Typography I – Typographer of Week 5: Paula Scher


Paula Scher is an American illustrator, painter, graphic designer, and art educator. She moved to New York City and worked as a layout artist for Random House.

She worked in CBS Records for eight years as the cover department art director; during that time, she designed several hundred album covers.  She then left CBS to pursue her own work, including the development of a typographic solution based on Russian constructivism and Art Deco.

Scher joined Pentagram in 1991, becoming the first female principal to join the company. The following year, she became an art educator at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and since then, she has received hundreds of design awards. She even has her own exhibition in New York. Many of Scher’s designs have become synonymous with New York City culture.

Paula Scher is one of the most influential graphic designers in the world. Described as the “master conjurer of the instantly familiar,” Scher straddles the line between pop culture and fine art in her work. Iconic, smart, and accessible, her images have entered into the American vernacular.


She has so many to even start with. Here are some below.

Scher developed a typographic solution based on Art deco and Russian constructivism, which incorporated outmoded typefaces into her work. The Russian constructivism had provided Scher inspiration for her typography; she didn’t copy the early constructivist style but used its vocabulary of form on her works.

The Public Theater logo evolution


In 1994 Paula Scher designed a poster for the New York Shakespeare Festival that introduced a new identity for the Public Theater, a program that would eventually influence much of the graphic design created for theatrical promotion and for cultural institutions in general. She said “You can basically take any version of sans serif font, organize it in the same way and with the same proportions and it would be recognizable as The Public’s logo,” says Scher. “The system was designed to be flexible because we knew it would need to be handled by individual designers over the years.”

Reflect Us

Artwork published recently in March 2018.

Reflect US is a “nonpartisan coalition of eight leading women’s political organizations working together to increase the number of women in office and achieve equal representation across the ideological, racial, ethnic and geographic spectrum.”

The visual identity created by Paula Scher here is obvious. The colours used to present ‘democracy’ with the big bold red screaming “JOIN US” – bold and encouraging for the women in USA.


You can sort of see that the Swatch poster she did above includes inspiration derived from Russian constructivism artworks.


I’m very intrigued by Scher’s use of bold colours and unusual layout of text because she actually makes it work. It looks great and not messy at all. She places her text in a certain flow or a different direction, and that creates movement in the work. To me, that really gives an overall refreshing look.

Most of her works have this energetic vibe towards it and I guess that’s partly due to her use of contrasting colours as well. That’s why it’s so mesmerising to look at. It’s cool how when you look up on her name, she is known for a lot of her amazing works, plastered everywhere such as famous brands like Swatch or Atlantic Records. Even designing works advocating women power lately in 2018? That is very inspiring.









Typography I – Reflection on TED talk: My life in typefaces

I had to rewatch some parts of the talk to get myself feeling inspired by the things Matthew Carter shared. One of which is the part when he was told by the engineers that the problem in the typeface was solved and so Mr Carter’s draft design was not needed. BUT he didn’t stop there. In fact, he was interested in the ‘aesthetic exercise’ and loved the idea of type-making and the typeface he made.

Far right, the edit he made in the typeface design so as it doesn’t look so technological-like.

A problem-solver and also someone who perseveres and not just scrap off his work. And hence leading to some popular typefaces such as Verdana – working directly onto the screen from the pixel app. (It’s interesting to me how he designed a typeface for Microsoft using a Mac.)

I see it as, him adapting to the future without rejecting it and adapting (transforming) a rigid technology into a sensitive, more human “being”. Matthew Carter’s experience shares a tiny bit of what he’s accumulated over decades of honing his skill. This should be inspiring to all of us, at least it is to me. Very fascinating and enriching.

Typography I – Thinking With Type (Reflection)

I swear I wish I stumbled upon this website waaaaay earlier.

It goes in-depth on the anatomy of type and now gives me a better idea of what to look out for when analysing a certain font, and the criteria to set when selecting fonts for a piece of design.

It intrigues me how there is a power in the sizing and scaling of letters in typography, how it really makes a huge difference in the spaces between the letters and how warped a text is, gives a different effect. And that there’ such a thing as ‘Optical sizes’??? “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.”

I’m brought into a new perspective especially when it came to the ‘Mixing Typefaces’ – that there’s actually a way to make a sentence look as good as a good salad, and not end up making the sentence messy.

As a beginner in typography, it is one of my weaker elements of design. Thus this reading allowed me to have a clearer view on how to integrate typefaces into the design pieces (and at the same time, making them visually appealing and complementary to the other visual elements). It also helped me in familiarising important terms, as well as what to refrain from doing in future!




Typography I – Typographer of Week 4: Neville Brody



Neville Brody is an English graphic designer, typographer and art director currently working in his own design practice called Research Studios.

Back then, he enrolled himself at the London College of Printing for a 3-year Bachelor of Arts degree in graphics but his designs were often condemned by his teachers for having ‘uncommercial’ quality to them. The era of punk rock highly influenced Brody’s work and motivation in the late 1970s. However, his tutors disagree with his experimentation of punk rock art and got him almost expelled. Even then, he continued to explore the new boundaries in graphic design.  Therefore, his first-year thesis focused on the subject of comparison between Dadaism and Pop Art.

He’s also a leading typographer and internationally recognised brand strategist.


He is best known for his work on ‘The Face’ and ‘Arena’ magazines and various record covers for several famous music artists, including Cabaret Voltaire and Depeche Mode.

‘The Face’ and ‘Arena’ magazines
Cabaret Voltaire Record Cover – Designed in 1984

Brody is also one of the founding members of Fontworks and the leading website the FontShop. He designed numerous notable typefaces for the website. A well-known FUSE project was also the result of his initiation which featured the fusion of a magazine, typeface and graphics design.

He co-founded a typeface library, the FontFont, with Erik Spiekermann, in 1990.

Typefaces by Neville Brody

He has designed many typefaces such as Industria, Insignia and Blur, which was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s architecture and design collection in 1992.

Industria font by Neville Brody
Insignia font by Neville Brody (image obtained from https://www.behance.net/gallery/21328109/Insignia-Type-Specimen-Poster)
Brand Strategy for Nike – Designed in 1988



I’m inspired by how his experimentation of the punk rock art was noticeable in some of his works and that created an interesting approach in forming portraits. And for his typefaces, it’s interesting how he could make them look simple but at the same time, possessed features that made them distinguishable and less boring.

Typography I – Short reflective post on Type Speaks (1948)

After watching this, my first thought was “wow, we really take printers for granted”!

Type Speaks is a 1948 film that features an in-depth process of making type. The film emphasizes type as a medium with a mission to improve the world and showcases how they used to be made. Firstly showing a brief history of printing and then followed by the entire process of type making from original design to pattern making, punch cutting, matrix making, and the use of the Benton engraving machine.

I realized how differently a designer is defined now compared to how a designer was defined then. Now with the power of machines such as a computer, it is easy to design a certain typography. Back then, mostly everything was hands-on. The responsibilities of a designer were different as well.

It’s truly amazing how people back then painstakingly carved the letters out from the metal rod and had the patience to file away the outside of the rod, simply to get the lettering right. Everything is done one at a time, even the design of the characters of the letters.

I salute them for the many hours of craftsmanship needed for this whole typography process. Now I have a newfound appreciation for the art behind type and this film educates me a bit, on knowing how important the little details in each lettering are. It gives me a new perspective on designing type and typography itself.

Typography I – Typographer of Week 3: Massimo Vignelli


An Italian, Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan in 1931. There, he first studied art and architecture, until he came to America in 1957. He was the co-founder of Vignelli Associates, with his wife, Lella. in 1971 they formed Vignelli Associates, and in 1978, Vignelli Designs. Vignelli worked in a number of areas ranging from package design through houseware design and furniture design to public signage and showroom design.


Vignelli believes that a designer needs only 6 typefaces and his six preferred typefaces are Garamond, Bodoni, Century Expanded, Futura, Times, Helvetica (shown below):

Here are some of the typographic works he did:

    • Official redesign of 1972 map of the New York subway system
    • Poster and graphics programme for Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, 1964 and 1965
    • the “AA” logo used by American Airlines up until 2013


  • The 1972 map of the New York subway system

Around 1965, Vignelli and his business partner Bob Noorda established Unimark International, a new design consultancy, in New York. They worked with Mildred Constantine, an influential design curator at the Museum of Modern Art, who is well connected in the New York City’s social scene.

There was a desperate need for a transformation of the city’s nightmarish subway navigation system, hence Vignelli helped to redesign the subway map. Following the Beck London Underground diagram, Vignelli produced a diagram of subway lines. Although the map is widely admired for its beauty and utility, it was rejected by commuters as the New Yorkers disliked its indifference to above-ground geography. They felt that it looked too abstract and it did not accurately represent the subway routes and cities.

  • Poster and graphic programme for Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, 1964 and 1965

The Piccolo Teatro di Milano posters such as the one above illustrate the powerful philosophical connection between Zurich and Milan in the 1960s. Vignelli’s uses closely set Helvetica in two sizes and strong horizontal rules. His effortless ordering of information has been echoed in print, blog themes and app design right up to the present day.


In his interview with Big Think, he mentioned how it’s important for graphic designers to stay away from trends and think more about the quality of the typographic design where “a timeless design is powerful”. I agree with him, how when it comes to designing things, I would still want it to be looked in respect in 100 years time and not laughed about. This is reflected in some of his works that are still present up to this day such as the ones mentioned above (Piccolo Teatro di Milano posters and American Airlines logo (1967 till 2013)”. There needs to be “guts, expression, intellectually elegant”.

In most projects he has done, he has this same design: “..the heavy black rules, the red, black and yellow, the large Garamond Italic or Bodoni type going over the gutter..” (like the picture above). He explained that he wanted to achieve an effect and clarity. When comparing his works with Jan Tschihold, both of them are similar as clarity seems to be their focal point for these designers. To create assets that would help people to navigate their daily lives, both of them stand by the idea of limited type fonts and design as well and apply these similar styles to most of the work they do even for different companies.

Vignelli’s work is recognizable, even when working with different companies. Hence, we see that design is a voice, and for him, making a design that is timeless is important. That is his core set of beliefs, and similarly, with other designers, they have their own set of beliefs. And this is something that is incapable of being replicated.

Vignelli is the “fearless critic of junk” and that is a constant reminder for me whenever I feel like my work is junk. He emphasizes the coherence of elements, clarity, discipline and continuity. There’s a certain discipline we must put into our work, and we ought to put pride in it. There is always a way to make our own typography work look better than it is before.






Massimo Vignelli: Creator of Timeless Design and Fearless Critic of “Junk”


HOD – Update: change of artist and keywork selection (Murmur whispers by Chevalvert & 2Roq)

< Before this, I selected Bill Viola as the artist to review in my hyperessay but then I realised that it was hard to place his work in any category of Cybernetics/Behavioural Art, Hypermedia or Immersion. Although yes, it can sort of be placed under ‘Immersion’, however, the question of whether it still encompasses the concept of behavioural art makes it a bit tricky to be reviewed. And here’s why:

  •  The works of Bill Viola only has his own point of view, meaning his own interpretation to be given to the audience. It’s personal, it is not up for open interpretation as he purposely creates them with meaning (and that is revolving the spiritual aspect part that he wants his viewers to see).
  • It’s not meant for those viewers/audiences to participate and change the artwork. But only for the audience to immerse in it.
  • His artwork, which in this case a film-projection/installation, are never changing unlike John Cage’s Variation V. It’s simply a video hence recorded and an artwork that is not able to change.
  • And even though they are immersing in it, meaning they do get emotional and think about its concepts, which is already 2 out of the 3 subsets of what makes a work a ‘Behavioural Art’ (physical, emotional, conceptual), it still doesn’t make his works a behavioural artwork (because of the very reasons above).

< I needed to rethink and ask myself why is this particular artist related to the idea of interactivity.

Which he is not. In order for there to be interactivity, there needs to be a relationship between the artist, the artefact and the audience. After reading the Behaviourist Art article by Roy Ashcott, we know that an artwork has to have the ‘feedback loop’ – the audience’s participation (they are to be involved in the decision-making of how the work will turn out), where the artist is no longer the dominant source of the artwork and the artwork is in perpetual state of transition because of both the artist and audience.

< Hence, I decided to pick a different artist and artwork. The ‘Murmur whispers’ (2015) is an installation + live performance artwork created by visual design studio named Chevalvert and studio 2Roqs for music group ALB. It was “developed with OpenFrameworks / LED Strip / Javascript” which shows that programming is needed to produce light from sound waves emitted from people and their surroundings. It is a project of ‘Murmur’ artwork (that was also produced by Chevalvert) that has recently been adapted to a live performance within the renowned French music event. Seen below is a screencap of the ‘Murmur whispers’ performance work.

The ‘Murmur whispers’ — an interactive, performance show for music group ALB

A little background knowledge on the ‘Murmur’ project to know exactly what this whole artwork is about:

Murmur is an architectural prosthesis that enables communication between passers-by and the wall on which it is connected. “The installation simulates the movement of sound waves, building a luminous bridge between the physical and the virtual worlds.” There is a magical effect, a mystery in the way that sound waves move. Murmur focuses on this movement, thus creating an unconventional dialogue between the public and the wall. Visual design, object design, sound design and a magical touch of programming is involved to create this.

The artwork comes to life when passers-by participate simply by making a sound, murmuring into the “Echo Chamber” (the cone object). It will turn sound waves into light waves simply by having the sound waves emitted through it and then projected onto the wall.

So the artist, studio Chevalvert, made use of this and did a music improvisation as well (as seen below).

The music improvisations above can be seen in the ‘Murmur whispers’ live performance where they used instruments and their voices to make sounds/music. Chevalvert did collaborations to come up with ‘Murmur whispers’. The artistic approach of the project, it’s production, and the development is a collaboration with the studio 2Roqs that helps with the programming aspect.

Whereas the staging for the ‘Murmur whispers’ live performance is the product of a close collaboration between the music group ALB (deezer.com/artist/467584) and Chevalvert themselves. Chevalvert and 2Roqs, in this case, are the artists behind the work and we can say that the artefact behind their work is the ALB music group – how without them interacting with the “Echo Chamber” (the cone-looking object that collects the murmurs of the public and turns sound waves into light waves), the live performance wouldn’t be interactive.



Murmur whispers





Typography I – Typographer of Week 2: Jan Tschichold


Jan Tshichold is a German typographer and author who played a seminal role in the development of 20th-century graphic design and typography. He was largely impressed by one of the first fonts of Rudolf Koch – Maximillian Grotesk. Then the artist was hugely inspired by the Bauhaus exhibition, which then led to his typography where we look at letters with straight edges, made of simple shapes with no flare. He had formulated a set of typographic principles, which he published in pamphlet form under the title Elementaire Typographie. In 1928, Tschichold published Die Neue Typographie, a full treatment of his new ideas for typographic design.


  • The creation of Sabon typeface

The Sabon typeface was inspired by the Garamont typeface that was created by Jacques Sabon and Conrad Berner. Sabon was a result of Tschichold’s efforts of taking Garamond typeface and standardising its construction by removing historic typefaces anomalies, making it more ‘economical’ and ‘narrower’. Tshichold created this typeface so that it could be used in any of the various printing techniques for that period of time. For the italic version, he drew inspiration directly from a model of Granjon typeface in the specimen.

  • Die Neue Typographie, (The New Typography)

This above is known as the definitive manifesto on graphic design in the machine age. It provided a set of rules that standardized the practices relating to modern type usage. All typefaces were condemned, except for sans-serif types. He standardized the sizes of paper for all printed matter and made clear explanations of why they were preferable and effective. This book was followed with a series of practical manuals on the principles of Modernist typography which had a wide influence among ordinary workers and printers in Germany.


  • Below: an example of his work where the typography is thick and bold and clean-cut. You can tell that it is largely inspired by the Bauhaus movement.

  • Refinement of Penguin book design

Tschichold refined the Penguin emblem and tidied up the horizontally banded covers of the standard Penguins. Penguin Composition Rules was the standard he created, embodied in a four-page booklet of typographic instructions for editors and compositors. Tschichold was meticulous in detail, and the guidelines “addressed all the important aspects of book design: Text Composition; Indenting of Paragraphs; Punctuation Marks and Spelling; Capitals, Small Capitals, and Italics; References and Footnotes; Folios; The Printing of Plays; The Printings of Poetry; Make-up”.

  • Page Canons

Tschichold developed a system of page harmony where there is a 2:3 page-size ratio rule.

Through that ratio rule (seen above), it allows us to have an exact positioning where we will end up with a 9×9 grid, with the text block 1/9th from the top and inside, and 2/9ths from the outside and bottom.

With that, the text block is in a relatively exact position and size, with echoed margins, all of which are elegantly rational.

The development of ratio rule is practical when applying to various layouts (such as magazine spreads, book illustration, etc) as the text block sits in the upper section of the page, which is more in line with where our eyes rest on a page, as well as giving space at the bottom for our hands to hold the book open without covering any content.


  • It’s really not as easy as we think Typography is. I used to brush it off and think it’s just letterings but after reviewing and learning about Jan Tschichold, there’s a lot of effort and deep research put into developing typefaces and standardisations such as the one above, just to make a cleaner-looking typography structure and layout required for books. And it is still used up till this day. Amazing. Thankful for those creations so we don’t really have to go through the painstaking effort of developing a standardisation.





Jan Tschichold

The Secret Law of Page Harmony



Typography I – Type in the Wild

I went to USS a few days back and decided to take some shots of the letterings in some buildings.

Here’s some that I don’t like:

Processed with VSCO with nc preset

If you look into the right side of the image above, the shop ‘Safari Outfitters’ uses 3 different typefaces for their shop signages. I feel like there’s no need to unless you could make the main signage (at the very top) a bold typeface but in a funky fun serif like maybe Futura. Or maybe just have the main signage and the signage below as the same typeface but with a little tweak and the ‘outfitters’ below to be a brighter red so that it doesn’t actually camouflage itself onto the black window pane.

When I think of the words “Minion Mart” I immediately associate it with BIG, BOLD, YELLOW. ‘Minion’ to me is something that screams joy and fuzzy, adorable, weird creatures. And with the word ‘mart’? Something fun. How they portrayed it here, is the total opposite of all that. The colour in ‘minion’ is somewhat okay (it stands out) but the typeface used is such a turn-off. It doesn’t give that exciting feeling of skipping into the mart like “Oh yes, I WANNA GO IN!”. The colour in ‘mart’ is even more disappointing because it’s black and it blends in with the background colour which is the big brown building. You want to entice visitors and create participation on the part of the customers, so come on.

Here’s some that I like:

The spacing between the letters in this one is cool, and how the letters are thin and elongated. They made the typography somewhat rounded which is even cooler as it closely resembles the idea of ‘universal’ (the image in our head that it’s all-rounded, curved). So in a way, they look tall but curved (gives me the image of looking upwards and all around you). Big and bold and white and gold: totally the way to attract visitors and tourists. Similarly to the bold, red in “studios store”. Overall it gives me a big welcoming and exciting “W O W” feeling.

I love the cursive typeface in this ‘Celebrity’. It looks a bit like the ‘Snell Roundhand’ typeface but gives off this retro vibe. Even when contrasting with the thick lettering of the words below it, overall it still gives a good balance in the outdoor signage design. The glow in the wordings, as well as the zig-zag and purple-coloured element in them further amplify the funky, retro vibe.


This was fun! But I realised I can’t see outdoor signage the same way ever again (like totally just not care about it but now I do).

Typography I – First Impression

I used to think Typography was “meh”, thinking that it’s boring or just something I’ll just sweep off my shoulder. Because people don’t talk about it much and I felt like there’s not much to talk about. It’s like studying a dry subject (science).  “It’s just typography – not so important” (a year ago)

But boyyy was I wrong. I started taking interest in it when we had an assignment where we had to create/portray our names in a visual way (?) last semester. I was inspired by other people’s works and even mine where I did it traditionally, by using food materials or other materials. It got interesting pretty fast. Then I also learnt that it’s important when it comes to visual communications – how you want to attract your viewer’s attention in a certain way and give off a certain vibe. I realised Typography emits this sort of feeling, you know, you can feel your way through some typefaces and that affects the reader’s thoughts first hand. It’s on the typography that makes them want to stay and read further on. And THAT, I feel, is so powerful. So I know for sure it’s important and I want to learn how to do that – to understand further in depth how typography works so that I know how to actually use it and not take it for granted.