Archive for the 'typography' Category

School update (or rather, wrap-up)

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

As I only had two days of classes this term, the entire term zipped by almost without me knowing. By the last day of the term, I somehow managed to finish my thesis paper (though you can be sure I will be using all next term to refine it), create the other two deliverables for my 5 Minute Break project (see previous post), create a bunch of research activities for my thesis project, spend $100 to print out my thesis project poster, redesign my portfolio website (have yet to complete it though), and relax the rest of the time.

Next term, I will be completing my thesis paper and project, and will be taking four classes: Dick Buchanan’s Design, Management, and Organizational Change, Kristin Hughes and Mark Mentzer’s Color and Communication, Shelley Evenson’s Conceptual Models, and I will once again be taking Repertoire Orchestra. Very excited about this lineup; I think it’s a really great mix of different types of design, and I think all will be useful with whatever I decide to do later on.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the update on the rest of the term since my last post:

Thesis project
After an oh-so-exciting four months of waiting, all my IRB problems were resolved, and I am finally allowed to go talk to families at Children’s Hospital. Too bad this came a week before school ended, which means I can’t actually go in until after the break, but at least I can go. Within these four months, I talked to the staff at Children’s and have a pretty good idea of what they believe to be the problem with information overload for the parents of patients. It will be interesting to compare the staff’s perceived problems with the families’ problems once I get to talk to them.

Thesis Project PosterAs Masters students we are all required to create a thesis project poster for a poster session that we hold at the end of the term. Mine mainly consisted of the models I created from talking to the staff, but it also includes the four research activities that I devised to get insight into families’ experiences at the hospital. For now I am mainly interested in comparing different emotional states throughout families’ journeys at the hospital with the information they receive at these points.

Thesis paper
After a crazy Thanksgiving weekend writing session, I mostly finished my thesis paper, then really finished in the couple of weeks after. It still needs lots of revision, mostly for writing style and argument coherency, but it’s mostly there (I think, and hope). The thesis paper has been one of the hardest “assignments” (if you can call it that) for me; I’ve never been comfortable with my writing style. But it’s progressing and I hope to have a solid Masters Thesis Paper by the time I graduate, even if the only two people who will read it are me, and my advisor ;)

Grad Type
I finished my 5 Minute Break assignment with mostly a bang. Created some mockups of a proposed website, and for my third piece I decided to make small and playful keychain tags, each tag containing an idea for something you could do on a 5 minute break. It was a fun project, and really useful too. I learned a lot about creating systems, and what mediums are good for what purposes. I learned how to treat visualizations differently depending on your medium. I learned more about hierarchy (you can never learn enough about hierarchy). Most importantly, I learned that I can create things I would have never thought of doing… thinking outside the box in terms of visual design, and not being afraid to do it is I think the one big lesson of this class for me. I feel like I can approach different projects without being confined to what I know and am comfortable with, and still create something visually appealing.

Because of the way the class was set up, I only got to play twice this term. Nevertheless, both times were great. With most things, I always forget how fun it is until I actually do it again. But with music, I never forget, which makes a lack of music in my life a problem. My first year of grad school was the first year in my life that I wasn’t pursuing anything musical; up until my first year of undergrad I was talking piano lessons, I played in my highschool’s jazz band, concert band, and pit orchestra, I started my own chamber quintet (that was later invited to play for Canada’s Governor General), I continued competing as a pianist in my hometown’s Kiwanis music competition… in undergrad I continued taking piano lessons (at the expense of some of my academics), sang in one of University of Toronto’s 1oo-member choirs, and played piano for one of my college’s cabaret productions. Then came my first year at CMU, when I did absolutely nothing. I couldn’t even find a piano on campus that I could play on. So, playing in orchestra this year was pretty refreshing. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I never pursued music as a career. But then I look at what I’m doing in school now, and am always reminded that maybe music is better served as a hobby ;)

I think that’s enough school updates for now. Over the break I plan on finishing my portfolio, looking for places that I’d like to work at, and refining my thesis paper. Fun!

Grad Type Assignment 3: The 5 Minute Break

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Stacie Rohrbach has taken over the second half of my Grad Type class, and for our third and final assignment, we will be looking at how to build solid and coherent systems of different mediums. We each chose our own topic; something that interested us, something we wanted to advocate, some people chose to start creating their portfolios, etc. With these topics, we are to build three things: a one minute movie, a website, and another item of our choice. The goal is to create a system across all three mediums and to learn what different mediums are good at expressing, both information and style wise.

I wanted to do something fun and light hearted for this project. So I chose to advocate taking The 5 Minute Break. The intended audience is anyone, really—overworked employees, parents, college students… anyone that occasionally works too hard and forgets that taking breaks every so often won’t kill you, and in fact has a lot of benefits to it.

We had two weeks to make a movie. Here’s mine (it’s still a draft… we presented our movies today but have the rest of the term to work on them):

The movie is meant to be a teaser of sorts… not meant to provide an enormous amount of detail, but enough to get you intrigued in the subject to perhaps make you want to check out a website. We will be working on the website next. Stay tuned for results.

“60 minutes”

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Grad Type Assignment 2: Done.

I’ve been slaving away at this assignment for weeks. Or at least it felt that way. I wasn’t really happy with anything that I had come up with until the very end (and still, there are things that aren’t quite right… but that’s the way it works with all these projects!).

The final product: a 24″x36″ color poster printed on semi-gloss paper. Instead of writing about the project description, here’s the short blurb that is included on my poster, I think it gives enough context:

This was an exercise to visually map sixty minutes of our life. We were given the freedom to document anything we wanted. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that on this particular day, I was comfortably settled in my chair by the window drenched in sunlight, or if I was just in a desperate need of some sort of break, or if I simply sought pleasure in doing something completely mundane, but I decided to count the number of bricks on the wall in my apartment. I never got around to counting them all; it seems that my mind can never get around to catching a break, even if I’m just sprawled on my chair basking in warmth, taking a rest from school, and counting bricks.

And here’s the poster (click to download pdf version):

the mind wanders when it's counting bricks...

As always, lots of lessons were learned doing this project. We did a similar project with Dan Boyarski in our Studio I class last year, but now that I’ve developed a bit more skill in this area I think I’ve been able to take away a lot more than I was able to before. I learned most about hierarchy in doing this piece–how to map different types of information in a way that captures the essence of your piece yet avoiding a cluttered-looking layout, how to engage the audience using different layering of information and movement in depth using typography.

These skills aren’t only useful in designing nice looking posters and book covers. I’m finding that it’s become easier even just organizing thoughts, or diagramming models. Being able to communicate information is such a crucial tool to have for designers—and this all becomes a lot easier when you’ve learned some basic skills in things like typography.

Grad Type Assignment 1 Done (for now)

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

After many hours of work and wanting to rip up five trees worth of paper, my three John Cage book covers are done. And I am happy with what I have.

(click to enlarge; will open a new window)

Grad Type Assignment 1a final

Grad Type Assignment 1b final

Grad Type Assignment 1c final

The final constraints (on top of the constraints we were given before) were that we were only allowed to use three colors throughout all three covers. Adding color was a big challenge for a lot of us. Choosing colors that made sense with our covers, conveyed proper meaning, and didn’t distract from the typography was hard and unfamiliar to me… I’m used to choosing colors just because they look good.

Working the three covers as an entire system was also challenging… we worked on the covers one by one so it wasn’t until the very end that I started tweaking things so that all three work as a complete system. Placing the text on the spine, toying with the blue color that’s supposed to let your eyes bounce around each cover, etc.

In the end I think I overcame a lot of graphic design fears (color, type as image, graphical forms) and tried things I didn’t think I could do. It was frustrating, but fun, and I have good work to show for it. It also helped that Kristin, our prof, liked my set of covers.

Grad Typography

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

As I mentioned earlier, I’m taking a grad typography class this term. I figured I needed a lot more training on my visual design skills and grad type seemed to be the perfect way to do that. And it’s fun, even if it’s frustrating a bit at times. It’s one of those things where you’re just using your eye a lot rather than your brain. I’m never satisfied with my work, so it seems like I’m always re-working my assignments.

The first assignment we were given is to make a three book covers for a series of book by John Cage. Each had to have the title of the book, “lectures and writings by john cage”, the volume number, the publishing company, the ISBN number, and the bar code. In addition, we are to choose only one type system, and use only three type sizes for all three book covers. Each week we do one book cover, and we’ve done two so far.

After some studies of a couple of type systems, I chose to use Univers. I’ll be forever attracted to sans-serifs, and Helvetica was too heavy for my liking.

The first book cover focused on the use of the standard grid, and was exploring simply how type size, weight, letter spacing, word spacing, leading, and alignment affect the legibility and readability of the form. Here’s my cover for this (Book was entitled A Year From Monday)–click to enlarge:


For our second assignment, we were asked to bring in an image of something from nature that had some sort of system. I chose an image of a snail:


From these images, we created some grid structures (mine could’ve either been a radial or dilatational structure), and from that made book cover layouts, all the while thinking about the words contained in the book cover, both in terms of their meanings and their forms. Here’s my book cover for this (Book was entitled Empty Words)–click to enlarge:


I’ve still got lots to learn. But I think I’m making some progress into stepping away from the familiar and trying to push towards exploring forms that are outside my comfort zone.

September 12 addition: Slim, a fellow student, has started a blog for our class where students can post work in progress… feel free to browse and comment!