Page 1



about p2

neighborhoods of type p3

3 quote & shapes p23

4 texture p29

compositions p8

1words p11

2 letterforms p17

5 image p37

summary p44


TYPE SMARTS Simple isn’t easy. I learned this absolutely true when working with typography and building my own compositions. It’s not just picking a pretty typeface and image to go along with it, its understanding the building blocks of type. There is a whole science behind type that when understood and enhanced with your own creativty makes for images that are dynamic and memorable. As part of the Pratt ‘s Graduate Communications Design program, the TYPE I class was an introduction to the concrete and conceptual aspects of typography as a visual medium.



P E The first half of the semester was a review of the technical requirements of typography. The second half was an exploration of the abstract compositional uses for typography, integrating hand skills and the computer as a way to render type. Historical and current forms of alphabetic communications were also explored, along with the relationship to modern image- based communications. This book was the final assignment, and incorporates the steps taken in the process of composition exploration, while the book format functions as an introduction to the complexities of editorial design.

NEIGHBORHOODS OF TYPE The neighborhoods of New york are diverse and rich with character. This character can be seen in the buildings, the shops and restaurants, the public space and the people who make the neighborhood what it is. In this assignment, I explored four neighborhoods:

Central Park

Times Square



I made observations about the mood, pulse, visual attributes and overall impressions of each area. Once the essence of the neighborhood was captured, I looked through magazines to find examples of common typographic letterforms that represent the qualities of that neighborhood. The typography was limited to several letters and cut out, scanned and/or copied from magazine covers, ads or layouts. The letterforms convey the aspects I have identified through their visual attributes alone-this isn’t about words, but merely letterforms and the feelings they evoke.


Times Square

Central Park



COmPOSITION = the organization or grouping of the different parts of a work of art so as to achieve a unified whole Although typographic composition utilizes the same basic compositional concepts that are part of all visual arts, there are unique ways that typography relates to each of these concepts. By forming relationships between the elements, and incorporating visual concepts in abstract ways, a new and more open relationship with typography is achieved. As the compositions progress in line with Rudaolph Arnheim’s Law Of Differentiation (from simplest to more complex) they grow to contain 3 letterforms, 3 words, a quote, 3 graphic elements, texture and an image. I have devised a formula to represent each building block of the compositions and their growth:

3L+3W+Q+G+Tx+I Shown on the following pages is the exploration of these typographic compositions and the process of identifying abstract concepts as they became visualized. Additional elements were added each week, and new relationships evolved as we explored positive/negative, texture and image use. Next, I break down the formula and show these individual elements.





Scale Size Balance Tension Harmony Contrast Context Meaning Focus Form Structure Direction Rhythm Color Depth Detail Texture Drama

3 LETTERFORmS These compositions feature three letters from the alphabet, set in any of the following typefaces: Helvetica, Univers, Futura, Garamond, Times Roman, Century, Baskerville and/or Bodoni. By using size, scale, spacial relationships, bleeds and positioning as the variables, I created six compositions using only the three letterforms. The final compositions are all sized 8.5"x 8.5".


X _ G _ E


3 WORDS + 3 LETTERFORMS Keeping the three letters from the previous assignment, I have now included three words. The words do not have to have any particular meaning or association with each other. Each letter and word is set in one of the following typefaces: Helvetica, Univers, Futura, Garamond, Times Roman, Century, and/or Bodoni. Using only the three letters and three words, I created the following compositions.


fungi _ archipelago _ auburn


QUOTE + GRAPHIC ELEmENTS + 3 WORDS + 3 LETTERFORMS Starting with the same three letters and three words from the previous assignments, I am now adding some text and a graphic element. I am setting the text in one of the approved typefaces from before, adjusting the leading, column width, type size, etc. to achieve different results. As abstract compositions, it is not necessary that the text or other typographic elements be readable. I also included graphic elements: lines, circles or squares in any size or configuration, either solid or outlined. Screens of black could be employed, white type could be used, and structure was to be considered.


“Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, A dichotomy in which you hate what you do So you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will Give you as much happiness as your spare time.�


TEXTURE + QUOTE + GRAPHIC ELEmENTS + 3 WORDS + 3 LETTERFORMS Positive/negative is the relationship between figure and ground. Are there black elements on a white ground, or white elements on a black ground? Does the ground interchange from black to white? Just making a composition negative does not deal with those issues. Texture is the ability to render type in ways other than just hard edge black and white. Combining hand effects (drawing, painting), machined effects (photocopying, scanning), computer effects (PhotoShop, Illustrator) and/ or accidental effects (spills, crumples, rips) allows you to define type in unusual and unique ways- challenging you to see it differently. Typography exists in our world in many forms - this was an opportunity to explore non-traditional representations of typographic form. Starting with the same three letters, three words and text used in the last assignments, I incorporated positive/negative and texture as major design components. Graphic elements were optional.





The final addition to the compositional process was the incorporation of an image. With the same three levels of typography--letters, words and text--an image of a simple object was introduced to the mix. The image could be cropped, silhouetted, texturized or changed in other ways in the course of creating the compositions. Texture could now be a part of the image, or continue as a separate element. Positive/negative, graphic elements and structure could be incorporated as needed. The resulting compositions are still abstract, but hint at the richness that can be incorporated into even the simplest realistic project. The complex relationships between typographic elements and the concepts of scale, balance, focus, and others are all exhibited in these engaging works that become expressive works of art and communicate on multiple levels.



STOP AND SMELL THE TYPOGRAPHY Before taking this class I was just another person who not only overlooked the importance of type, but didn’t understand the complexities involved in creating amazing type - smart type. Now, I spot it everywhere from shopping bags to coffee cups. I take the images apart and look beneath the layers composing it as this class allowed me to do. At first, it was a struggle to break out of comforts of organized forms and see letters as independent elements. But as the course progressed it became clearer just how these elements were to function and why they were aesthetically pleasant. As we build unto the compositions each week I saw that the basic principles of Rudolph Arnheim are at work! I still tried to stay true to my love of photography and organization and build my knowledge of typography much like I would have built a formula. However, I forgot to add one element that cannot be quantified and that is creativity.

Compositions - Type1 - PRATT - Fall 2010  

Type Mini Bok