In Class Activity 4: Expressive Words Opposing Pairs

In class we had to design a creative way to express relationships between a opposing pair of words and come up with 3 different ideas. I chose the opposing pair “Open – Closed” .


In Class Feedback: 
– Reduce the tracking so the group of letters have a sense of density in a line , which gives a closed off feel. With this said, you could take off the block of line on top of the word closed (unnecessary).
– You could disperse the “P E N” so it is not aligned, but disorganised and free.

Refinement of Idea #3 after feedback: Reflection/Thoughts?
Through this activity, we learned how to properly give a critique and feedback to help us improve on our works. It also helped us explore and challenge different ways we can perceive words and how others perception on the same word may be different- resulting a totally different outcome due the subjectivity of type.

Response to The Crystal Goblet

“Artists feel and Typographers thinks.”
– The Crystal Goblet, Beatrice Warde

In the reading, The Crystal Goblet, Beatrice Warde aims to convey the message that typography is more technical than you think, and not just a casual type on a document.  She uses a metaphor of a solid gold versus a crystal goblet, paralleling it with typographic skills to infer the purpose of type and the effects on communication between humans. She claims that type or printing is meant to “convey thoughts, ideas, and images from one mind to other minds.”  Typography corresponds to the spoken language that humans use everyday – to highlight thoughts and ideas contained in the written word. 

Moreover, Warde commends that typography is not considered a work of art by stating the fact that printing is still an active form of communication and language proves typography cannot be an art.  A fine art artist reflects feelings and emotions, whereas a typographer and designer tend to think more than they feel.  Warde also compares the topics on the readability and legibility of type in order to support her purpose.  Like typography it takes into account the necessity of a clean page that is able to convey the message it is intending to, together with the page layout. This enables the readers to read through the author’s idea without the intervening by the book typographer’s propagandistic ‘art’. 

Typography is a design process of calculative thinking base on measurements and experimentations. It is rather subjective than an expression. Thus, a responsible typographer is like a crystal goblet that is transparent enough to hold the wine (the author’s mind) allowing the connoisseur (the reader) to see directly and clearly on the wine.  This reading brings out a contemporary perspective on typography and how modernism is still influencing the way society thinks. We, as designers need to understand to use typography responsibly in the design industry – to take full control of words we create and see, to be able to understand the word before we absorb and appreciate the aesthetics.

Typographer of the week: Paula Scher

Paula Scher has developed brand identity and branding systems, promotional materials, environmental graphics, packaging and publications for a wide range of clients. She creates images that speaks to contemporary audiences with emotional impact and appeal. These images have come to be visually identified with the cultural life of New York City.

Scher first began her career by creating record and album covers for both Atlantic and CBS. After a few years, she then joined Pentagram where she created memorable identities for clients such as Citi Bank, Coca-Cola, the Metropolitan Opera, the Museum of Modern Art, Parsons and Windows, among others. Furthermore, Scher also maintains an avid interest in environmental design, and a mural-scale painting practice all on her own. It stems from her rejection of modernist structures on neutral and “clean” designs, to expressive art (very different in contrast to Massimo Vignelli, where its clean, simple and functional). For Scher, expressivity is key to high value.

The Citibank Logo carries a polished corporate look. This brand identity was created after Scher’s first meeting with her clients. She was mind mapping on a napkin when she finished “the final idea” the moment she walked out. In the video, she talked about this process and it struck my attention that the ‘t’ with the over head curved red line was a depiction of an umbrella. Scher operates heavily on her intuition, as she believes design is from within where it takes a very intuitive process. For Scher, “big bold strokes of design that comes in her mind first or second are usually the final idea.”  This statement is one to follow. We, as designers, should not force ourselves to design something so fixed in a way that does not reflect our own designer identity, rather we should follow our own intuition that helps us color and reflect our designer identity into our works. Sometimes, you may never know what you come up with is one spectacular piece…right?

Scher suggests that “words have meanings and typography has feelings.” When you add them together it creates a spectacular combination. She responds negatively towards Helvetica as it neutralises feelings. It acts like a plain white wall instead of a bold loud colored wall that speaks emotions. Typefaces have personalities of their own and we should use that to our advantage when designing. She suggests that we as designers should illustrate with type and not press in the corner of type. Scher developed typographic solution based on Art deco and Russian constructivism, which incorporated outmoded typefaces into her work. The Russian constructivism had provided inspiration for her typography, using it as a  vocabulary of form in her works.

Scher illustrate maps using demographic information and paints her type during her weekends, which takes a long time to complete. Before technology, Scher has been using her hands to paint album covers and type. After the invention and innovation of technology, it had made her hands feel useless. Strongly puts forward that we as designers should create our own designs and type with our bare hands through experimentation and process, hence, “you don’t type design”.

Scher’s design communicates with the contemporary audiences through the use of pop iconography, music and film. Her work has been published internationally and her contributions to the field design are numerous. She uses her large scale of experiences and skills vary what the client wants; from a corporate look of citibank to a fun-funky design for an art school like Parsons. She incorporates photos and typography into her works, plays with pure typography that can make such an impact! As a global artist influencer, Scher continues to inspire the new generation of designers.


Thinking with Type: Letter

Just like our human body, letters too have anatomies to learn!

However, not only the anatomy, typefaces and letters have more than that; such as: How letters sit on a line? The height and size. Scaling. Variation of typeface. Classification. Families and the list goes on!

After listening to Lisa’s lectures in class, it made me absorb and understand this reading much easier.  Choosing the right typeface and font is not easy, it all has factors to consider such as the context and the importance of the type. For example, the power of x-height of a typeface affects its apparent size, space efficiency and the overall visual impact. Typefaces with small x-heights evokes a delicate and lyrical charm, while a huge x-height, like Helvetica can look elegant yet bulky and bland.

Typefaces and fonts also plays with legibility and readability. Optical sizes do matter. Graphic designers selects a style based on context. Optical sizes designed for headlines or display tend to have delicate, lyrical forms, while styles created for text and captions are built with heavier strokes, such as the example below.

However, the VOGUE magazine shown above used ALL CAPS for their cover lines which made the readability harder. Usually a block of CAPS text looks big and bulky, AND QUITE HARD TO DIFFERENTIATE IN TEXT SUCH AS THE EXAMPLE ABOVE (usually it also may appear as someone SHOUTING or SHOVING INFORMATION to your face).

Small capitals are designed to match the x-height of lowercase letters. Many designers prefer to use all small caps as it creates an aesthetically clean line with no ascending elements.

Thus this leads to the importance of curating a symphony of typefaces. With the constancy yet vibrant beats and notes, which gives coherency and beauty. Designers play with the contrast in scale and weight, the coherence of a san-serif with a serif.  This teaches us how the properties of a typeface and the pairing of different typefaces can establish a good visual impact. It allows the type to portray the whole image to the readers just by choosing a typeface, a type classification and adjusting the weight, scale and size.


The Age of Information

Massimo Vignelli is an Italian designer who dappled in a vast range of design: branding, packaging, housewares, furniture, showroom design and etcetera.  One of his ethos was that “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” This ethos was reflected in his work within the Modernist tradition. Vignelli focuses on simplicity and clarity of design through the use of basic geometric forms in all his work. He sees himself as an “information designer”. His aim was never to design for the aesthetics but to solve problems for the people through design.
Thus the quote “Design is utilitarian, art is not.” This infers that design is designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive.

Massimo Vignelli is one of the most important figures in the history of design. He has designed graphic systems that has a use for people in every day life . His design and cultural commitment has produced a foundation to the world of Modernism in the Early 20th century. He has taught us to appreciate the practicality and the elegance of simplicity, to present information in a visual and structural form.


The next article, focused on the rise of corporate identity, which portrays Vignelli’s design-with-purpose methodology. The visual communication we get from a brand can be affected by many factors such as the media, society and consistency. Corporate identity is definitely a make or break in the marketing industry, especially in a consumer’s point of view. In a fast-paced revolutionised modern society, brands have to keep up with the trend in order to catch the eyes and heart of the people. These visual informations are what consumers observe and judge upon on. The stronger and constant brand identity it holds, the stronger the impact and consumerism it holds. Thus the importance of the contextual meaning and design of brand identity.



Typographer of the Week: Neville Brody

Neville Brody is an English graphic designer, typographer and art director. In his student years, his designs were often criticised by his professors as uncommercial designs. Brody was highly inspired and influenced during the era of punk rock, but his experimentation was not met up to standards to his teachers. However this did not stop him into exploring the boundaries of graphic design, thus he began researching on the subject comparison between Dadaism and Pop art (which is reflected in his following works).

Brody started his career as a record cover designer but was recognised in the market through his work as an Art Director for The Face magazine. Thereafter, he gave direction to several international magazines, newspapers and even redesigned one of the top two leading English newspapers. His achievements has revolutionised and gave meaning to the media and the world of visual communication. 

Brody is also one of the founding members of Fontworks/Fontshop and has designed numerous notable typefaces for websites. Such as:
Arcadia, Industria, Insignia, FF Pop.

Some of his font design, such as Arcadia was influenced through the style of Art deco. It reflects “the great gatsby” period, capturing the vibrant spirit and the lush atmosphere of the Art Deco. It features a tall and striking geometric design with extremely condensed and contrasting forms. Arcadia’s elegance is used to display settings for advertising, packaging, invitations, or logos. 

Furthermore, Neville Brody established the FUSE project, which fuses typeface and graphic design in a magazine. The project brings forth designers, architectures, sound and film directors together through conferences.

Neville Brody plays with colors, form, weight and type that evokes loudness and eye-catching elements in order to push through the boundaries of design whilst playing with the unconventional. His work effectively hinders the line of rule breaking by creating a refreshing side on graphic design. Brody embodies the essence and the true meaning of design and to communicate visually, instead of falling into commercialism. One has to stand up in order for the rest to rise. 

Typographer of the Week: Massimo Vignelli


Massimo Vignelli is an Italian designer who dappled in a vast range of design: branding, packaging, housewares, furniture, showroom design and etcetera. Together with his wife, he founded Vignelli Associates. One of his ethos was that “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” This ethos was reflected in his work within the Modernist tradition. Vignelli focuses on simplicity and clarity of design through the use of basic geometric forms in all his work. He is also a constant user of Helvetica, which can be seen in most of his work.

Vignelli’s first major presence into the field of brand identity was working under Unimark International, which thereafter became one of the largest design studios in the world. He has designed identities for international corporations such as American Airlines, Bloomingdales and Knoll. 

American Airlines

In 1967, Vignelli was commissioned to design the logo for American Airlines. He created a branding that was bold and simple – two capital As, one red and the other blue. The use of the colors was to indicate the company’s pure intent service and professionalism. It was also to symbolise the American flag. He incorporated a geometric shaped X-eagle to represent America. This was the rise of Vignelli, receiving one of the biggest commission. 


Knoll recruited Vignelli to design  and reconstruct its brand identity. He used geometrics, a grid and the type Helvetica to create the following outcome, together with Heinz Waibl. 

New York City Subway

In 1972, Vignelli redesigned the New York subway map to simplify its complex signage system. His map was colorful and based on the right angles, however it distorted the actual dimensions of New York City and the path of subway lines. In 1979, the city decided to replace it with a more geographically accurate map. However, in 2011, the city brought back Vignelli’s version for  the display of service changes on weekends. Vignelli’s directory use of the typeface Helvetica has never been changed due to its readability and clarity. It also provides subway users in an interactive way of getting information – information design.

Our Bodoni

As the number of typefaces increase throughout the years, Vignelli believed that there was only the need of 6 typefaces: Bodoni, Century Expanded, Futura, Garamond, Helvetica, Times Roman. In 1989, he created Our Bodoni, which is a combination of Bodoni and his favourite typeface, Helvetica.

Vignelli suggested whether the context requested something classical, in the sense of something refined, then we would use Garamond. For something more informational we would use Helvetica. Moreover, he inferred that we as designers should set a goal to simplify things.

Massimo Vignelli is one of the most important figures in the history of design. He has designed graphic systems that has a use for people in every day life . His design and cultural commitment has produced a foundation to the world of Modernism in the Early 20th century. Vignelli has taught us to appreciate the practicality and the elegance of simplicity.
To present information in a visual and structural form.



Type Speaks 1948: Reflective Thoughts

“What if printing type never existed? and Is it taken for granted?”

Type Speaks 1948 is a short documentary on how a type was intricately dimensioned, engraved, scaled with height and weight. It shows a complex stage to create a certain type letter under a skilled craftsman. Yet after inventions and evolutions, type might be taken for granted.

To many people, typography is not art but a legible language to communicate. Typefaces and font families are just there taken for granted. However, if you observe closely, each letter is an individual design dependent on every other letter in the font. This is made so that when they are placed in every combination, it looks cohesive and constant. Furthermore, type craftsman considers the thought of creating a serif or san serif? How far down should the descending or tail be in a certain letter? The angle placement of an ear? The curved angle of a letter’s shoulder? and etcetera. (For example, like the image below.)

These are just a few of the macro design decisions of typographers. Further into the micro decision of the subtle differences in line thickness, curve, slant or embellishment. These far intricate process to create a type are past us, that we do not understand yet taken for granted. Opening a word document, picking a typeface and font to create our script. All we care is that is the legibility and the message the type can carry across. 

However, one thing that everyone sees type as is a language. It can be used in different situation and purposes to emphasise a certain message, depending on the typeface. It speaks the language. Thus, after watching this video made me realise and appreciate typography even more and how it was more than just a legible language. Developed and processed throughout the years, I could definitely say it is an under-appreciated art that people should know more about through history. 

Bauhaus? Bauhaus.

” Creativity, which is what Modernism is all about, is a constant searching process that promises a greater chance for failure than it does for success.”
– Bierut, Michael. Looking Closer. Allworth, 1997

Tracing back to the History of Design, artists and designers were trying to push forward the creative industry by creating a set of new principles. This led to the birth of Bauhaus.  For example, the well-known Kadinsky used his proposed color theory with shapes to create art – reducing everything to its most expressive form. This reflects the key idea of Modernism, something that was never done before.

As proposed by Kadinsky’s basic color and shapes theory:
“A dull shape like circle deserves a dull color like blue. A shape with intermediate interest like a square deserves an intermediate color like red.
A dynamic, interesting shape like a triangle deserves an energetic, luminous, psychotic color like yellow.”
Thus portraying this color concept into my artwork below.

Singapore is a small country filled with a culture of collectivist, radiating a sense of home and warmth. This led to the idea of “Family” in the style of Bauhaus. Majority of people in Singapore lives with their family with different generation, even if you had graduated college. For example, your grandparents, your parents, your ‘siblings’ and you living under one roof. Imagine the amount of familial warmth it holds. Although some might oppose to this idea, yes there is some family that does not get along due to numerous reasons and thus lives separately. However, I wanted to portray the picture perfect family that every kid draws when they were young. A happy family, a house in the background with the sun drawn in the corner of the paper. Yet, when you look close inside the grains and the rough strokes of a crayon – there will always be flaws and imperfection inside a what it seems to be a picture perfect image. Nothing can be 100% perfect but the idea is to push your limit to reach 100% – the progress and development is what matters. This reflects to the concept of Modernism where it is essentially utopian as suggested in the reading, Looking Closer by Michael Bierut. An idealistic society that possesses nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. Yet there will always be flaws in the nook and cranny of a Utopian. Despite this, it also contradicts another idea of Modernism of creating things that is out of the structure, out of the ordinary or else it would be redundant.

What The Singlish ??!1?

To begin with, I felt like the use of typography and collaged images in Dadaism was the perfect style to convey this piece.  I was inspired by Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters, Kleine Dada Soirée as shown in class. I love how the mess of overlapping typography can be kept in minimal by the choice of colors. It is not as overpowering for the eyes to see but to adore.

Being a Third Culture Kid has definitely colored my identity into where I belong. Although I’ve lived in Singapore for quite some time, I’ve never fully immersed myself into the true local culture.  Singapore is a culture filled with diversity. In a diverse city, there are multiple languages and dialects being used around. Thus, this leads to my perspective on Singapore’s own society language called “Singlish”. It is an unavoidable language in this country. As a foreigner to this language, I had to slowly pick up terms, phrases and their definitions in my first year of university. Coming from an international school, I have never really paid attention to it and felt like they are words being thrown around in the community. It felt like an informal language that give Singaporeans a sense of bond, comfort and belonging.

This piece shows my perspective on Singlish and how it is not taught to you but more of a self-learn where you can get buried under between Singaporeans. I’ve used a typeface that comes out to me as an informal- formal to reflect how I see the language, with a big grey question mark pushed to the corner. Duct-taped over my mouth and buried under this interesting culture.

PS. I am still to learn more of these interesting phrases.


Image Sources:
Lux Lip Crème- Dark Rose