The World is a Word We Inhabit
This course is the culmination of the RISD Graphic Design department’s typography sequence. Typography I was an introduction to the basic principles, and Typography II expanded in scale to paragraphs, hierarchies, pages, and texts. Typography III continues this trajectory into explorations of content and context. We will explore typography in the wild, as we all encounter it every day: kinetic and fluid in print, on screen, and in space. Typography in the world, informed by the world. Emphasis will be placed on typographic systems and functions. As we explore type on a macro level, we will naturally continue to pay attention to the micro at the same time: complex typographic structures and hierarchy, along with renewed critical attention to basics. Important issues of language, reading, writing, interpretation, legibility vs readability, meaning, voice, and taste will be critically analyzed. Students are encouraged to experiment and to explore the relationship between type as image and type as communication. Overall, we will consider typography as a dynamic interface between thought, language, people, and the world we inhabit.
The word “typography” has Greek roots: “typos” means “figure” (i.e. a figure, an image, formed by a blow or impression) and “grapho” means “to draw letters”, “to write.” This class will naturally involve both reading (conjuring mental pictures—figures—from words) and “writing” (the expression, arrangement, and execution of words and symbols on the page, the screen, and in space). Designer, artist, and writer David Reinfurt shares my aims for teaching typography when he says “If there is one fundamental skill that every beginning graphic design student should master, it is this: to be able to set a text so that the form it is given works together with the substance of the text to produce a third meaning.”
Not everyone needs to learn graphic design. But I think that everyone—graphic designers, architects, writers, doctors, engineers alike—should learn typography. We are taught vocabulary and grammar in elementary school as crucial skills to aid the clear and intelligible communication of thought in everyday life. Humans should be equally capable of expressing concepts formally with intelligence through type.
Course Scope and ObjectivesContent and context
Systems and programs
Kinesis and flow
StudioEach studio will vary in program, including discussions, critiques of your progress, lectures, readings, student presentations, hands-on workshops, and group exercises. The active presence and participation of everyone in the class is crucial (and will make it a lot more fun and interesting): in presenting your own work, critiquing the work of other students, and in class discussions of texts we’ll read, typographic news and history, and other relevant (sometimes tangential) topics.
All research, acquisition of materials, and other preparation must be done before class. Come to class prepared to work in studio with all materials that you will need that day. Each week we will review what is due the next week and what you should plan to work on. Failure to be prepared for class will affect your grade. Get to class on time: 1:10pm. Class starts promptly.
It is important to me that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives are well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs are addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity students bring to this class are viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit. I strive to present materials and activities that challenge accepted canons and are respectful and representative of diversity: gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture, perspective, and other background characteristics. Your suggestions about how to improve the value of diversity in this course are always encouraged and appreciated—for you personally or for other students or student groups.
Attendance and Participation
You are expected to attend every class: on time, and ready to work. More than two unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for the class. Please make arrangements to complete missed work with your classmates and the TA. Notify your instructor if you anticipate missing class. Please turn off and put away your cell phone while you are in the classroom, and refrain from using your laptop for activities that don’t relate directly to the work we are doing in class. Projects must be on the wall and ready to discuss at the start of class. All research, acquisition of materials, printing, trimming, and other preparation must be done before class. This course is a three credit course that meets five hours per week. You should plan on spending at least five hours each week on this class outside of class time.
Grades and EvaluationGrades will be based on the following criteria: quality of work, including concept, design, and the timely completion of assignments; working process and craft; class participation and attendance; positive attitude toward learning and the class as a whole; regular and unsolicited participation in class discussion and critiques; personal initiative, exploration, and risk taking; the ability to give and receive useful criticism; and, last but not least, the successful application of typographic principles. At mid-term, you will receive an evaluation of your progress. You will receive a mid-term warning if you are slipping. Grades are given as follows: AExcellent design process / ability to come up with many different ways to solve a problem / thorough research / mastery of form, functionality, and craft / frequent participation in critiques and discussion / strong work ethic / focused / energetic / ability to sketch and articulate ideas / risk taking and broad exploration. BSolid , well-done work / could improve on the items noted in the A list, in particular: better process, more solutions, better craft and attention to detail, more class participation. CAverage work / fulfills assignments but not much else / doesnt re-work or refine projects, doesn’t do much beyond the requirements. DLimited effort / incomplete work / lack of skill and enthusiasm / chronic tardiness and unexcused absences / does not follow instructions / poor craft. Your final grade will be based on the above criteria as well as on the final portfolio of work turned in at the end of the semester. Keep in mind that any project can be re-done or improved upon throughout the semester. Such improvements will be taken into consideration when grading the final portfolio.
As each assignment concludes, students will meticulously document work and upload to a Google Drive folder containing a portfolio of all of your assignments (in PDF form), as well as materials that document your process. It is important that you save all of your work and not just the final results. Please keep all iterations and versions of projects, sketches, process notes, photography, &c., as well as iterations of your digital files.Backup
You are strongly urged to set up and maintain a solid backup and archiving strategy for your work. Operate on the assumption that your hard drive will die, usually when you least expect it. You will not be excused for preventable loss of data. Backing up means on-site, off-site, and a bootable clone. Read more about a three-legged backup strategy here.