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The Case Study of in A Comic Tragedy

Robert Soo



Special Thanks: Friends and Family VFS Faculty



The Table of Contents 1 2 3 4 5 7 10 14 19 20 22 23 24 27 28 29

Overview The Beginning Brainstorming Target Audience Moodboards Visual Approach Research Characterizations Style Pallette Proof of Concept Project Development Scripting Process Printing & Binding Cover Finished Book





o you have a favourite Typeface? If so, how would you describe it to someone who has never seen it before?

Is your typeface Elegant? Serious perhaps? Maybe just funny and casual? Chances are, some descriptions that came to mind could also apply to people you know or even yourself. Professor Gianotten and Doctor Caslon in a Comic Tragedy takes this notion one step further by fully anthropomorphizing typefaces into full fledged characters and introducing them through an illustrated story. Hoping to capture the whimsy of a children’s style alphabet book, what results is a quirky Victorian-esque mystery with a strong typographic-centric twist. This case study will cover the considerations, processes, and work that culminated into this project. o


The Beginning

The Beginning


he initial idea behind this project began fairly early when we, as students, were tasked with choosing a typeface and applying characteristics to its first letter that reflected the mood, look, and feel of that particular typeface. During this exercise, two typefaces appeared particularly engaging: Gianotten, and Caslon. An off-handed comment was issued by me, unbeknownst to anyone that this would be where this project would have its initial kickstart:

“They look like they would team up and solve crimes over the weekend… With their knowledge of typography.”

Linotype Gianotten Regular

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789

Adobe Caslon Pro

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789


Brainstorming anthropomorphic

Realistic Characters Sketchy Cartoony Engraving type look




Main Characters









Colour themes

Film Noir


Others Characters


considerable amount of thought and brainstorming took place to determine the direction that the project was going to take. As related earlier, the only initial elements that were decided on was the utilization of typefaces as characters in a mystery story. Through brainstorming and mind mapping exercises, the bearing of the project quickly took shape.

Black and White


Helvetica Typographic Terms

Characters Frutiger

Typographical centered


Typefaces Bodoni Plot MrsEves

substance abuse

Supporting Characters Subplots

recurring enemies/rivals

Period Specific love interests

Age Non-specified Mystery

Typographic Considerations Serif/San Serif


路 An illustrated mystery story with anthropomorphic type characters. The style of the medium would be as an alphabet book for children, allowing for the introduction of twenty six typeface characters who will act as witnesses to a crime. 路 The setting: Sherlock Holmes-esque Victorian era set in an event very much like a turn of the century World's Fair. 路 Designed to entertain and educate.





Social network





Puzzle solving Interactive How would reader solve problem


Typography Comic Functions


Students Target Audience

Mystery Story


Application/Game Detective game

Media Comic book style


User interaction


Follows Main plots Chapters



Follows Subplots 1970s Non-Linear Renaissance Time Period Prohibition America






New England

New York


Edgy Mood/tone Serious




Target Audience

Target Audience


lthough intended to be produced in the form of a children’s alphabet book, it was quickly determined that the content of the project will not be targeted towards children. Children may appreciate the book as a source of entertainment and an informative introduction to typefaces, but may miss some of the nuances and references within the story. The project is instead targeted towards designers and those who are already interested in typography. This decision allowed for a more complex storyline and the inclusion of typographic terms that would be more familiar with this target audience.


Moodboards - #1

Moodboards Part 1


his is the initial moodboard to attempt to capture the tone and feel of the project. Much of the examples provided are derived from Victorian story books and other printed material. This board includes a wide variety of typographic examples as well as examples of heavy ornamentation. The overall theme was somewhat scattered however, which is why a revised moodboard was required to build upon this one.


Moodboards - #2

Moodboards Part 2


he revised moodboard, this one displays more whimsical and illustrative examples while still in keeping with the Victorian-influenced setting.


Visual Approach - John Leech

Visual Approach John Leech (1817 - 1864)


n illustrated book set in a Victorian era setting requires a matching illustrative style. As such, three artists were selected to provide reference for the stylistic look of the project. The first artist featured here is by characture artist and illustrator John Leech. Featured in illustrated magazines such as Punch and reflects a sense of quirkiness and fancy.


Visual Approach - Sir John Tenniel

Sir John Tenniel (1820 - 1914)


ir John Tenniel is best known for his work illustrating Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Tenniel’s illustrative style is very distinctive and is excellent in its ability to capture both surreal and fantastical imagery.


Visual Approach - Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey (1925 - 2000)


he most contemporary artist of the three, Edward Gorey’s style is more Edwardian and gothic. His themes and illustrations are darker combined with tongue-in-cheek humour that this project would like to emulate.





n order to create a compelling and informative story a huge amount of time was afforded for research. The scope of the project required some familiarity with a large number of distinct areas. These areas include a greater familiarity with typography, typefaces, history, print, children's books, alphabet books, and more. Provided to the right is just a fraction of the resources required for the project, with a significant amount of online materials providing indispensible information and insight.

Typographic References Bringhust, Robert. (1996). The Elements of Typographic Style. Vancouver, Hartley & Marks, Publishers. Friedl, F., Ott, N. & Stein, B. (1998). Typography. New York, Blackdog & Levanthal Publishers, Inc. Ouaknin, Marc-Alain. (1999). Mysteries of the Alphabet ( Josephine Bacon, trans.). New York, Abbeville Press Publishers. Other References Church, A. & Burton, T. (2005). An Alphabet for Lonely Children. New York, Braziller, George Inc. Gorey, Edward. (1997). Gashleycrumb Tinies. New York, Simon & Schuster/Harcourt Brace. Gorey, Edward. (1997). The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Waldron, Kevin. (2008). Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding at the Zoo. Surrey: Templar Publishing.


Research - Typefaces



election of the typefaces carried a number of challenges with a number of considerations to take into account in order to come to the final list. Such considerations include: · The starting letter of the typeface, as the method of introducing each typeface follows an alphabet book format. · The history, etymology, or origin of a typeface. · The recognition factor of the typeface. · Being sure to include all major typeface style categories. · The role that typeface may play in the story. The list is finalized to include the following typefaces: American Typewriter Bodoni Comic Sans Didot Elephant Frutiger Garamond Helvetica Industria Joanna Kennerly Lubalin Graph MrsEaves

News Gothic Old English Poetica Quadraat Rockwell Scotch Roman Thorne University VAG Rounded Wingdings Xander Yoga Zapfino

Bb Bodoni Cc Comic Sans

Bb Bodoni Cc Comic Sans

Ee Elephant Ff Frutiger Gg Garamond Hh Helvetica

Ee Elephant Ff Frutiger Gg Garamond Hh Helvetica

Mrs Eaves

Mrs Eaves

Tt Trajan  

 


Research - Dress



n order to provide a greater degree of authenticity to the time period in which the story is set in, a significant amount of time was allocated to the study of Victorian era fashion. Reference material include many examples of photographic and illustrated imagery from which to draw from for the purpose of character design. Styles of dress utilized within the project tries to borrow primarily from the 1890s period of Victorian fashion. Earlier or later decades of dress may be adapted to attribute distinctiveness to a particular character.


Research - Locations



s with clothing the setting of a turn of the century World's Fair or Universal Exposition is significant to convey the world that the story takes place. Presented here are references from World's Fairs held at the Paris and Barcelona exhibitions, along with derived backgrounds.


Characterizations - Sketches

Characterizations Sketches


nce the cast of typefaces have been determined, each font is then developed into its own unique character. A number of considerations are kept in mind when determining the finished character, which includes:

路 Each character incorporates the first letter of its typeface into its design, which may be either upper or lower case. 路 The character's look and mannerisms should reflect the qualities and spirit of its typeface, though may be influenced by the needs or requirements of the story. 路 A typeface's history, designation or etymology may influence its design and/or personality. 路 Each character speaks in the typeface that he or she is based on, further exhibiting their distinct personalities. Over the course of the project the character design process consisted of over 400 individual character sketches. These sketches went towards creating the thirty one individual typeface characters required by the story. Pictured here are the initial concept sketches for those appearing in the project's proof of concept.


Characterizations - Sketches #2

Additional Sketches


Characterizations - The Protagonists

Professor A.P. Gianotten ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789

Linotype Gianotten Designers: Giambattista Bodoni & Antonio Pace Year: 1790, 1999 About the Typeface: Based on Bodoni but designed for text in smaller sizes and has a far lower contrast. Highly legible and has a tranquil overall graphic effect.

Bio: A worldly gentleman gifted with incredible mental acuity and deductive reasoning. Professor Gianotten has a strong sense of justice yet often comes off as eccentric and aloof, making it difficult for him to relate to others. He also has a rapacious curiosity and often doggedly pursues the answer to a problem to the exclusion of all else. His upbringing and schooling are largely undisclosed, but is noted for possessing a vast command over a large variety of subjects, particularly in the field of typography. Likes: Puzzles, His antique comma pipe. Occupation: Despite being titled professor, Gianotten is not currently affiliated with any known educational institution. Currently works as a consultant both privately and for special police matters.


Characterizations - The Protagonists

Doctor W. Caslon

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 Adobe Caslon Pro Designers: William Caslon & Carol Twombly Year: 1725, 1990 About the Typeface: Short ascenders and descenders, bracketed serifs, moderately-high contrast, robust texture, and a moderate modulation of stroke.

Bio: Friendly and personable, Caslon is an individual whose jovial attitude and aptitude for common sense serves as a counterpoint for Gianotten’s usually moody and aloof behaviour. A friend and colleague of Gianotten’s for several years, Caslon often takes it on himself to ‘mind’ the eccentric professor while out solving mysteries. A learned and intelligent gentleman in his own right, it is often up to Caslon to help the Gianotten remember things he may have forgotten or notice more mundane things that the professor might have overlooked. Likes: Good food and drink, writing Occupation: Caslon is a medical practitioner and maintains a small practice nearby Gianotten’s residence. Often enough however, Caslon usually makes the time to assist Gianotten in his many adventures.


Characterizations - The Protagonists

Constable A.P. Bookman ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789

Bookman Old Style Designers: Alexander Phemister Year: 1858 About the Typeface: Designed as an alternative to Caslon, with straighter serifs, making it more suitable for book and display applications. It maintains its legibility at small sizes, and can be used successfully for headlines and in advertising.

Bio: A gruff, yet strict and disciplined everyman, the good constable is well known by his constituents for his honest hardworking nature. Some might mistake the maturing police officer as simple and unassuming, but as one of the oldest members of the local constabulary Bookman has seen it all and has a wealth of experience to draw on. Despite his age, Bookman is still physically capable and can handle himself when encountering the more “rough and tumble� aspects of his profession. Likes: Visits from his grandchildren, collecting ampersands Occupation: Bookman is the senior officer within the local constabulary, and has the uncanny luck of almost always being the first police official at the scene of a crime. He is unofficially appointed to act as the liaison officer between consultants such as Professor Gianotten and Doctor Caslon and his superiors.


Style Pallette

Style Pallette


he following two images are explorations of possible styles that the project could have pursue. This exercise better defined the look and feel of the project, as well as examines some themes and elements that were suitable for the execution of the finished product.


Proof of Concept

Proof of Concept


he following page shows the proof of concept for the project and follows Professor Gianotten, Doctor Caslon, and Constable Bookman in an entirely separate adventure. Though presented with a different story and format, this proof of concept helps develop the setting and has several of its elements migrate to the main project.



Proof of Concept


rofessor Gianotten and Doctor Caslon, called in to investigate the scene of the crime at 166 Apex road, the New Roman Times Gentlemans club. Easy Caslon... Constable Bookman, who is this sorry chap?

What a grisly scene.


The victim is known as Comic Sans, a relatively new member of the club.

It looks like this time it finally cost him. The cause of death I presume.

Oh dear, I've heard of this poor bloke, often turning up in places he had no business being in.

An ornament, Gianotten?

By Jove, It's attached to a note... on his foot!

Not just an Ornament...

What? A footnote?

What do you suppose you it means?

Haven’t the Foggiest.


† The San Seherif A

So if we find the missing asterisk, it may lead to another footnote!

An asterisk, Gianotten? But why?

If we can find an asterisk we might be able to find the first message the victim received from the killer.

W-what is the meaning of this?! My apologies sir, this won't take a moment.

The first footnote we found was linked to the murder weapon, a dagger glyph. However, only the second footnote woud use a dagger glyph to indicate its presence, the first footnote is denoted with an asterisk!


Professor! I've found it under this plant!

Good job constable, now let's see if we can follow it to its source.

1st 2nd

Mr. Bodoni's private study? He's a respected senior member of the gentlemans club.

This is where the trail leads.


But just how do you know that there's another note from the killer?

are not t fonts to be blamed for nothing...


And hopefully the killer!

Gentlemen, I propose that we search the vicinity for an asterisk

Here's the note, Professor That note is private! How dare you do this to me, do you know who you're dealing wi-

You should have been more mindful on how you used your dagger, Bodoni. It looks like we found our murderer Constable.

Yes, I did it! How does a slob like Comic Sans get used enough to warrant entry to this fine establishment! I am so much more elegant and refined, yet I must live in the shadow of Comic Sans! I'm glad I did it! I'd do it again if I had the chance!

What are you doing in my room?!

The asterisk is leading to Bodoni's pocket!

You just might get your wish, Comic Sans will come back; he always seems to turn up at the most inopportune of times.

Sans, * Dear Comic It is an affront to this gentlemans club that you were ever able to gain admittance. It is clear that a sloppy, infantile, cursive style individual such as yourself has no place here. Leave the club immediately or prepare to face the consequences. Sincerely, Bodoni.

The End


Project Development

Project Development Timeline


his diagram shows the timeline in which the project was proposed to be completed. The total amount of time was interspersed between class terms.

Zzz... Week 6

Week 7

Term 4 - The Age of Planning

Editing Typesetting


Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Term 5 - The Age of Hard Work

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7


Probably More Work

Refinement, Printing, Delivery


Week 5

Asset Generation

Character/ Refined Location Scripting Design


Mentor Pitches

Research/ Additional Scripting Research


Week 1

Week 2

Term 6 - The Age of Panic



Scripting Editing, Revising


he lion's share of time and effort was absorbed into the formulation of the plot. The amount of scope once considered is huge. With over thirty characters, each with their own distinct personality, giving testimony and clues to solve a mystery, creating a cohesive and logically sound puzzle was a significant challenge. By the fourth draft what was produced was a 7000 word, thirty+ page story. This was quickly followed by the heartbreaking task of having to pare it down to meet the simplicity and feel of a children's alphabet book. Several considerations that would present challenges in the creation of the script would include: 路 The creation of a typographic mystery story, complete with clues, twists, and red herrings. 路 Clues provided to be enough for the reader to attempt to work out the mystery before it is revealed at the end. 路 Maintaining an understandable mystery plot, taking into account for all the necessary information provided by witnesses and compounded by the fact that they must appear in a set order. 路 In keeping with an alphabet book format, the sentence of every page begins with the same letter as the typeface that is being introduced.


Process - Character Design & Illustrations I


Character Design & Illustrations - Mrs Eaves


nce the plot and the characte's personality/dialogue have been determined, the next step is designing the characters that will appear in the work. The nature of the typeface, as well as the character's personality and role in the story influenced the final outcome. The example provided here, Mrs Eaves, shows the process that took place to arrive at the character's final iteration. The original concept of the character was a as a love interest for Doctor Caslon, she would be a widow and thus all her dialogue would begin with a widow as well. Initially Mrs Eaves concept was that of a lady of the gentry class, but as the story progressed, her look and feel changed to represent a friendlier working class woman. After the final character design was determined in pencils, the character was then redrawn and inked in a higher resolution to be scanned.

Mrs Eaves


Process - Character Design & Illustrations II

Character Design & Illustrations - Wingdings


his next example covers the character of Wingdings, who witnesses a crime. However, as a running joke, the nature of his typeface and speech means that what he says is largely incomprehensible everyone. In this case, wingdings is based on its lowercase 'w' as the character better lent itself to be interpreted visually.



Process - Layout



nce all the illustrations are complete, the project's layout can designed and the assets composited together. For this project the book adopted a twelve column grid with half-inch margin, providing flexibility in its layout. The narrative and dialogue can also be dropped into place; final checks are in place to ensure the finished file is ready before being sent off to the printer.


Printing & Binding

Printing & Binding


lthough the file may be ready there are a number of other considerations that must be addressed before it can be sent to the printer, namely, paper and binding. The ideal paper choice that was decided on is: 路

Mowhawk Superfine: Softwhite Eggshell 80 cover

The paper is off-white and distinct, also its texture offers a little bit of tooth when handled as well. The choice is also to reference paper that has been aged. For binding, what was opted for is: 路

Perfect binding while using French fold page technique.

Although thicker, and a less efficient use of paper, using a French fold on the pages will ensure that none of the opposing side will show through.

Mowhawk Superfine: Softwhite Eggshell colour example.


Printing & Binding - Cover Art

Cover Design


fter the book was printed and bound, the cover jacket was then designed. Several elements such as ornamentation, decorative patterns, and the simulated binding style are present to give convey the look and feel of a Victorian era book.


Final Product


Final Product


Final Product


Final Product


Final Product

1234 The Case Study of Professor Gianotten & Doctor Caslon in

A Comic Tragedy The End •

1234 Robert Soo

The Case Study of Professor Gianotten & Doctor Caslon in A Comic Tragedy  

This document is a case study for my VFS graduation project, Professor Gianotten & Doctor Caslon in A Comic Tragedy. This study will walk th...

The Case Study of Professor Gianotten & Doctor Caslon in A Comic Tragedy  

This document is a case study for my VFS graduation project, Professor Gianotten & Doctor Caslon in A Comic Tragedy. This study will walk th...