Education Extras

A Multimedia Letterform Project

This assignment is intended for second-year undergraduate graphic design students. Each student selects a word for development into three logotype variations. The sketches for each variation are created with a unique medium:

  1. Tape.
  2. String (or rope or yarn).
  3. Gestural studies made with watercolor and unusual writing tools.

[For a closer look at this third technique see The Cranbrook Workshop slide show.]

The unusual media lead the students to finding expressive forms and characteristics that lie outside of their previous experience. This broadens their personal repertoire of formal possibilities while exposing them to all of the formal and proportional issues inherent in the design of letterforms.

The gestural studies always outnumber the sketches made with tape or string. The students need to create dozens of them.

Most of the time is spent with this sketching technique since a meditative, relaxed state can only be attained with repetition over an extended period of time.

These gestural studies were made with a broom on 2 x 3 ft. paper.

The gestural studies are never “corrected” after they are made. The student simply moves on and makes the next one.

The student and the instructor decide which sketches from each medium will be developed further.

Development usually begins with analog tools that facilitate swift changes and decision-making.

The student finds the most advantageous moment to move to digital tools and continues development there.

Each sketching medium lends a unique voice to the word.

The tape is frequently used in creative ways and often takes on a relief quality.

All kinds of media can be used in the development phase, including marker, pencil and tracing paper.

Sometimes ideas are tried out quickly with marker on laser output before executing them in the computer.

A mid-project critique locates general issues that concern more than one student…

…while allowing each student to experience the progress of classmates.

Development evolves slowly into refinement…

…which results in well-honed solutions.

The student always needs to take care that the liveliness of the original sketch is not lost in development and refinement…

…so that the final results are proportionally and rhythmically sound, but still contain the vitality of the original moment of invention.

Particular attention is given to refining proportion, rhythm and interrelated systems of expression and character.



By the end of the project, most students have created expressive logotypes in forms which are completely new to them.