California State University | Los Angeles | March 21, 2009

Drawing (On) Letters

The effective execution of typography and lettering is unquestionably a vital skill of the modern designer. Consequently, awareness of the origins and development of letters is crucial to successfully capitalize on the power of the alphabetic form in visual communication.

This day-long symposium, hosted at the Fullerton campus of California State University, encouraged participants to investigate both the historical and practical evolution of the letter as a foundation for making distinctive character sets and wordmarks.

The first exercise simultaneously addressed three primary methods of letter-making: writing, lettering and typography. Writing basic forms with a broad edge pen, participants observed firsthand how key elements such as color and contrast affect the appearance of letters. Drawing over the skeletal shapes, other variables —such as weight and width— were further considered. Finally, each attendee created a limited group of letters —suggestive of a typographic character set— and hand-assembled trial headlines.

Unlike the introductory workshop, a deconstructive design approach was emphasized during the second assignment. Participants re-appropriated salient features observed in typographic models and applied them to their hand-lettered marks. In addition to gaining insight into type design principles, students were given the opportunity to explore concepts like rhythm and proportion while creating one-of-a-kind word images.