Massachusetts College of Art + Design, USA  
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Project. Letterform Layout Variations

Purpose. This is a second-year project designed to introduce students to visual hierarchy through typographic variables within the dynamics of a composition and to stimulate the observation of unique and sometimes subtle differences within typefaces.

Assignment. Visual hierarchy is the arrangement of elements (in this case typographic variables) in a predetermined graduated sequence of importance. In this assignment, you will experiment with visual hierarchy by changing typographic variables in a composition. Using one typeface, upper and lowercase, for all three compositions with assigned copy taken from “Alphabet: The History, Evolution, and Design of the Letters” by Allan Haley. Select one font family: Baskerville, Bodoni, Century, Adobe Garamond, Univers, Helvetica Neue, Frutiger, Interstate, Meta, Scala Sans, Bembo, or Caslon. You will create three dynamic compositions with the following parameters:

Composition 1 make the letterform the most prominent element
Composition 2 make the text the most prominent element
Composition 3 make the title the most prominent element

Step 1: Start your process by making pencil sketches of layouts that explore the typographic hierarchy and variables as stated above. Once you have a good idea of the sizes you might be working with, word process the essay on your assigned letterform. Set the text in different point sizes: 10/12.5 and 12/14.5 and different measures (column widths), or reduce/enlarge using xerox to get the various sizes.

Step 2: Also set your “letter” and the title The Capital Letter __ (insert your assigned letter) in various point sizes.

Step 3: Collect all your materials and place them on a 14" x 14" sheet of bristol board and move the elements around to achieve the 3 variations you had explored in your process sketches. Paste elements in place with rubber cement, studio tack or scotch tape.

Step 4: Once you are have your three compositions set, reconstruct them in the digital environment using one of the following software programs: InDesign, Illustrator or QuarkXpress.

Step 5: Mount each composition on a black, white or grey mount board— 2" top and sides, 2.5" bottom, add a flap that is trimmed to size of your board to protect your artwork.

Format. Three compositions: 14 X 14 (35 X 35 centimeters) mounted on board as indicated above.

Time. 2–3 weeks, one class meeting per week for 4.5 hours.

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Elizabeth Resnick is an Associate Professor and former Chair of Communication Design at the Massachusetts College of Art + Design, Boston. She holds both a B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

Elizabeth is the principal in Elizabeth Resnick Design, specializing in publication design and design for artists and non-profit organizations. She has served on the AIGA/Boston chapter board from 1989-2005 organizing numerous graphic design lectures and events and on the AIGA National Design Education Steering Committee from 2003-2005. She was recently honored as an 2007 AIGA Fellow.

As an active design curator, Elizabeth has organized four large design exhibitions with faculty partners: “Russell Mills: Within/Without” (1991) with Teresa Flavin; “Dutch Graphic Design: 1918-1945” (1994) with Alston W. Purvis; “Makoto Saito: Art of the Poster” (1999) with Jan Kubasiewicz, and the enormously popular “The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Social Justice and The Environment 1965–2005” with Chaz Maviyane-Davies and Frank Baseman, which is still traveling in the U.S. “Selections from The Graphic Imperative”, a smaller satellite version is currently traveling in Europe.

Resnick's publications include “Design for Communication: Conceptual Graphic Design Basics” for John Wiley & Sons Publishers (2003) and “Graphic Design: A Problem-Solving Approach to Visual Communication”, Prentice-Hall Publications (1984). Elizabeth also writes short critical commentaries and event reviews and has published interviews with prominent designers and design educators in EYE (UK), AIGA Journal of Graphic Design (USA), Graphis (USA) Graphics International (UK), TipoGrafica (Argentina) and IDEA (Japan).

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Elizabeth Resnick
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