03. Reflection: Fictional Characters and Constraint Systems

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I first heard “fictional characters” or why my brain did not process the word fictional in there, but this project was definitely not what I was expecting. And then to learn it would be collaborative as well, just really made me cringe after the not-so-great group projects I have been a part of this semester. All in all though, I think this was a successful project and a successful collaboration between my partner and me.

I was first tasked with coming up with the preliminary work for the fictional letter. This meant coming up with what could possibly be the 27th letter of the alphabet. A letter which, although fictional, could blend in with the rest of the letters and with the type classification that I was assigned: Modern. Modern typefaces are known for their vertical axis, contrast between strokes, and their thin and straight serifs. I opted to focus on Didot in particular because it was a typeface that I have never directly worked with.

Initially I was drawn to the idea of creating a truly functional fictional letter. The idea of letter frequency interested in me. TH HE AN RE ER IN ON AT ND ST ES EN OF TE ED OR TI HI AS TO are the most common pairs of letters and so I focused on those quite a bit in my sketches.

Sketch_series 1 Sketch_series 2

After the initial sketches, it was time to digitize a few:

Digitized letter sketches-01

After this stage it was time for the collaboration part. I had to hand off all of files to my partner, Juan, who was then required to complete my vision of the fictional letter form. While I had been working on the fictional letter form, Juan had been working on a separate project that he was handing over to me called constraint systems. The goal of this project was to create modular letterforms to visually express an assigned noun and adjective. Juan’s were “destruction” and “graceful” respectively. After receiving his sketches (a few are shown below) I was responsible for bringing his vision to life. One quick side note, I did change Juan’s modular form from a square to a circle because I felt it would be easier to convey “graceful” with.

new doc 47_1 new doc 46_1

Here are our finished pieces.

new doc 49_1 new doc 44_1



All in all this was a very enjoyable project. With the fictional letter form, it was most difficult to throw out the letters I already knew existed to create something never seen before. Yet this letter also had to follow the style of both the Modern classification and Didot. It was really hard to not just throw two letters together and call it a day. It was a very deliberate process with lots of tweeking. When I learned what the second project was, I was a little scared by the idea of creating a whole word, two whole words, two really loooong words, with all these little modular forms, but the work went by relatively quickly and with ease. I was also a bit nervous when I saw all these complex modular systems go up for critique, but I believe Juan’s ideas for graceful- expressing movement, rhythm, and a fluidity with curves- really helped that piece stick out among the more geometric, squared-off work of our peers.

Juan and I worked well together. We handed off complete files with numerous ideas and a clear idea of our visions and there was a steady stream of communication throughout the process. I also know that we were both pleased with the work each other did, we both felt the other was successful with completing the tasks, and were both pleased at the positive feedback we received during critiques.  So again, all in all, a very enjoyable project.

Additionally, I feel as though these type of projects are beneficial to learning to work with another person in the design process. As I mentioned in my critique, I currently work with a fellow student, and OFTEN we are asked to work out and resize each other’s work. It is sometimes hard to go into another person’s art and/or files and start playing around with them, but ultimately the goal is to keep their vision and intents in tact while accomplishing a goal or directive set by our boss, or in this particular project, a teacher. These sort of projects also help to teach communication, timeliness, and even organization.



02. Reflection: Font Mannerisms

When we were first introduced to the project of Font Mannerisms, I must admit I thought it was going to be relatively easy. And then came part two. And then part three. And then the task of documenting our processes. And then the creation of a book. So man I was really wrong. The entire project became harder and harder as it progressed.

Originally assigned Utopia, I had a hard time locating a download of it as to work at home (little did I realize this would only be the first of many technical issues to plague me as the project went along). Luckily I was able to switch up my font to Futura and this made me incredibly joyous and exciting. I don’t know what it is, but sans-serif fonts just excite me. They seem so simple, so minimal, and yet can vary greatly from font to font and across the families. Serifs seem to add such a formality and stuffiness that just does not appeal to me.

Supposedly Stephen King has said “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” Well he was wrong too. The thesaurus became my best friend during this project (so much so it has placed itself in my top sites in Safari) and a source of great inspiration. Too many times my process of work came to a screeching halt due to lack of inspiration in my word choices, in the words I wanted to use to express how Futura made me feel and what it made me think. The thesaurus was always there to give me numerous ways to delve deeper in my thinking and give me new and exciting ways of expressing the random and boring words that came to mind.

Other issues I had throughout this project, and when I think about it there seems like there was a whole lot, but here goes a brief summarization. I’ve had a hard time this semester getting on the same level as my design teachers. Not in a technical or talent way, but just in a way that I understand what they want or what they expect. Things I find aesthetically pleasing or things that I feel meet the requirements often fail to do so or fail to impress. I often drew a blank at how to differentiate and compare parts of the anatomy because I wanted to be creative and I wanted to think outside the box, but it just wasn’t happening (hello mid-semester, is it Christmas yet?). After the critique of the finished work, I realized that my expressive compositions didn’t seem to match up with the class. Maybe I did too much, though I thought I did too little. Maybe I didn’t get the point of the third project. I am pleased with my results wherever they fit in there and have added more expressionist typography pieces to my ever growing list of personal artwork to create (with no restrictions and parameters of course). I do wish I would have put more of an effort into my cover page. My peers really stretched their creativity with their covers and mine was simple and boring (although if I have to rationalize it now, it did fit with my minimalistic and scientific design to the whole layout). The technical issues I faced (which could be a whole blog themselves) I can only attribute to mushy school brain and desperate time crunches. As much as possible, I need to budget my time more wisely and clear my mind before working.

All in all, it was a great project to do, a great help in really studying a font up close and type anatomy, and a great way to think of type as art and not just letters.




OProject 2

01. Reflection: Project 1 _ Typography Scavenger Hunt

When I first heard that the first project in this class was to be a group project, I had to cringe. First it’s that initial fear of creating a group with strangers or that “being picked last for the team” kind of idea (thankfully these fears were irrational since we were assigned groups). Then comes the fear of collaboration. I have to say that throughout my academic career I have been blessed with awesome groups and fellow students who had the same drive and ambition as myself, and who I worked well with together. I’ve seen this meme or internet quote several times in which it says something along the lines of “I want my group members to carry and lower my casket, so they can let me down one more time.” Truthfully I always thought it was a bit funny and always appreciated how I had been fortunate enough to not experience it, although I could appreciate the idea. I am not being cynical nor am I referring to my group in that way. Okay, maybe just a tiny bit. A teeny tiny bit. <insert sheepish-I’m-sorry face here> The truth of the matter is this was a learning experience in a multitude of ways, especially in the area of collaboration.

The idea of a type scavenger hunt was SUPER exciting to me. I love taking pictures of just stuff and I love taking pictures of stuff that has elements of design in it. So why not type too? (Incidentally my mom has one of these collages of letters on her mantle that spells our last name out in random objects that form letters- so the idea of searching for type has crossed my mind before). Before we even found out our groups I had written down several ideas for themes and had looked up several fonts that I thought fit the categories. Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived when I realized that not everyone in my group was on the same page, or maybe we all had too many ideas, or maybe not enough ideas. We managed to hammer out a basic description and assign letters and left with the idea of going random, upper case, and to find whatever we could. Surprisingly, my group managed to find quite a few letters that fit our style perfectly and many people went above and beyond the required letters. In fact I do not even think it was really necessary to assign letters at all. I’m almost positive that only 2 of the letters I was assigned and found were actually used and probably double or triple of the letters I wasn’t assigned were used for the final presentation. I think this was because these things are all around us if we are looking for them. Maybe a G or a Q might not cross my path on a daily basis but I sure did see O’s and X’s and E’s all around me. I suppose this surprised me the most. How abundant these letters are all around us. Or just how hard it was to find some of the letters (upper case, minimal R, hello?). Even after the critique and class today, I still found myself looking for letters as I traveled from point A to point B. It might actually be hard to break this habit.

I was generally pleased with the outcome of our project, especially seeing it up on the board for critique. I think once it was laid out, cleanly, the letters looked very concise and consistent. I have to applaud Jeremy for making the decision to have all of the letters be uniformed in height. I am not sure I would have thought of this, and being that we were the only group to do this, I think it helped our letters stand out more and look like a complete set.

If I had to do this again, I really, really, really would have been interested in pursuing a theme. For instance, a lot of letters came from parks and children’s playgrounds. It may have been fun to do that across the board. I also would have encouraged my group to take better pictures, or set some standards for the pictures that needed to be taken (i.e. file type, image size). I also would have tried to deal with my impatience at some of my group members. I’ve learned that we all have different lives, schedules, and creative processes. The latter especially really conflicted with my own work processes and ethics. I always want to give my best in a group project, be reliable, and not be the one who could possibly let down the group.

All in all, this was a great learning experience in characterizing and defining something, examining type in nature, and collaborating with people who’s creative processes differ from my own. I think, however, I might try and tackle this idea on my own just to challenge myself and see if I can complete the object and  goals in my own ways.