University of Canberra, Australia  
  View Project
School Directory

Project. The Design of Distinctly Australian Typefaces

Purpose. To explore, analyse and use the urban/rural environment as an influence for the design of typefaces.

To explore the role of Australian visual culture in the design of innovative and experimental typefaces.

To rehumanise graphic design by developing a personal ‘voice’ in your design work.

Assignment. The project is intended for final year undergraduate or postgraduate coursework students in an intensive one-week Master Class.

If typography is the visual representation of language, does our visual culture speak with an Australian accent? In a time of globalisation and sanitisation, Australian typographer Stephen Banham says that we have a responsibility to preserve, contribute to and develop a distinctly Australian typography. Would identifying peculiarities from the visual culture around us provide the required influences for the design of distinctly Australian typefaces?

In this project we will explore the role of Australian visual culture in the design of innovative and experimental typefaces. The influences you draw on might be cultural, social, industrial, scientific or any area of activity which might embody characteristics appropriate to an identity of Australia.

Using examples of typography from the environment around you, you are required to design a new set of experimental letterforms. In order to provide source material for this project, you are required to seek, find, gather, document and analyse examples of individual letters and/or words from the urban/rural environment around you. The examples might come from signs, graffiti, handlettering, packing crates, blackboards, billboards, postal items, shopfronts, building sites, roads, vehicles, large labels, registration plates. They should not be simple commercially printed examples from brochures, books, magazines, food and beverage products and the like.

Part 1
• Seek, find and gather from your environment as many different examples (at least twenty) of individual letters and/or words.
• You might take photographs, photocopies, rubbings, draw pictures, make a video, take notes.
• Use a type reference catalogue to (as closely as possible) identify some of the typefaces you have found.

Part 2
• Based on your research, develop alternative typeface designs as ‘thumbnail’ sketches on layout paper; you may work in two- or three-dimensions.
• Implement your design system by sketching/drafting/mocking-up the complete alphabet (A-Z in either upper or lower case letters).
• Enlarge the six characters and a word identified below to a higher standard of presentation.

Part 3
• Present clean sketches/drafts/mock-ups of the complete alphabet of upper or lowercase letters to show the system you have utilised in your typeface design.
• Select two upper case letters, two lower case letters and two numerals of your choice and present them as separate images.
• Select any word of at least eight different letters and present it in either upper case, lower case, or a combination of both, as a clean black image at a size to fit on a piece of landscape A3 white paper.
• The ‘x’ height of your typeface (size of the lower case ‘x’) in the six separate characters (not necessary for the word) should be at least 8cm. Capitals and numerals should be presented in proportion to this measure.
• Present a one page typed or clearly handwritten design rationale which explains the reasons behind the design of your typeface.
• Clearly print your name, the name of your new typeface and © 2005 at the bottom of your designs.
• Alternative design solutions (roughs) should be presented methodically in your design journal.

Format. A3 and optional.

Time. One week


Dr. Anthony Cahalan has broad-ranging national and international experience in graphic design, marketing, public relations and design education. He is currently Deputy Head of the School of Design and Architecture and Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Canberra. He is the country delegate for Australia of Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI), and has been a state president and national councillor of the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA). He studied visual communication at Sydney College of the Arts, has a Master of Design from the University of Technology Sydney and completed his PhD in typography at Curtin University of Technology in Perth.

Dr. Cahalan's PhD thesis is titled: Type, trends and fashion: A study of the late 20th century proliferation of typefaces. The study is one of the first PhDs in Australia in the field of typography and investigates the impacts this phenomenon of an estimated 100,000 typefaces is having on graphic design practice and typeface design. The focus of the study is on Western alphabet typeface design and typefaces as artefacts (both for text and display) rather than the broader area of typography. The study also focuses on the graphic design profession and experienced users of typefaces, rather than the use of typefaces within the general population of computer users. He is currently exploring publishing possibilities to have the thesis published as a book. Dr Cahalan has written widely on typography in journals and magazines and has presented at numerous national and international conferences on design and typography.

Return to top


Dr Anthony Cahalan