Typographic Character Forms 1

Today’s design, and I think the next few, will not excite many of you, But for me, it was a lot of fun and definitely a back to basics exercise. I reached back into my memory banks and tried to remember as accurately as possible one of my first exercises from Advertising Design school. In the exercise my classmates and I were told to pick three characters from a typeface of our choice and have them interact in a design. I thought about this project a while ago and thought I would use it for my daily design challenge.

character forms design

The Rules – I don’t accurately recall the rules but here is what I remember. 1.) Choose three characters, at least one character must be numeric and one must be alpha. 2.) Choose one typeface and one weight in that typeface. 3.) The design must be in grayscale, not color. We were also given the dimensions of the final design which I seem to remember was 11 x 11 inches. We were going to have a couple trial runs but once we presented our first design we were not allowed to change our typeface or character choices, this also included our choice of upper or lowercase characters. I remember choosing Helvetica Medium, lowercase ‘a’ and ‘s’ and the numerical character ‘2’. So that is what I chose to use here. we were also not allowed to distort the type in any way. We were allowed to scale the characters proportionally to any size and we could rotate them, but no distorting, stretching or squeezing.

I also feel compelled to mention a couple more things. This was not a computer course. We were forbidden to use a computer and had to render our typographic characters as accurately as possible by hand using gouache, a type of water based paint. I remember scanning characters from a typography book at the library and enlarging them to a variety of differing sizes to take home and move around on my drafting table. Our instructor, whose name escapes me, was a bit like Simon Cowell of American Idol in his evaluations. It was amusing for some and humiliating for others when it came time to for the final judgment. This assignment humiliated me a bit personally, but I learned well from the experience. One thing the instructor said about his bluntness “In the real world some may say worse about you than me, the rest won’t hire you or pay you. So listen to what I’m telling you, not how I’m saying it and you should do fine in the real world.” I’m paraphrasing, but it was, and still is, true.

The Lesson – This was one of the first projects assigned in the afore mentioned class. It may have been the very first. The instructor was a typophile and wanted us all to understand and appreciate the proper use of typography in design. Typographic characters are basically graphic shapes. Through our culture we stop seeing them as such because they take on inherent meanings. When joined together in groups they are powerful indeed. The object of this exercise is to briefly strip the cultural meaning of the characters away and enjoy them as shapes interacting together. The graphic designer must learn to see typography in this way to better match the cultural meaning of the grouped letters with most appropriate letter forms, or typefaces. For now, I will simply try to see only their shape.

See you tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Typographic Character Forms 1

  1. Pingback: Typographic Character Forms 2 « Circadian Creative | Seán Coleman's daily design challenge.

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