Storytelling, typography and typesetting

On this steep learning curve of understanding my new world of Interaction Design, I signed up for what proved to be a challenging 4-day Basics of Communication Design course at Emily Carr University. With the guidance of an intelligent and quirky instructor named Thomas, we tackled storytelling, typography, and typesetting, and had a lot of fun doing it!


We explored the CommDesign theme of storytelling through two exercises that Thomas called the A4 project where we were to tell the class something about ourselves with simply a white sheet of (A4/letter) paper. No pens, no scissors! We had an hour to create/design something and five minutes to reveal…and all this before anything else!

My work centered around process by aging the paper, ‘life-experiencing’ it and cycling through several iterations of possible endpoints only to refold, unfold and begin again, all the while meditating on who I am, what I know of design and what I wanted to “say” about myself. I finally settled on a harmonious peaceful balanced sunset that made me happy, as a good design should!

In the afternoon we re-did the project in teams of 3 so we could work on collaboration, iterations of design, leadership, and group presentations, all essential elements of communication design.

commdesign day1
Day 1 A4 project: Storytelling with a blank page

Day 2

The next day Thomas introduced us to the Helvetica Project using Adobe’s InDesign program in order to create a Watermark, which is like a basic logo. We used the Helvetica type because of it’s enduring quality and simple beauty and then subtly played with the structure of the letters and the spacing to create something new and meaningful.

Using the room number of our class (sb350) as the starting point for my project I tried to infuse in the lettering the notions of the course ‘opening my mind’ to create, ‘making me think outside the box’ by forcing an irregularity of the kerning/spacing to show contrast of the usual regularity of the font, and stretching the tails of the 5 to exemplify how this course was ‘telescoping me into the future’.

commdesign day 2
Day 2 Helvetica Watermark project

Day 3

Wednesday we were introduced to a ‘giant’ in the field of design Edward Tufte.ย  In order to practice the fine art of typesetting, Thomas assigned us the task of distilling Tufte’s extensive curriculum vitae into a snapshot of his life using InDesign, thereby addressing the aspects of research, information architecture, legibility and readability of typesize and letting, and presentation, all crucial to CommDesign. It amazed me how each of us created such vastly different one-page documents to highlight how and who we perceived Tufte to be.

tufte day3
Day 3: Typesetting Tufte’s CV

Day 4

On the final day Thomas wanted us to work on typography using Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and Megg’s The History of Graphic Design to create our own type! With large sheets of craft paper and a 2B pencil we practiced lettering large and small to really feel a connection to the shapes of letters, the negative spaces, the curves and serifs. And then from that starting point design a new font, and of course as with the other days we ended the session with presentations and critiques.

Day 4: Creating new typography

All in all it was a challenging experience, mentally-exhausting, and a great eye-opener that has made me realize just how little I know in this field, yet it just makes me want to keep at it because it fascinates me!

4 thoughts on “Storytelling, typography and typesetting

  1. My son graduated from Emiliy Carr a few years ago with a degree in Interaction Design. For four years I had to keep asking him exactly what his degree was called! It was something totally new to me. Your posts actually have helped me to understand what he was doing all that time! He’s now a designer at Apple in San Fran and I’m very proud of all he’s accomplished. On one of my last visits he told me he enjoys the traffic and long drive down to Cupertino from the city because it gives him time to listen to all the fantastic podcasts available out there. Love your blog and thanks for reminding me to put on a podcast while I’m painting in the studio as an alternative to the music I usually have on. Cheers, Jacquie

    1. Hi Jacquie,
      Thanks for your comments and great news on your son’s job! I do really recommend Debbie Millman’s podcasts (Design Matters)…so interesting!
      Take care, Sara

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