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 (not to mention with exuberance) through type.
Course Scope and Objectives
Each 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.
RISD GD: Typography III Curriculum
Typography III places an emphasis on typography and contemporary display platforms. Advances in software and hardware have created new opportunities for how language is written, sequenced, and accessed. Projects in this semester depend on altered states, where the content, composition, and context all are potentially at play. Students will continue to develop proficiency in designing for static compositions while extending the meaning and voice of that work across multiple platforms. Students will have ample opportunity to further shape their perspective and individual voice in relation to contemporary typography.
This is a studio course, so while some class time will be used for discussions, most of the time we will be working in class, often on a computer. There is an expectation that students work both individually and in groups and be prepared to speak about their own work and the work of their peers in supportive and respectful ways. A laptop and relevant software are required.
RISD is committed to Social Equality and Inclusion and has a newly-created campus initiative to support this (SEI). 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. See also: RISD’s non-discrimination policies on titleix.risd.edu
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.
During the course of your work throughout the type sequence you will experience a range of opportunities to be inspired and influenced by other designers and artists. While plagiarism with the goal of deception will not be tolerated, it’s normal to explore the work of others in new and original ways, and to express that influence through a variety of techniques—including homage, parody, style, derivation, and appropriation. When doing so, give credit where credit is due. Cite your sources and references. We expect all GD students and faculty to maintain an open perspective towards these concepts, and to use class as a safe testing ground for exploring influence, with the guidance of faculty. For more information, see John Caserta’s “It’s Probably Not Plagiarism.” See also: Definitions and Rules of Academic Misconduct.
RISD is committed to providing equal opportunities for all students. If you are a student with a disability or condition that may require accommodations to complete the requirements of this class, I encourage you to discuss your learning needs with me during the first week of the term. Once an approval letter from the Office of Disability Support Services is submitted, accommodations will be provided as needed. For more information on how to receive accommodations, please contact Disability Support Services at 401 709-8460 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grades and Evaluation
Grades will be based on the following criteria:
Quality of work, including concept, design, and the timely completion of assignments; working process and craft; personal initiative, exploration, and risk-taking; and, last but not least, the appropriate and thoughtful application of typographic principles
15% Urgent Notices
25% Class Participation
Positive attitude toward learning and the class as a whole; regular and unsolicited participation in class discussion and group work; the ability to give and receive useful criticism; enthusiastic and generous sharing of thoughts, ideas, references; and most importantly: presence (in mind, but also physically: show up!)
At mid-term, you will receive a warning if you are slipping. Grades are given as follows:
Excellent 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
Solid , 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
Average work / fulfills assignments but not much else / doesnt re-work or refine projects, doesn’t do much beyond the requirements
Limited 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.
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.