Image Making Through Type; Process | Graphic Form

Image Making Through Type // Process


For our first project, we were tasked to express our future jobs through typographic portraits of our names (whole, part, nickname or initials).

Clueless as I don’t really have aspirations in life, I set out to list down impractical dream jobs more than concrete ambitions. This really helped as the brief did not restrict the occupation to be something practical or logical at all; I could be anything I wanted, even a Krispy Kreme Doughnut Maker. With Joy’s help, I narrowed to these 4 from an intense mind map of job possibilities:

  • Barista
  • A Coffee Connoisseur
  • A Kopi Uncle
  • A Coffee Farmer

A narrative is always important! Which is why the 4 occupations I narrowed down to are all intrinsically linked to the best drink in the world! COFFEE! In fact, when I think about it as impractical and unambitious it is to be a coffee farmer, I saw all these jobs as LEGITIMATE considerations (funny how I set out without actually thinking these were real prospects.)!

In my lifetime, I could be all of these!

Barista (Teen) -> Coffee Connoisseur (Adulthood) -> Kopi Uncle (Elderly)  -> Coffee Farmer  (photo shop this)

In a way this was my timeline with coffee, linking back to typography I wanted all four spreads to spell out my name fully. I, therefore, broke down each letterform of my name into parts to fit each composition.

Ben -> JA -> MiN -> 郭

More details on letter form as I explain each spread individually!


Due to its light-hearted and simplistic aesthetic (which fits my concept of “simply coffee” well), I knew I wanted to work with flat-lay photography across all my spreads. Even though I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as I am not the most proficient photographer, I took this on as a personal challenge! Therefore things to get done; prep, art direction and the actual shoot itself!

Staying at home made this daunting task much more achievable as I had more creative space and leeway to obtain all the various props that I needed for my photoshoot. BUT, it was still not easy as some of the items were seriously hard to find; especially the old school coffee strainer. At the same time, the background for each spread was a pain to procure as well as I wanted to use backdrops reflective of each occupation as opposed to just some random vanguard sheet.

Barista -> Conventional Wooden Tables
Connoisseur -> Intricate Table
Kopi Uncle -> Kopitiam Acrylic Table
Coffee Farmer -> Sack Clothe

The entire scavenger hunt for all the necessary props took more than two weeks but alas I had everything I needed. I bought extra things just in case I changed my mind along the way as I felt the process of flat-lay photography was going to require quite a bit of improvisation depending on the resulting aesthetic during the shoot itself.


The way to decorate the spread around the letterform was limitless, therefore I made sure to be strict with the design of the letterform, only allowing the decorations to complement the typography and not the other way around. Here are some behind the scenes from the photoshoot:




Doing a photo shoot alone was an insanely tedious process as you can probably tell from the set-up; nothing but a tall chair and a DSLR. Using a tripod was out of the question as the flat lay photography style would not allow for it. Furthermore, each time a piece of décor was out of place in the view cam, I would have to stow the DSLR, get down from the chair, arrange by estimation, get back onto the chair and recalibrate the shot.

The process would repeat several times until FINALLY, FINALLY, I WOULD GET A “IT MIGHT WORK SHOT!” I also had to be careful to shoot all that I needed as the process of retaking would require me to reset the entire spread again. Daylight was an issue as well as I did not have proper studio lights to back me up in case it got too dark. Working against the clock, I met with countless setbacks along the way, but thankful I was able to recover and improvise solutions on the spot. So I must say I am quite contented with the end product!

Image Making Through Type; Final | Graphic Form

Image Making Through Type//Final


Hello, my name is Benjamin and I am a


For this composition, I chose to an upper case ‘B’ and lower case ‘e’ & ‘n’.
I chose a brown and white colour code to run through the type as I wanted to emphasize the idea of a ‘fusion’; synonymous with a barista as baristas are essentially drink mixers. Furthermore, the latte style typography in the lowercase letters pays homage to the first Baristas in Seattle; the ones who popularised the latte drink.

For the letter B, I chose sugar cubes as baristas often made drinks that were sugar-laden. Furthermore, sugar cubes’ edges are blocky and rough, fitting nicely into the hard-lined structure of the upper case ‘B’. The hollowed out areas of the B are not left empty but filled with brown sugar cubes in contrast; this showcases how a ‘curvy stroke’ need not be composed of curved lines, but hard-edged elements do the job as well. I thought it would be appropriate to juxtapose the first letter of the composition from the others, hence a deviation from soft, curved lines.

For the letter e, I made a lower case e out of black ‘americano’ coffee from Starbucks. Its tail end conjoins with the lower case n fusing seamlessly.

For the letter n, I made use of whole milk (the dairy product baristas use) to create the soft curvy letterforms.


For this composition, I wanted to show the kind of life I as a Barista would probably be associated with. Staging a “White Girl” scene through the surrounding elements, I felt the use of a “wooden table” background was a nice touch that enhanced this feeling; a laidback and carefree demeanour.

Hello, my name is Benjamin and I am a

Coffee Connoisseur

For this composition, I thought of using different elements to create my types. The elements would reflect the qualities that a coffee expert would be proud of. I attempted to bring out the “intelligent” aspect of my future job as a coffee know it all, not just through the type but in the surrounding objects and background as well. Spiced coffee is often enjoyed by very niche groups of coffee drinkers; therefore I decided to play with spices to create my type form.

For the J, I used cinnamon sticks which therefore explains why I chose the upper case J instead of lowercase j. Working around the confines of the elements resulted in a type that reflected much sophistication.

For the letter A, I placed star anise spices on top a chess board. I arranged the star anis within the squares of the checkerboard to mimic chess pieces.


I think this composition brings out the “sophistication” or some would say “atas” part of my future job as a coffee connoisseur. Through the various items that represent different facets of intellect. I like how the emerald green tapestry really complemented the shades of brown from the spices and dark coffee granules.

Hello, my name is Benjamin and I am a

Kopi Uncle

I had a bit of fun with this composition. Recalling my own coffee experiences, the Kopi Uncles that I have come across are often clumsy and in a way reckless as they serve you your drinks; resulting in spills and stains all over the acrylic tables. I wanted to create a spread that would reflect this messiness and chaotic environment of a coffee shop. I decided to use what I like to call “accidental” type forms, whereby the elements positioned appear somewhat random and unintentional but upon closer look, the letter form will become reveal and become apparent.

I used tin cans containing evaporated and condensed milk to create my letter ‘M’, arranging it in a subtle manner as the two ends seem to dent in just slightly.

The ‘i’ is represented from a used coffee strainer a very common tool to brew coffee in local kopitiams. I used a lower case ‘i’ as I realise the type form had already been created for me; albeit a little weird with the ‘dot’ being so much larger than the thin metal body. Somewhat unorthodox, but I felt it worked perfectly.

For the letter N, this is by far my favourite handmade type even though no one really drinks ice coffee with two straws haha. I gained inspiration for this while resting at a coffee shop. Someone earlier had finished drinking his bag of tea and had thrown the plastic bag on the floor. The remaining tea in the bag had created unique patterns by filling up the empty creases of the compressed plastic bag. Took a while to get this type. I used an uppercase ‘N’ as a lowercase ‘n’ with its cursive top would create a very unnatural crease that I found quite forced.


I think this composition manages to achieve something quite unique compared to all the other spreads, in that the letterforms created are subtle and less ‘in your face’. The background of this set was especially hard to find as it was not easy to find an unwanted coffee table. However, I eventually manage to find a floorboard with a texture that resembled what I was looking for.

Hello, my name is Benjamin and I am a

Coffee Farmer

This composition lays a foundation for the previous three compositions. Coffee Farmers obviously play a vital role in the process of coffee making. Without them, the other 3 would not exist. As farming is often a family affair, I used my Chinese surname 郭as the type form for this spread. The goal was to achieve an oriental look; resembling the kind of photos you usually get on the cover of a primary school 好公民课本。I also wanted to showcase the process of coffee farming through the type, therefore I broke down my surname into smaller Chinese elements; 一,子,etc.

Starting from the ground up, the Chinese type 子, translates to son/child, therefore, I sourced for green unroasted coffee beans and used them to form the type as a way to represent the immature nature of a child.

The 口, at first glance, resembled a window to me; I placed a picture of my father as a way to link back to the ancestral superstitious blessings some farmers continue to practice to this very day. With the picture of my father above the 子type, it made drawing the family connection much clearer.

For the 一, I used grounded up coffee granules to mimic a coffee plantation’s soil.
I placed the green coffee beans at regular intervals to display the sowing of seeds.

I represented the side Chinese character using “coffee cherries” (actually cherry tomatoes and grapes). Growing out from the soil, the coffee cherries twist and turn to form two hollow spaces that resemble a ‘B’

The dot at the top of the composition is represented by a freshly brewed cup of espresso. The end product of coffee farming.


Essentially this composition pays homage to my family name as the tradition of coffee drinking was passed down to me by my Dad (much like how a farmer typically inherits their land from their own forefathers). Creating this Chinese character was very exciting as the more I compiled the better it looked; reflecting how Chinese characters usually work best and form more complex words when they are put together.


Locale; Research | Graphic Form


Locating my Locale

For this project, I had to create a visual experience (through any graphics means) that would showcase my chosen site’s unique selling points.

Here were some of my considerations:

  • Bukit Merah
  • Changi
  • Katong/Joo Chiat
  • Tampines

After much brainstorming, consultations with Joy and hosting a survey to ask the public for opinions I decided to go ahead with Changi; more specifically Changi Village. As the area is incredibly far and isolated, it felt like a treasure trove of ideas waiting to be discovered.

Research (Experiencing)

My first trip to Changi Village was purely focused on experiencing the locale for myself. Using my five senses; sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to guide my research. Albeit not visually pleasing, I took some photographs to document the process. I also took note of any exciting textures/elements that I might want to incorporate into my zine! Here are some of the photos:


Research (Ideating & Conceptualizing)

After taking my findings back to Joy for consultation, I noticed an interesting trend about Changi Village. After thinking about it more, I realise even I was guilty of perpetuating this somewhat ‘unhealthy’ behaviour. Having spent a good year working nearby the Changi Village area (during NS), I often headed to Changi Village just to get good food. I never really took in any of the sites or appreciated any of its historical significance and origin.

For my second visit, I was much more purposeful. I focused down onto documenting and developing upon the perspective I had constructed, that is “Changi is a place of transience”. (I took some more photos to accompany my descriptions. Still not at all visually pleasing, but I took them for illustrative references!)

For starters, the famous Changi Village Hawker Centre is crowded, and jam pack the moment lunchtime hits! Office workers, Servicemen and even the elder come here to get a cheap and good meal. By 1 pm, the hawker centre is desolated as the lunch crowd dissipates as fast as it comes.

Changi Ferry Point Terminal is next on the list. “People literally come to Changi to leave Changi”. The Ferry Terminal’s waterway is lined with old fashioned bumboats. The bumboats take turns to transport passengers to Pulau Ubin; tourists, fishermen, nature walkers and cyclists are part of this usual crowd.

Probably the newest thing you’ll come across as you explore the area. Changi V Hotel sits in the heart of Changi Village; in between all the iconic landmarks that the local has to present. V Hotel is transient as the frequent guests who patronise its services are foreign airline workers (Pilots, Air Stewardesses & Air Stewards). Offering cheap and relatively closeby accommodations to the airport, foreign airline workers simply check in for a quick night before leaving the next morning again.

Changi Sailing Club was all the hype in the past with the waterways being used ever so frequently for sailing races and regattas. But with cleaner and more accessible waterways such as Marina Bay, Changi Sailing Club is now a shipyard where sailors come periodically to store or do repair works.

Last but certainly not least, “The Changi Transgender”. I was oblivious to this had Joy not brought it up during our consultation, and although this image isn’t representative, after more research and asking around, I found this to be the exact carpark where the Indonesian transgenders would congregate now and then. As they only meet at night, I was unable to interview them on my second visit.


For my presentation, I was initially unsure of what format to present in, as I am unfamiliar with infographics or how to layout an excellent presentation. I decided I would keep my slides concise and straightforward, focusing only on presenting the newly developed concept of “Transient Changi”. However, I was dying to share what I found about the place with the class too. I felt the best way to do that would be to give an interactive presentation rather than just presenting a visual vomit of photos that I had taken.

So, I opened photoshop, begun illustrating and compiled all the illustrations on to create an “Interactive, Virtual Changi Experience”. Even though I nearly died… after three consecutive days of drawing, I was quite pleased with the result!

Here are my presentation ‘slides’!

  • Click on arrows to take you to the next area
  • Click on architectures/landmarks to get a bite-sized description of the place
  • Click on humans to see their interview responses
Introductory Page
Cross Roads
Old Changi Hospital
Changi Point Boardwalk
Changi Sailing Club
Changi V Hotel
Changi Ferry Terminal
Changi Bus Interchange
Changi Village Hawker Centre
Changi’s Village HDB
Changi Air Base (West)
End Credits

For the sake of my soul, I will not disclose the entire experience here! However, if you are interested in finding out more,  you can click here to experience the journey for yourself!

Personal thoughts

Overall this research project was pretty fun because apart from having an excuse to go out instead of studying, it really challenged me to be meticulous and purposeful with the information I was taking in as I had to make sense of them. Completing the illustrative tour was an incredible feeling as the accomplishments transcended just drawing fast and delightful illustrations. I had to learn how to use Wix and to curate the information effectively; in a way that would be interesting, succinct yet reflective of what it would really be like if you explored Changi for yourself. Additionally, seeing the class participate so actively was a sweet treat!!

Locale; Process I | Graphic Form



After my presentation of the concept, Joy allowed us to look through some past year works from our seniors. Initially, I wanted to stick with what I was comfortable with; informative infographics that would be done through clean and simple illustrations. But as I browsed through more past works, I found myself intrigued and interested in attempting something more abstract. However, building upon the concept of “Transient Changi”, not gonna lie, I soon found out that wasn’t really what I wanted either. Narration and flow have always been a very important aspect of all my ideation processes; a sense of flow and wholeness always plays a part in getting my message across. Considering how the zine! was meant to be a chance for self-expression, I, therefore, decided to do something in between the spectrum.

Informative < ——- HERE ——– > Abstract

Not too content heavy but at the same time retaining some sort of ambiguity that you would get from an abstract work. A form of narration and flow was a crucial consideration. Ultimately, my concept was founded on one thing: “Get my audience/reader to want to see Changi V for themselves!”


Transience of Locale -> Under-appreciation -> Is it actually still relevant?

From my research, I realize Changi is remembered for all the wrong reasons, an unsung place that in the modern context has lost its voice and inevitably its relevance to the people of Singapore. Out of mind, out of sight, right? But is that really the case? Whether or not we see it, have we been blindsided by our modern perceptions, that we simply cannot see how incredibly relevant Changi Village still is?

False perceptions vs True relevance


In my opinion, Changi Village is an incredibly scenic locale and to pay homage to this, I tended towards my zine being more photo-based rather than illustrative. Furthermore, having already done a crash course worth of illustrations and infographics during my research presentation, I decided my illustrations just weren’t going to cut it! Not that I hate them, but I felt within the given time frame, photos would do a much better job in capturing the reality of things.

For research, I wanted the style to affect the storytelling capability/function of the zine! I took a look online to source for design inspirations, and at the same time, I was constantly looking out for a specific style that I wanted to adopt in creating my own zine! I took special note of two aspects during my research 1) Printing style & 2) Layout.

To start, I did a general search on Pinterest to see what zines were out there in the creative market. Here are some design styles that I found interesting and unique although a bit irrelevant to what I was going for.


I know, I know, largely illustrative… but the following images really started to spice things up for me! I came across an unfamiliar style of printing called risograph printing. Albeit not in a photo zine format, I was mesmerized and in love with the prints this method was churning out.

Great aren’t they! But as mentioned early, I wanted a photographic zine, so instead of making such a loose search, I narrowed down my research but instead of simply searching up ‘photographic zines’, I tagged the idea of risograph printing into my search to see what I would get and wow…

Not only were the riso prints aesthetic, it somehow still manages to capture the details within the photographs. I especially like the juxtaposition between the mood blue and fluorescent pink, I felt the superimposed effect would run well with my concept.


After looking at zines online, I was motivated to start on my zine. I started off by planning my pages out. Though it was a just rough mockup, Joy also told me how crucial it was going to be to have my pages planned and to know for myself where each content would go.

From my draft I planned:
Pg 1&8 – Homes 
a high-quality image to show and establish the area of Changi, serving as a preamble to the design style of the zine!
Image of the iconic red coloured HDBs contrasted with a real home setting in Changi.

Pg 2&3 – Kopitiam
The famous hawker centre against the hungry working generation (hawker centre is part of their work culture and traditions)

Pg 4&5 – Changi Ferry Terminal
Modernized Pulau Ubin Ferry Terminal juxtapose against dilapidated bumboats (the livelihoods of the captains of each ship.)

Pg 6&7 – Changi Chalets
Same old boring Chalets compared to how many Malay families in Changi see them (a place of family gathering over the weekends; social spaces).


However, after consulting with Joy regarding the direction and concept, I was likely heading towards, Joy had her concerns regarding the use of risograph printer as the printing process often takes too long and true enough… as I headed down to Knuckles & Notch (the only riso printers in Singapore), they told me that they would take two weeks to print an 8 page A5 zine. It was impossible especially since I wasn’t at all ready to print



Next up, my process in overcoming the setback.


Locale; Process II | Graphic Form



 As the ability to juxtapose the images over one another was essential to my work, I was incredibly dependent on the risograph styled prints (images below) as the print style allowed for insane contrast through the use of neon colours. Therefore, in an attempt to salvage concept #1, that meant finding a way to mimic the risograph effect through photoshop.


The following images are visual mockups for the draft I had initially envisioned. Done through photoshop using the following functions:
1) halftones
2) solid colours
3) screen filtres
4) overlay (multiply)

Credit: learn how to do it here!

Fluorescent pink

Changi red (colour picker from photos).

Fluorescent red (derivative from Changi red).


Mood blue halftoned effect as a dull contrast.

Fluorescent (Bright colours) = Represents False Perception
Dull (Darker colours) = Represents True Reality

Mock Up #1

As Changi Village is iconically red, I decided to try a combination of red and blue instead of using fluorescent pink. Blue would remain as my chosen dull colour as I wanted the “reality” to be represented by a melancholic and sad colour. In the end, apart from being aesthetically disgusting, I felt concept #1 was falling apart.

Perhaps it was the way I shot my photos (not representative of Changi), perhaps it was the colour scheme? Or maybe it was just the way I edited the photos. Ultimately I decided that the way I was going about it was not achieving satisfying results.

Mock Up #2

Even after the implementation of more fluorescent colours, and playing around with the angles and more strategic impositions, it was still not working out!


However, through the process of re-creating “risographic images”, I stumbled upon an interesting realization.

My photo manipulation techniques had a way of making photos appear somewhat vintage and old. Here are more examples:


Using these ‘Pseudo Old’ photographs, I built upon concept #1

Transience of Locale -> Under-appreciation -> Forgotten -> Remembering

I thought about an old Photographic vintage album; because what better way to observe and reconnect with what we took for granted in the past? Photo albums have a way to evoke a sense of nostalgia and reminiscence especially over the things that are now gone.

Nostalgia and reminiscence are strong emotions that can often trigger a desire to relive memories and past experiences.

From my draft I planned:
Pg 1&8 – First thing you see (Full Spread)
HDB Blocks & Signages

Pg 2&3 – Prominent aspects of Village area
Hawker Centre
Fishing Stalls

Pg 4&5 – Iconic Changi (Full Spread)
Changi Creek Bridge

Pg 6&7 –Prominent aspects of Sea area
Changi Sailing Club
Changi Beach Park (Epiphany)

Bear with me, I know I’ve talked a lot, I will give a detailed explanation of my layout in a while! 


Wanting to stay as true to the photos as possible, I decided that my zine would have elements akin to a ‘Lookbook’ nicely composed images with minimal typography and information. I wanted a clean minimalistic design. Hence, I referred to a few more works by designers, and also more minimalistic works from Pinterest and Google.

After looking at a few examples online, I felt ready to start again!

Locale; Zine | Graphic Form


Final Pages

A coherent flow in the photographs’ layout and composition are paramount to a good photo zine! It was tempting to use all the photos I took to showcase all of Changi Village. However, I decided that in this case, less would be more! I wanted to be more specific with the ideas I was sharing instead of confusing my reader with weak photos.

In essence, my selected pictures reflect what Changi Village would be to me when I reminisced about it in the future. An Old Fishing Village, that is separated into two key parts, the village and the sea.

To facilitate the risograph effect as much as possible, I also printed my zine on an off-white/creme textured paper (The Natural 110GSM) that I found at Fancy Papers. I must say, a simple yet incredibly crucial step to take as the quality of prints are really affected by the type of paper used!

Cover Page

There are two spreads in the zine that are (in a way) considered full spreads, the cover page and the center spread. Bearing in mind that the cover page is meant to introduce the style of the zine, I went full out “self-expression” in this one as it was difficult to find any good looking ‘photo album covers’ online.
I super-imposed the same image over itself so that even when the zine is folded, the viewer would know that the back cover was linked to the front and vice-versa; making use of the full spread capability of the cover page. As much as the picture introduces the style, the iconic landmark (HDB Flats) in the image is also the first thing that introduces itself to you upon entering the Village.

Page 2 & 3 – Village Area

The 2nd spread showcases prominent village aspects such as the communal hawker centre and the most famous fishing appliance shop in Changi Village.

Center Spread – Transition

Displaying Changi Village’s most iconic feature, the single-walk way bridge. The bridge, in reality, links the village area to the sea aspects of Changi Village; Changi Beach Park and Fishing Zones. In my zine, I have exploited and made full use of the centre spread. Not only do you get a full detailed view of the bridge, but it also acts as a visual bridge. This spread not only connects the village photographs to those taken at the sea, but acts as a strategic transition to enhance the readability of the zine. The composition of this photo is well balanced; with dark and light spots. This spread, therefore, acts as a transition to move from much darker compositions in spread 2 to much lighter ones in spread 3. Overall I felt I made good use of this space despite it only being one image.

Page 6 & 7 – Sea Area

Prominent sea aspects of Changi and… hang on… is that… me!?

The Epiphany

All in all, the entire zine is designed and laid out to replicate an old photo album. Photo composition, the crop of the photos, and even the way I had to position myself in the last photo is designed, to make you think these images are taken from the past. To further add ambiguity, the chosen colour to add a sad melancholic feeling and a date stamp is added but without its year.
The design is meant to invoke in the viewers’ reminiscence and nostalgia which is more than just about remembering the past. It is an emotive response that makes a person want to go back and to relive these lost memories. As the reader comes to the end of the zine, an epiphany is presented! The last photo which on first glance looks normal…? But upon a closer look, the ominous figure is strangely familiar; yes it is me! The epiphany is a resolution to the reader; explaining how all these photos that you were just looking at are not old but are in fact taken just last week. The beautiful recollection you experienced earlier is still beautifully there!


Personal thoughts

Not gonna lie, I struggled quite a bit for this assignment. It’s one thing to understand and visualize a concept but it’s another to construct and form it. Only after being certain about my concept and tying it tightly with my design style was I able to create something that others could understand. I went back to the drawing board a couple of times for this one, but thankfully it was all worth it! I must say I still enjoyed doing it! I have learnt a lot from this project and the process, albeit excruciating, has kindled a new-found passion and interest in the topic!!