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The Typographer

A typography-driven design method that employs open-ended sketching, rapid iteration, and an emphasis on bold visuals.

Research, sketching and ideation are collapsed into a program of rapid iteration that generates type-driven designs. Given enough time and attention a concept may emerge from the process but the starting point is to treat the content—the literal words that a reader will see—as a material and see what we can do with that material.

Well-suited for fast turnaround projects with simple messages.


STEPS

1 — Content Assembly

We need real content upfront—we won’t use lorem ipsum and we want to avoid FPO (for placement only). Because the design will be driven by the actual words and letters in the content a last-minute headline change has a good chance of rendering the work leading up to it pointless.


2 — Design as Research
This is a non-conceptual approach so there’s no traditional research. Instead we treat the content — the words themselves — as a material to explore. We do this in 3 stages:

 

2.1 — Type-Only
We do as many versions as we can using typography (i.e., fonts on the computer). Essentially we set a timer with a hard cut-off for Type-Only Research. We try to work on each version until we think “Oh, that’s cool” and then we move to a new one.

2.2 — Visual Anchors
We look for one or more things in the text that we can use as an image to provide a point of focus. This might be a name or title, date, or an acronym. We then explore this piece of content as thoroughly as we are able to given the timeframe. In a fast project this will be straight typography with minimal intervention. In a longer project this might lead to custom lettering and graphics or the introduction of visual effects.

2.3 — Image-Making
Finding or creating imagery that might be integrated into the project. In a quick-turn project, this might simply be looking through our own personal archive for photographs, textures or public domain images. In a longer project, we may produce original imagery.


3 — Analysis: We review what we did in the Research phase and identify the best pieces.


4 — Ideation: We take the best parts and build full lay-outs from them and adjust as needed and start to investigate color.


5 — Presentation: We show a number of design options. In the short-term we’re doing minimal revisions beyond corrections; for a longer timeframe we may do further or additional design exploration using the first round as a foundation for new work.


Alterations:

  1. In an extreme deadline (under 2 hours): the process can be limited to just 1 aspect of research without the assembly period.
    Examples: Delv cover | Daily Type-Only covers

  2. Another approach is to flip the research phase so that we start with an image and then figure out how type works with it.
    Example: Multiplication covers

  3. The method is designed for quick turnarounds but can be expanded with more time allowing for more thorough exploration at each stage. In addition, a longer timeframe increases the chance of a concept emerging through analysis of the work and content.