TYPOGRAPHY  |  Prof. Audrey G. Bennett

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Typography studies the form and function of the Latin alphabet in English-speaking society. The course aims to imbue in you a critical perspective on the role typography plays in the history and sustenance of civilization and the propagation of ideas throughout society. You will read historical, theoretical and evidence-based literature to glean principles for designing communicatively effective type. Verbal and visual assignments will enforce your understanding of typographic principles and grammar for use across media.

LEARNING OUTCOMES AND ASSESSMENT MEASURES: Upon completion of the course, you will be able to manage a typographic project from conception to production within a limited timeframe; communicate understanding of typographic principles and grammar verbally (orally and in writing) and visually; and appropriately use over forty iconic typefaces. I will evaluate you on your ability to achieve the following milestones:

MILESTONES 1-4: Use your evolving knowledge of typography to design, in four iterations, a self-promotional kit that includes a logotype, business card, cover letter, resume, and a novelty item that showcases your skills or portfolio. Milestone one is the logotype. Milestone two is the business card, cover letter, and revised logotype. Milestone three is the resume and revised business card, cover letter, and logotype. Milestone four is a refined novelty item with a revised resume, business card, cover letter, and logotype. Use up to two fonts for this series of milestones. Keep the choice of font(s) consistent from milestone to milestone.

MILESTONE 5: Write and design four 250-500 word memos that summarize the principles gleaned from the readings. Check the course schedule for due dates. Note: If you are a graduate student, you should write 500-1000 words and cite the additional reading that you add to the conversation. Use up to two fonts for each memo; and each memo should use different fonts.

MILESTONE 6: Attend class and be prepared to participate thoughtfully, respectfully, and according to the guidelines in the course schedule. You will exceed expectations for this milestone when you attend and participate in all class sessions. You will meet expectations for this milestone with up to two excused absences. You will fail to meet expectations for this milestone with unexcused absences or three or more excused absences. Being late 3 times by 15 minutes or over will constitute an unexcused absence. Leaving early or taking a break from class for more than 15 minutes will also constitute an unexcused absence.

GRADING: Good typographic design requires iteration. You will earn an “M (Meets expectations)” based on your ability to meet the deadline for each milestone with work that reflects satisfactory effort. If you fail to do so then you will earn an “F (Fails to meet expectations).” If you receive an “F”or an “M” on Milestones 1-3, you have one week (from the date that you receive your grade) to revise and resubmit for a better grade. Milestone deadlines are firm. I will not grant extensions, except in the case of an extreme health emergency, confirmed via email by the Student Experience office. E-mail se@rpi.edu or call x8022 to get your absence due to a health emergency officially excused. You can receive an “E (Exceeds expectations)” on Milestones 1-5 based on how well you: follow the principles for good typographic design and professional etiquette; check spelling, grammar, word usage, and facts; and follow MLA style guidelines for citing sources.

YOU WILL EARN AN “A” in the course if you exceed expectations for Milestone 1-5 and exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6.

YOU WILL EARN AN “A-” in the course if you exceed expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and exceed expectations for three of the remaining four Milestones (1, 2, 3, 5)–at least meeting expectations for the remaining milestone.

YOU WILL EARN A “B+” in the course if you exceed expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and exceed expectations for two of the remaining four Milestones (1, 2, 3, 5)–at least meeting expectations for the remaining milestones.

YOU WILL EARN A “B” in the course if you exceed expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and exceed expectations for one of the remaining four Milestones (1, 2, 3, 5)–at least meeting expectations for the remaining milestones.

YOU WILL EARN A “B-” in the course if you meet expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and exceed expectations for Milestones 1-3 and 5.

YOU WILL EARN A “C+” in the course if you meet expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and meet expectations for Milestones 1-3 and 5.

YOU WILL EARN A “C” in the course if you meet expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and fail to meet expectations for one of the remaining four Milestones (1, 2, 3, 5).

YOU WILL EARN A “C-” in the course if you meet expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and fail to meet expectations for two of the remaining three Milestones (1, 2, 3, 5).

YOU WILL EARN A “D” in the course if you meet expectations for Milestone 4; exceed or meet expectations for Milestone 6; and fail to meet expectations for three or more of the remaining four Milestones (1, 2, 3, 5).

YOU WILL EARN AN “F” in the course if you fail to meet expectations for Milestone 4 or 6. Please note that I am required to give you an EWS for excessive latenesses, absences, or poor quality work.

If you have questions about your grade at any time during the semester, please contact me immediately by email.

TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS: You must complete your assignments with the industry-standard software applications for typesetting (Adobe InDesign) and drawing (Adobe Illustrator). Visit: http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud/buying-guide-education.html to pay for a cloud subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite. These software applications are also available in Sage 4510, Vast Lab (Sage 2411), and the VCC in the evening and weekends and when class is not in session. You are expected to have the technical skills necessary to complete the coursework. Advanced instruction on how to use any design software application will not be provided during class time. If you are unfamiliar with the industry-standard design software application mentioned previously, you may pay a discounted subscription for software training tutorials via Lynda.com. Bring your laptop to class.

COURSE TEXTS: The primary required reading for this course is: Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. Print. (Required Purchase, Available through Rensselaer bookstore)

I will also require graduate students to read secondary texts of their choice that extends the conversation started through the assigned readings. You are to read each required text before the class in which it is discussed. You will have an opportunity to lead a class discussion of the required texts in a small group once over the course of the semester. Plan for discussions running no more than 60 minutes. The required readings are available in soft copy via Rensselaer’s Learning Management System. On the first day of class, I will distribute a course schedule with the deadlines for completing each required reading. It is a tentative schedule, as supplemental required readings and guest lectures may be added (or deleted) throughout the term as needed.

REQUIRED MATERIALS: A sketchbook

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Student–teacher relationships are built on trust. For example, you must trust that I have made appropriate decisions about the structure and content of the course; and, I must trust that the assignments that you turn in are your own. Acts that violate this trust undermine the educational process. The Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities defines various forms of academic dishonesty and you should make yourself familiar with these. In this class, all assignments that you turn in for a grade must represent your own work. Submission of any assignment that is plagiarized or otherwise in violation of this policy will result in a penalty of failure of the course.

SCHEDULE:

INTRODUCTION

January 23 Introduction to the course

  • Course overview & break into groups (A, B, C, D)

  • Lecture: The Gestalt Principles and the first milestone

  • Discuss the font Helvetica

  • Sign up for a typeface set to present on February 3.

LETTERS

January 27 The history and epistemology (nature) of letters

  • Group A leads discussion of readings: Sacks vii-42; Lupton 12-27, 30-35, 38-71, 80-83; Spiekermann & Ginger 40-51; Beier 69-84; Koch; and graduate students read another text that extends the ideas in this reading set MILESTONE 5 DUE

  • Activity: Step 1: Typeset your name in five different typefaces. Set your name in both all caps and uppercase and lowercase. Study the results and decide which you feel most closely reflects your personality.

  • Step 2: Handletter your full name and then your initials in a way that reflects your personality.

  • Homework: Define the following terms: apex, aperture, arm, ascender, barb, baseline, beak, body height, bowl, bracketing, counter, cross bar, cross stroke, descender, ear, eye, finial, full caps, hairline, italic, leg, link, lining figures, lowercase, mean, old-style figures, open loop, point size, serif, shoulder, small caps, spine, spur, stem, stress, swash, tail, terminal, tittle, uppercase, vertex, waistline, x-height

January 30 What are the different parts of a letter?

  • Lupton 36-37; Craig 12-16, 26-27; Williams 26-27; and other texts that you find on type anatomy

  • In-class activity (Type Anatomy Worksheet and Quiz by Audrey Bennett and Nate Stedman: http://baohouse.org/Type%20Anatomy.swf)

  • Activity: Make the counterspace of one of the letters of your name a recognizable shape.

February 3 Research and compare one of the following sets of typefaces: univers + frutiger; comic sans + cooper black; verdana + georgia; arial + helvetica; interstate + filosofia; futura + kabel; bell centennial + minion; mr. + mrs. eaves; franklin gothic + frutiger; calibri + rotis; gotham + trajan; meta + scala; clearview + akzidenz grotesk; read regular + sassoon; didot + bodoni;  garamond + caslon; century schoolbook + sabon; zapf dingbats + times new roman; courier + american typewriter; bembo + gill sans; rockwell + clarendon. For your in-class, 5-minute presentation discuss the differences and/or similarities between the fonts. Aso, for each font tell us the designer, date of creation, geographic context of use, kinship, appropriate use (display vs. text), and anything else that is significant.

February 6 Critique professional logotypes that show effective use of gestalt theory (post an example via the class blog prior to coming to class)

February 10 Peer review of work in progress

February 13 Open Studio

Tuesday, February 18  MILESTONE 1 DUE; Homework: Find an ad for a job that interests you.

TEXT

February 20 Typesetting Principles, Procedures, and Caveats

  • Group B leads discussion of readings: Lupton: 87, 90-91, 102-123, 148-207; Craig 62-73, 86-91, 95-102; Beier 21-30, 86-98, 102-104, 150-154; and graduate students read another text that extends the ideas in this reading set MILESTONE 5 DUE

February 24 Construct a modular grid to begin designing your business card and letterhead

February 27 Critique of professional business cards and/or letterheads (post an example via the class blog prior to coming to class)

March 3 Peer review of work in progress

March 6 Open Studio; Homework: For extra credit label the given crime scene with 25 important typographic terms.

March 10-14 Spring Break

March 17  MILESTONE 2 DUE

March 24 Text with a purpose

  • Group C leads discussion of readings: Lupton: 96-101; 132-147; 210-217; Barthes: Death of the author; Warde: The Crystal Goblet of Printing Should be Invisible; Adams; and graduate students read another text that extends the ideas in this reading set MILESTONE 5 DUE

March 24 Group critique of your current resume

  • Activity: type hierarchy worksheet

March 27 No class Instructor out of town

March 31 Each student reviews a given resume

April 3 Peer review of work in progress

April 7 How do you proofread texts? Proofread your peer’s resume using proofreading marks

April 10 MILESTONE 3 DUE

CONTEXT

April 14 Screen, Vernacular, and Environmental Text

  • Group D leads discussion of readings: Lupton 28-29, 72-75, 92-95; Beier 99-101, 105-112; Barthes: From Work to Text; Bernard, et al.; Woodward (“Vernacular Typography”); Kramer; Nini; and graduate students read another text that extends the ideas in this reading set MILESTONE 5 DUE

  • Homework: Cut type specimens from newspapers, magazines, or other printed material.

April 17 Activity: Use the found type specimens to create a dramatic typographic effect by composing a short ransom note stating your actions, demands, or ultimatums. It should be evident that the note has been created by a graphic designer. In other words, it has a design or esthetic rationale and is not just a random selection of type. You may incorporate images into the design. Having created a suitable design, you could extend this activity by incorporating it into one of the pieces of your project.

April 21 Critique of professional exemplar of novelty item

April 24 Peer review of work in progress

April 28 Open Studio/Individual Critiques

May 1 Open Studio/Individual Critiques

May 5 MILESTONE 4 DUE