed to meet someone who does. So asking questions is imperative. Yet, sometimes the best answer can be found by myself. Having the ability to find answers is much more important than having all the answers. I’ve found I learn and retain more information by finding the answer myself.

Relationships are important

This semester, I had class with the same people for six hours straight twice a week. And we were all together in another class on the opposite two days of the week. So, to say we’ve become like a family is an understatement. In a fairly competitive program, it would be my first assumption to think we would all become super competitive with each other. Yet quite the opposite has happened. My classmates constantly strive to make their own work stand out and it creates a positiveness throughout and pushes me to be better. We encourage each other, we laugh with each other, sometimes we air our frustrations, but all in all I truly enjoy spending time with my class.

Prepare for the worst

Murphy’s Law says everything that can go wrong will. Every major project I had due first thing Monday morning this semester came with major printing issues. Power outages, technical glitches, tornados; you name it, we encountered it. Finding ways to make projects happen after a tornado whipped through town will certainly make me a designer who can weather the storm…no pun intended.

Face your fears

Web media has been a semester long exercise in facing my fear of all things web design. I always looked at writing markup as some crazy mathematical language that I knew nothing about. But as I worked my way through the semester, I actually found myself enjoying it. And more importantly, understanding it.

While this was one of the more stressful semesters of my career, it was in so many ways one of the best. I know each semester will just continue to exceed my expectations in more ways than I can imagine. At this holiday season, I am beyond thankful for teachers who inspire, classmates who encourage, and being blessed to study something that brings me joy.

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Faculty Concert Series

Thanksgiving weekend is used for a little catch up, so my blog will be getting a little more attention over the next few days. This project for typography called us to design a poster for the Faculty Concert Series at UTC. We had to show three different posters that were still a cohesive series…a convention to show they belonged together, yet different enough to notice it was a different show. I used sheet music as my inspiration and the bars are a loose representation of the music coming off the page. As a musician, there comes a point where the artist is no longer merely reading music but playing from memory and playing from the heart. It’s sort of a sublime moment for the musician and I wanted to show that point with my poster. The music is coming off the page and the musician is playing from heart.

Faculty Concert Series

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On (Design) bullshit

We began exploring with grid design in project 5. I am somewhat familiar working with grid design, but it has been a few years since I used one. We were given content and asked to make a magazine spread of sorts. We were able to use our own images to accompany the article.

The article was Michael Bierut’s On (Design) Bullshit. His theory is that all designers must spin some form of bullshit to explain intuitive choices in design. I fully agree with this theory, and will go out on a limb and say there is an element of bullshit in almost all our daily lives. Any form of sales holds a large element of bullshit and I would argue this seeps out into any form of persuasion. Persuading your husband to purchase a new dishwasher, persuading your mom to stay out an hour past curfew, persuading your boss for time off…all bullshit. I’m not saying bullshit is bad; it certainly is an acquired skill to shoot the shit with the best of them.

My concept for project 5 came from what I consider the largest pile of bullshit out there: the job interview. Both parties offer a cleaned up version of themselves in hopes of getting a job or hiring a new employee. The questions, where we put a positive spin on just about every situation: “Junior, why did you leave your last job?” Truth: “The pay and benefits were terrible.” Bullshit answer: “I was seeking advancement within my career field.” And there’s always the famous “Tell me your weakness” question that millions of interview books will instruct you to flip to a positive. “My weakness is that I work too hard.” Bullshit!

I wanted my layout to have a slightly formal feeling because of the nature of the job interview. We dress up in our best suit and tie for an interview, when the reality is our suit only comes out on Christmas and maybe Easter. We polish up the rough edges in hopes that a company will see our true self in 20 minutes. It may not be lies, but it’s our cleaned up, dressed up, Easter Sunday version of the self, which would qualify as bullshit.

envisioning information

Our final project for the semester was an information graphic poster. Prior to this assignment, I thought of information graphics how I thought of toilet paper, something that we need and use everyday, but I don’t want to spend my days making it. But once I did a little more research, I realized this seemingly boring subject can actually be interesting to design. And it’s everywhere. This project made me think more about designing for things like city planning and tourism. And with our world constantly growing, the need for this type of design will be more in demand. I am such a diehard advertising/branding lover, this project only made me realize I can find enjoyment in so many other types of design.

We were given very strict guidelines in this project including text, images, with footnote type references for both, and an article citation. And we had to use it. All. Of. It. Every bit of information we were given had to be in our design. We were also given a strict grid to work with as well.

I immediately began to think this project would be boring and the whole class would end up having pretty similar looking designs. Wrong! I was very impressed with the class and how different each of our designs looked. (My love for my classmates and their work may now be bordering on obsessive.) While we were all bound by the same guidelines, we all managed to come up with some interesting design solutions.

When I first began to lay out the text and images within the grid, I hated the grid. But once I told myself the grid was a guide to lead and direct, not a fence to chain in, the creative solutions opened. As I’ve always thought with writing, you have to know the “rules” to know when you can break them.

Sophomore Review: passed!

Until this point, even though my track was graphic design, I’ve been classified as pre-art. But as of last week, I’m officially in the graphic design program! Sophomore review consists of an installation of foundation work (10 pieces) and an interview in front of the entire art faculty. I was the second interview of the day and was happy to get it over early! We were asked questions about our work, our process for specific projects, why we wanted to be a graphic designer, contemporary inspirations, and other similar questions.

 The top piece with the mirrors was done in Drawing III as my final self-portrait. The “JK” ligatures were for typography. The montage was for Visual Literacy. The white piece was done for 3D Art. We used foam core board and were only able to utilize squares, triangles and rectangles for our design.

The 4 figures are 1-minute gesture drawings. Pioneer was my typography poster project. Bottom images were line art done in Visual Literacy. The tower was done in 3D with 1/8 inch dowel rods, string and glue, had to be at least 38 inches tall and be able to hold an 8-pound brick. On the pedestal is my book redesign and my color theory portfolio.

Grid-based design

I’m very excited to begin our next project. We will be working with grid-based designs. It sort of brings me back to my high school yearbook designing days. Heck, I even remembered what a gutter was in class last week (I’ve been out of high school 10 years, so that memory was not at the tip of my brain.)

A grid creates a solid visual and structural balance in a design. A more complex grid can create more flexibility within the design while still maintaining structure. I immediately think of magazine layout when thinking about grids. We were asked in our initial research to trace the grid in 3-4 pages of one particular magazine. It was interesting to see how one single grid could create so many different layouts, yet each layout had a familiarity to it. The layout on each page followed the grid, so while each design was slightly different, it related in some way to the previous page creating continuity throughout.

While the Smashing Magazine article focused mostly on web-based grid design, it can be found in several other mediums, magazine, newspaper and books just to name a few. I enjoyed the “Things you probably didn’t know about grid-based design” section, where several well-known designers offered tips and tricks about grids.

A grid-based design is not required, but can certainly make designing (especially multiple pages) slightly easier on yourself and create a natural and fluid design with visual and structural balance. The overall consensus was a grid is obviously not required, but why would you not use one?

Info taken from Smashing Magazine

The American Spirit of the Pioneer

Project 4 asked us to research presidential inaugural addresses, choose one that spoke to us, then create a poster using an excerpt from the address. I chose FDR’s first inaugural address. Historically, this speech was given at an economic downfall in our country, shortly after the stock market fell and in the midst of the Great Depression. The country was searching for hope in its next president as much as they were searching for answers to their unending questions. It just felt so parallel to where our country is today and the hope and expectations during the election of President Obama. As I read the speech, I felt like it was something President Obama could have given at his inaugural address.

The portion that spoke to me the most was, “It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all parts of the United States – a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.” To me, this section meant we need to get back to our roots, back to our ideals of being a trailblazer and an innovator. With a recognition and respect for the past, our country can become more forward thinkers. As a nation, we can learn from our past mistakes and learn from our past successes…sort of like respecting the wisdom of our elders.

I set out to create a poster that conveyed that message: the rugged, organic, natural, groundbreaking pioneer. Our color options were restricted to black, white and tints of one of the following: red, green, blue and yellow. Green was my immediate choice because of the thoughts of nature that go along with it. I also contemplated yellow as it feels like a hopeful color. (By the way, I love that one single color can evoke so many feelings!) We were also given the choice of the following typefaces: Gotham, Caslon, and Knockout. When I first began creating, I chose Caslon merely because I almost never choose to work with serif typefaces, but I quickly realized this serif typeface was a little to fancy for my rugged pioneer attitude.

The next few steps were not so easy. A few drafts in, I realized my thumbnails and sketches weren’t very strong and didn’t have a favorite from the get-go. They were weak and didn’t push the concepts. But like all pioneers, I carried on. I continued with more drafts, pushing in directions that were further from my message. I was so inspired by this project and its message, how could I not convey that to print? I needed to go back to the brainstorming/sketching/researching phase. I researched typographic posters and wrote down specific elements I enjoyed from various images. I mind-mapped the word pioneer. I wrote down my message and what it meant to me. After the second round of research, I cranked out a few more drafts that I was much happier with. (The draft count was quite high at this point…and those were the ones I was actually saving. Many more were just not worth the disk space.) A classmate suggested I play with the “one” within the word pioneer. I toyed with tonal differences in color as well as spacial emphasis. The result was my final draft. Broken record, but my classmates constantly push me to be better.

I felt like I struggled with this project more than any of the others, but it makes me appreciate those projects when things worked well so effortlessly. Can’t have the rainbows without the rain, I guess.

Talented Classmates

As I’ve mentioned before, my classmates often push me to be a better student. They are all extremely creative and talented and because their work is so awesome, I can’t slack whatsoever. They make me a better designer! So, I’ve included some class pics of our ligature color exploration projects…photographed by my talented classmate, Robert.

Paul Renner and Futura

Paul Renner is a German-born typeface designer most well known for creating the typeface Futura. Renner was suspicious of abstract art and disliked many forms of modern culture such as jazz, cinema and dancing; which is interesting since many of us designers like to align ourselves with modern culture and high art. Although he was suspicious of abstract art, he admired the functionalist strain in modern and is often seen as a bridge between the traditional and the modern. He was a prominent member of the German Work Federation and authored two texts: “Typography as Art” and “The Art of Typography.”

Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface that Renner designed between 1924 and 1926. It was derived from simple geometric forms and is based on strokes of near-even weight which are low in contrast. It is still one of the most widely used typefaces of the 21st century as is has an appearance of efficiency and forwardness. It avoids the decorative and eliminates the non-essential. Futura was commercially released in 1927.

It is fascinating that a typeface created in the 1920s could still be so relevant and widely used today. I was rather excited when I was assigned this typeface for our in-class project as it is one of my favorites. Many of my classmates enjoy it as well (learned by a meeting ice-breaker question of “If you could be any typeface, what would you be?”)  In fact, it sparked a large debate on social networks when the home goods store IKEA changed their typeface from a customized version of Futura to Verdana as seen in this article.

Ligature Color Exploration

In part 2 of project 2, we were instructed to explore color with our ligatures. The colors had to be complimentary and had to use the same two colors for negative and positive space but switched. So, the hard part of the assignment was just that…take two colors and two versions but make both equally as visually impressive. Easier said than done.

I must admit that I loved color theory. I know not everyone is in the same boat, but the emotions and feelings that go along with color can make statements on their own. Choosing a complimentary pair of colors was the first step. The second step was playing with saturation, value, tints, shades, and all those lovely lessons we learned in color theory.

I always enjoy seeing the work and process of my classmates (they are the best teachers and challenge me). Color choices that worked well for one ligature didn’t fare well for another, or was visually interesting for one ligature, but not the opposite space. We all spent some time on various websites exploring color options. I could spend hours exploring color schemes and combinations! It’s amazing how adding one additional hue to an existing scheme can change it so dramatically. I spent most of my time on this site as well as this one.

My final product was actually a happy accident (see previous post simple pleasures of design). I was typing in the numerical values to change the blue tone. I paused in the middle of typing and realized I really liked the dark value, sort of navy blue, that was on my screen. So thus it stayed. I could say that I planned out my strategic choice of that specific shade of blue, but after playing around with lighter tints of blue for about 45 minutes, but must confess it was just an accident. And sometimes that’s the greatest finished product!