Tag Archives: typography

Bodmin College: Graphics Taster Day

The School of Communication Design hosted a taster day for students of Bodmin College on Tuesday 22 Nov, this is part of an ongoing relationship to support and host students in our Graphic Design BA(Hons) course .

The students accompanied by their tutor Jamie Baldwin were given an introductory talk by Bryan Clark, Head of Graphic Design, followed by a one-day narrative brief. They were invited to create a book interpreting the story of Red Riding Hood using only typography and shape along with a limited colour palette of red, black and white. Working with staff, Nikki Salkeld (Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator for Stage 1) and Darren Whittington (Senior Lecturer with Graphic design and Advertising) as well as first year students, they had to reach a deadline of 3pm.  There were some very beautiful and considered outcomes which, demonstrated breadth and creative enquiry.


Success at TypeCon 2016, Seattle

Congratulations to Joseph Hill, Louis Braddock Clarke, Callum Dean, and Ben McMillan Stage 2 Graphic Design, who have been selected for their typographic work being exhibited at TypeCon 2016, Seattle.



Overview of the project:







protoType – Promoting Speculative Typeface Design




Three cuddly toys and one challenging brief

The pace of the typography module adjusted this week, wrapping up the formal taught introduction and providing a capstone to the four foundational ‘pillars’ constructed over the last four weeks (content, readability, structure and chaos).

Of course, no Wednesday would be complete without starting the day with a round of Type Roulette. Neil’s balloon-driven ‘selection process’ of last week was evolved this week by Lizzie and Chris: three cuddly toys flew around the lecture theatre whilst their toddler owner remained blissfully oblivious to their whereabouts. A number of pieces of student work were subsequently chosen and reviewed—all undertaken since last week’s disorientating day of postmodernist typography. They revealed just how many of the students have successfully grasped the postmodern mantle (if such a thing can ever be, fully, grasped).

Looking forward, and build on their pillars of knowledge, students received a new brief taking us up to the end of the module (and semester) in February. Their task is to design a fictional publication for distribution at an event entitled ‘War of the Words: Design Talks’. Featuring transcripts by guest speakers, biographies, additional content and a gallery of artwork responding to the speakers’ theme, the publication is a demanding one–asking students to apply their growing skills and understanding in a highly systematic way. Structure and pacing, format, grids, type families, colour, imagery, proofreading and accuracy… all should come under the students’ scrutiny!

Next week’s Reading Week, followed the week after by a study trip to either London or Amsterdam, may give students a break from teaching, but won’t relent in asking more of their ability to observe, deliberate, and apply. In essence, to learn.

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Chaos (in theory)

Wednesday’s instalment was a new introduction to the typography module this year: focusing on a distinctly postmodern typographic approach. Considering the predominantly-modernist notion of typography being taught up unto this point (think Warde’s ‘crystal goblet’ analogy), suddenly turning our attention to chaos and authorship was something of a (deliberately provocative) curveball for students.

Type Roulette was enlivened this week by a soundtrack of nineties’ indie – Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, Stone Roses and friends (although, admittedly, much of the music was older than the students themselves!). And in respect of the theme of chaos, three balloons were batted around to determine, as soon as the music stopped, one student to talk through their work (aka the victim), and two others who would offer comment (aka the critics). The atmosphere was very much kid’s-party-meets-higher-education.

The mood returned to academic sobriety with Andy’s ‘Chaos’ lecture. By viewing postmodernity (and post-postmodernity) as an ever-growing jigsaw, Andy hand-picked four pieces of the puzzle that illustrate the impact the zeitgeist had (and continues to have) on typography. Namely, context (what if wine is consumed from a cup, or the bottle, rather than a crystal goblet?); technology (from manuscripts to digital type, via historical methods of typesetting); theories (media becoming the message); and deconstruction (breaking conventions and elevating process over output).

In the afternoon, students produced (by hand) their own visual, typographic interpretations of an article by Jeff Keedy, ‘Graphic Design in the Postmodern Era’, first published by Emigre in 1998. What was Keedy saying? How can it be visualised? Is there a ‘right’ solution? Fittingly, this was definitely a session where questions were more prevalent than answers.
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Type Roulette

Ashley kicked off this Wednesday’s typography module with a 15-minute slideshow, displaying a random selection of second year responses to a task set them last week. The 200 (or so) slides – from more than 1,800 submitted – offered a clear snapshot of the experimentation, critical analysis, decision-making and typographic craft skills beginning to emerge in students’ approach.

Next, a round of Type Roulette encouraged different individuals, each chosen at random (via a proven, sophisticated, and highly technical procedure: “I’ll scroll down the list and someone shout ‘stop'”!), to talk through the highs and lows of their approach – and those of their peers. If last week was like explaining the principles and theories of riding a bicycle; this week gave students a chance to actually try it for themselves. We saw everyone wobble, most pedal, and some occasionally fall off. But the scars will get fewer over time!

Then followed a lecture on structure, namely designing and using grids to inform layout and provide hierarchy, plus an introduction to baseline grids and flatplans with walk-through examples.

After lunch, the studio-based exercise given to students comprised three parts: first, to analyse and establish the existing grid structure found in a copy of The Independent newspaper; second, to evidence the typographic hierarchy employed by the newspaper’s design team (type choice, sizes, weights and so on); and third, to re-appropriate the content and grid system of an existing double-page spread by applying a different layout design.

Principles of organisation and structure are all found, and applied, throughout the world around us: nature, science, maths, art, photography, architecture and more. The canvas of the graphic designer should certainly be no different.

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Content with the craft of type

Our annual induction into typography for year two students started in earnest last Wednesday, 23 September.  Often described by students as their favourite learning experience of the whole course, this semester-long module encourages participants to slow down and savour a process of thoughtful and crafted typography.

After an introductory lecture given by Andy Neal, focusing on the predominantly-modernist notion of typesetting as a ‘crystal goblet’–that is, “calculated to reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain” (Beatrice Warde) – the students adjourned to the open studio space for a day of hands-on (and screen-free) workshops.

With an emphasis on content, or, more specifically, the typographer’s duty to read (not merely look at) the content they are being asked to handle, a series of exercises progressed students from considering individual letterforms to setting (and introducing hierarchy to) larger bodies of content.  The first task was to predict and draw the ‘a’ glyph of Gill Sans Regular, via an act of deduction by studying the 25 remaining alphabetical characters for visual clues.  Then, hand-rendering increasingly longer words and lines of text through the afternoon, students gained both confidence and ability; not least in the notion that “Creating order is typography” (Wim Crouwel). 15.09.29 TypographyWeek2 15.09.29 TypographyWeek3 15.09.29 TypographyWeek4 15.09.29 TypographyWeek5 15.09.29 TypographyWeek6

Alan Kitching + Monotype Exhibition

2nd-27th November 2015
School of Communication Design
Falmouth Campus

An exciting opportunity to view the collaboration between two typographic forces:  Alan Kitching foremost practitioner in letterpress, typographer and designer and Monotype the leaders in type design and technology.

The Alan Kitching Collection celebrates the lives of five very influential graphic designers:  Tom Eckersley, Abram Games, FHK Henrion, Josef Muller-Brockman and Paul Rand.  The exhibition reveals the process behind the making of the collection, following Alan’s journey from research and sketches, through the Monotype archive and ending up in Alan’s workshop.

We welcome School/College parties to attend.  Please contact us in advance via email: jonu@falmouth.ac.uk

Exhibits_SE42998_SimonEllis Exhibits_SE43032_SimonEllis Exhibits_SE43199_SimonEllis Exhibits_SE43220_SimonEllis Collection AKMT_05


‘Designing with lettershapeS’ was the last in term workshop under the umbrella of typography. The seminar was attended by a group of twenty students who had chosen this particular event with yet another angle to typography from the other in-series options.

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The brief given challenged students to use purely typographic means to convey a concept, notion or sentiment by interpreting a chosen word, quote or theme and expressing it in a simple, direct and unusual way. Only typographic elements such as letter shapes or parts thereof, or adaptations of their forms and components could be used. The aim was to create quirky and memorable compositions by applying judicious placement and juxtapositions, using black & white or greyscale only.

This was very much a hands-on workshop which encouraged experimentation and blue sky thinking. Students worked singly or in pairs using a playful and informal approach, embracing elements of chance and serendipity.

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Students were also encouraged to explore abstraction to transform conventional type into compositions that hold new relevance and meaning.

The short and intense three hour session was as challenging as it was rewarding, which was amply evidenced by an exciting body of artwork produced that was not only distinct and individual, but also surprising and fun.

… type roulette

The day started with another round of type roulette skilfully led by Neil, followed by the introduction of a further brief and pep talk by Ashley. The new assignment aims to bring together the various aspects of typography we have worked on so far and introduces a larger publication which requires a holistic approach . This marks a significant step change in the programme.

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The idea here is to prepare a comprehensive design proposition, develop and set a style and present a fully fledged proposal much like a design studio would to a client. As such, the proposed publication will have a cover, opening and contents pages, principal spreads for the transcripts and biographies supplied, plus any other pages necessary to illustrate the chosen direction. Ashley also reiterated that this is primarily a skill based assignment and, for once, concepts are taking a second place. While it is desirable to develop a design that contains a concept, this is not the focus for this assignment and may work without one. However, great care and consideration must be taken to understand and cater for the appropriate audience(s) and to create a style that is sympathetic to both subject and context. Time must be taken to carefully consider structure, hierarchy and grids to give a backbone to the publication, as well as an appropriate style to give it individuality and nous.

Andy reminded everyone to remember all the previous typography sessions and approach the new assignment with consideration rather than a head on attack. Slow down, evaluate materials supplied, consider possible structures, experiment with style, and only then start to build it.

Student we’re also asked to revisit their record keeping and to keep abreast of requirements that will become vital at assessment stage.

The afternoon then saw the first tutor tutorial team meetings. These were relatively short sessions but allowed everyone to take the opportunity and meet their team, discuss the new workshop format and clarify expectations all around.

… pre-empting grid lock

Building on the last two Typography & Editorial workshops, this week’s topic was an introduction to structures and grids. Having considered and experimented with many typographic fundamentals before, in particular typefaces and their relationships in size, orientation and alignments, tracking, kerning, leading and line feed, measure, columns, gutters, alleys, margins, and more – all of which by now should form part of second year Graphic Design student’s standard vocabulary – a start was made to bring all these aspects together under one umbrella and make them work as one cohesive whole.

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Andy introduced a number of additional considerations in his lecture, in particular the concept of proportions. This he introduced by the example of the golden ratio, its roots in mathematics, its recurrence in nature and its close relation to the Fibonacci number series.

This in turn led to an in-depth introduction of grids and other approaches to structure documents and layouts. These underlying frameworks are vital to the cohesiveness of any complex layout and are designed to make publications accessible and pleasant to use. To start appreciating the skills necessary to design complex publications, an exercise was set to de-construct a newspaper layout which entailed analysis of type hierarchies, principle alignments and branded style sheets, culminating in the reconstruction of the underlying grid.

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The workshops concluded with the setting of tasks to be completed in time for the next session, namely revisiting today’s topics and completing the various elements worked on throughout the day, as well as an assignment to experiment with a detailed contents page layout.