Type 1: Letters, Shapes & Typesetting
Typography 1 is the first in a three-course sequence that introduces students to the fundamentals of typographic practice, both as a set of technical skills and as an expressive medium. This first semester of typography begins fully zoomed-in — exploring how and why letterforms are formed. Students will work with various tools and materials to construct letters; with attention paid to meaning, voice and the line between language and abstract form.
The second part of the semester concerns itself with setting type. Typesetting is the score for the reading experience. Typesetting conventions and nomenclature will be taught by zooming out from the letter, to the word, to the paragraph and to the page. Students will become comfortable with typographic color and texture in a finite static composition.
This is a studio course, so some class time will be used for discussions, most of the time we will be working in class. 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.
• See Are.na channel for foundries, blogs, websites of interest
• See reading list for more readings
1A: Letterform construction (3 weeks)
The first module will look at type as a collection of abstract forms. Students will make and manipulate letters (using materials, hand drawing, Adobe Illustrator, Glyphs, etc) using various techniques, tools and materials. This module should emphasize exploration and lead to a love of letters.
1B: Foundries & Fonts (3 weeks)
The second module asks students to take a closer look at a single contemporary type foundry and their fonts. A foundry’s library is an ideal entryway into the semantics of typography along with the stylistic and historical influences embedded in contemporary typefaces. Fonts are software, and understanding the material nature of this software will fuel typographic experiments and projects.
1C: Typesetting basics (4 weeks)
This module introduces typography as a reading experience. Students will learn how to vary formal attributes — typeface, spacing, weight, line-length, etc — to understand how letters relate to each other to make words, and words relate to each to make sentences. Various exercises will introduce software skills, vocabulary and typesetting culture.
1D: Composition basics (4 weeks)
This module extends what was introduced in “Typesetting Basics,” by zooming out even further. Students will expand their work with the full page; looking at the way paragraphs relate to each other and to the confines of the page by altering hierarchy, position, structural color, white space and more.
Grades will be based on the following criteria:
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; the ability to give and receive useful criticism; and, last but not least, the successful application of typographic principles.
Change below to reflect structure of assignments
25% Letterform construction assignments
15% Foundry research and font exercises
25% Typesetting basics assignment
25% Composition basics assignment
10% Class participation
Positive attitude toward learning and the class as a whole
regular participation in class discussion and group work
ability to give and receive useful criticism
At mid-term, you will receive a warning if you are slipping. Grades are given as follows:
A / strong design process/ability to come up with many different ways to solve a problem / excellent research/mastery of form, functionality, and craftsmanship / frequent participation in critiques and discussion / strong work ethic /focused/energetic/ ability to sketch and articulate ideas
B / 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
C / does average work / fulfills assignments but not much else / frequently late/little or no class participation / not willing to re-work or refine projects
D / limited effort / incomplete work/lack of skill and enthusiasm / chronic tardiness and unexcused absences / does not follow instructions
Articulate here your expectations for student behavior- attendance, tardiness, late assignments, cell phone, and laptop use, etc)
Our intention in all our sections is that students from all backgrounds and perspectives will be well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs will be addressed both in and out of class, and that the differences students bring to class will be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. Our intention is to present materials and activities that are respectful and inclusive around 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 encouraged and appreciated. Please let us know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.
A bit about how we each come at work a different way and my goal is to help students develop their own point of view. My viewpoints are naturally influenced by my life experiences, education, age and identity. I will do my best to expose students to a wide range of references and to respond to your work as generously and open-mindedly as possible and to name subjective/personal views when they emerge. Part of developing a student’s personal voice is for the instructor to model this when appropriate.
Estimated Cost of Materials
The primary material costs for Type 1 is black and white printing, customarily provided as part of the student materials fee and available on the 6th, 8th and 9th floor. Covid-19 precautions may alter this workflow. There is a print center on the first floor of Design Center. Students may want to purchase a letter-sized BW laser printer for home; ranging from $100–200. This would be useful and cost-effective for the three years.
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 is 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. 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, please see “It’s probably not plagiarism.”
RISD is committed to providing equal opportunity for all students. If you are a student with a disability 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.”