compositions rachel yoo digerness
professor tom dolle
table of contents neighborhoods of type times square central park soho williamsburg compositions letterforms + words + text + texture + image
As part of the Pratt Institute Graduate Communications Design program, this Typography I class was an introduction to the concrete and conceptual aspects of typography as a visual medium. 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: Times Square, Central Park, Soho and Williamsburg (Brooklyn). 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 aloneâˆ’this isnâ€™t about words, but merely letterforms and the feelings they evoke.
composition Composition is 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. Shown on the following pages, the exploration of typographic composition started with simple elementsâˆ’three letterformsâˆ’and became a 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.
scale size balance tension/harmony contrast context meaning focus form structure direction rhythm color depth detail texture drama
letterform Composition 1 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. Displayed on the following page are the letterforms I chose and their corresponding typefaces. The final compositions are 8.5"x 8.5" (standard format throughout).
words Composition 2 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. The additional three words are shown on the following page in their corresponding typefaces.
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text or graphic elements Composition 3 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 or circles, 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. I chose a text from a technical paper that is one of my husband's favorites. The text is set in Baskerville and shown in the following page.
Baskerville When you take a photograph with a digital camera, the sensor behind the lens has just a few milliseconds to gather in a huge array of data. A 10-megapixel camera captures some 30 megabytes—one byte each for the red, green and blue channels in each of the 10 million pixels. Yet the image you download from the camera is often only about 3 megabytes. A compression algorithm based on the JPEG standard squeezes the file down to a tenth of its original size. This saving of storage space is welcome, but it provokes a question: Why go to the trouble of capturing 30 megabytes of data if you’re going to throw away 90 percent of it before anyone even sees the picture? Why not design the sensor to select and retain just the 3 megabytes that are worth keeping? It’s the same story with audio recording. Music is usually digitized at a rate that works out to roughly 32 megabytes for a three-minute song. But the MP3 file on your iPod is probably only 3 megabytes. Again, 90 percent of the data has been discarded in a compression step. Wouldn’t it make more sense to record only the parts of the signal that will eventually reach the ear? Until a few years ago, these questions had a simple answer, backed up both by common sense and by theoretical precept. Sifting out the best bits without first recording the whole signal was deemed impossible because you couldn’t know which bits to keep until you’d seen them all. That conclusion now seems unduly pessimistic. A suite of new signal-processing methods known as compressed or compressive sensing can extract the most essential elements “on the fly,” without even bothering to store the rest. It’s like a magical diet: You get to eat the whole meal, but you only digest the nutritious parts. A one-dimensional signal, such as a sound, is easy to visualize as a wiggly line, representing amplitude as a function of time. You can digitize this waveform by measuring the amplitude at frequent intervals. How frequent? The answer comes from the Nyquist-Shannon sampling criterion, named for Harry Nyquist and Claude Shannon (who both did their work at Bell Laboratories, though 30 years apart). A rough-and-ready version of the rule says: “Always take samples at more than twice the highest frequency present in the signal.”
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Composition 4 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 waysâˆ’challenging you to see it differently. Typography exists in our world in many formsâˆ’this was an opportunity to explore non-traditional representations of typographic form. Personally, this was one of the more challenging sets of compositions because it was difficult to incorporate the texture in an organic way into the composition without simply using it as a background. 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.
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letterform + words + text + texture +
Composition 5 The final addition to the compositional process was the incorporation of an image. With the same three levels of typographyâˆ’letters, words and textâˆ’ 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, etc. are all exhibited in these engaging works that become expressive works of art and communicate on multiple levels. Choosing the right image that works well with the other elements was critical. Unfortunately, I chose poor objects in my initial attempts at these compositions: a whisk and a spoonrest. The whisk was too linear and broken up into lines. The spoonrest had an awkward texture and was not very interesting overall. My final compositions shown here were the most successful. A staple remover consisted of more interesting parts to give me areas of focus. It also had variances in textures and color offering more ways to interact with the other elements.
I have been told more times than I can remember that understanding typography is essential to being a good designer. So it goes without saying, I was very excited to be in my first Typography class. My main area of growth was learning to experiment with relationships between the elements we composed. At the start of the semester I limited myself to what looked pretty and as a result, my compositions were boring and less dynamic. With each new set of compositions, I was challenged to have more fun and risk creating what felt like a “messy” piece but resulted in more interesting compositions. Over the course of several months, I've strengthened my ability to utilize these design principles and apply them to my layouts. I now know to ask myself “Where does my eye focus?” and apply tools like scale, depth or movement. However, I have just started to develop these typographic skills. I feel as though I could study typography forever and always learn something new. For now I look forward to my next semester of Type II.