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Typography Assignments Samples

Like many of you, I'm a trained marketer and more of a "do-it-yourself" designer.

Sure, I read through The Marketer’s Crash Course in Visual Content Creation and learned some sweet PowerPoint and Photoshop tricks that have helped me a lot with my content marketing job. But I really wanted to take my design skills to the next level.

So I asked all my designer friends what my next step should be -- and every single one said to take a course on typography.

Why typography? Turns out that while the importance of typography is often overlooked, it plays a critical role in strengthening your brand, creating interest in your product, and highlighting your central message. Knowing that, I decided to sign up for a typography course at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Couldn't hurt to learn how to identify a good font from a bad one, right?

I learned a lot more than that. I realized that paying attention to even the littlest details of type can make all the difference in the world when you're laying out an email, ebook, or image for social media.

This is why I wanted to write this post: to share the most important learnings and resources with my fellow marketers. 

So, what do you say? Are you ready to take your DIY design skills to the next level? Let's get started.

Click on a section header below to jump to that section:

What Is Typography?

Before taking this course, typography -- to me, at least -- was more the art of scrolling through a dropdown menu until I found a font that looked like it could work. But it turns out there's a lot more to it than that.

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type, type meaning letters and characters.

Notice that it's about more than just the design of letters and characters; the arrangement of those letters and characters is just as big a part of it all. That refers to the selection of point size, line length, and spacing, both on a single line and throughout an entire page or piece of work.

 

Image Credit: Designspiration

To understand where the importance of arrangement comes in, I like to think back to Johannes Gutenberg's printing press. At one point in time, people practiced typography using printed materials -- meaning they were literally taking letters and characters and arranging them in physical space.

Today, thanks to computers, open source fonts, and scalable computer typography, it's a lot easier to arrange letters and characters. But that physical piece remains important, even in the digital sphere.

Why Is Typography Important? 

Typography is absolutely everywhere. Just look at your phone, a billboard, your coffee cup, or even the different styles used in this blog post. Every font, letter, and character arrangement plays a part in determining how a message is conveyed. 

Sure, it might seem trivial at times, but even the smallest of type adjustments can impact the look and feel of your work. For example, back in June, Facebook tested a new font on its users called Geneva. While the new font was only slightly thinner and lighter than the original, Helvetica, it made a noticeable difference to some. 

"The overall effect is a lighter, more modern looking block of text," explained Chris Mills for BGR.

Image Credit: Mashable

Same goes for when Apple changed its default font from the dramatically thin Helvetica Neue to one they developed in-house called San Francisco.

"The differences between Helvetica and San Francisco are subtle, even to the trained eye, but they’re there," wrote Liz Stinson for WIRED. "While still an austere sans serif, San Francisco is bolder and friendlier than Helvetica Neue. Based on the German typeface DIN, San Francisco gives characters more breathing room, which will make it easier to read on relatively tiny mobile screens. Tall and skinny, San Francisco is space-efficient, like Google’s custom typeface Roboto, which you could consider a close cousin to Apple’s font."

The takeaway here? The little details do matter. 

In fact, one of the only college courses Steve Jobs took was on calligraphy and typography, which he believed played a critical role in the success of Apple. As he once said in a Stanford University commencement speech, "If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts." Can you imagine a world where Apple products didn't have a focus on beautiful design? I certainly can't.

Once you realize how much thought goes into carefully selecting a typeface, it becomes much easier to recognize the differences between typefaces and understand why they might’ve been chosen in the first place. Take a look at some of the examples below to get a better sense of what I mean ... 

Image Credit: Awwwards

Image Credit: Awwwards

Image Credit: Awwwards

Image Credit: Awwwards

Ready to move on to some typography terminology? Let's go.

Typography Definitions & Terms

Typefaces vs. Fonts

If you thought these two words were interchangeable, you're not alone. But they actually mean two different things.

Typographer, Nick Sherman, once used a great analogy to explain the differences between the terms “typeface” and “font.” He suggested comparing these typography terms to the musical terms “song” and “mp3.” When you’re explaining how much you enjoy a particular tune, you say, “I love this song!” You wouldn’t say, “I love this mp3!” The song is the work of art, whereas an mp3 file is just the delivery mechanism.

The same rules apply in typography. You should use the word “typeface” when describing the creative work (i.e., what you see). This is a more abstract design term used when referring to the way a specific collection looks or feels. For example, Helvetica is a typeface.

If you’re describing the physical embodiment of the collection of letters and characters, you should use the term “font." It refers to what you use -- whether that’s a file on your computer or a case full of metal letters. This is the tangible representation of that collection of letters and characters. For example, Helvetica Bold and Helvetica Light Oblique are fonts.

Here's how you could use these two terms in a sentence:

  • “Wow. The typeface you chose really pulls this design together.”

  • “I’ll change the font size to 12pt so it fits in the box.”

The Anatomy of a Typeface

It’s way easier to communicate with designers when you actually speak their language, which is why it's important to understand the anatomy of a typeface. 

Each part of a letter has its own special term, similar to bones in a human body. Below, you’ll see three diagrams that explain the makeup of individual letters, how these elements interact with each other, and how they sit on a line.

For example, let's take with the word "Faulty" as it's shown in the picture below.

Here's how each of the terms here are defined:

  • Baseline: The line where the letters sit.
  • Cap height: The distance from the baseline to the top of the capital letter.
  • X-height: Located in between the baseline and the cap height, it's the height of the body of the lowercase letter. (In this case, it's the letters ‘a,' ‘u,' and ‘y.')
  • Bowl: The curved part of the character that encloses the circular or curved parts of some letters, like 'd,' 'b,' 'o,' 'D,' and 'B.' (In this case, it's that round shape sticking off the letter ‘a.')
  • Serif: The slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter in certain typefaces. (In this case, it's that little foot sticking off the letter ‘l.')
  • Descender: The longest point on a letter that falls beyond the baseline.

Now, let's look at the word "flash": 

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STUDENT VIDEO SAMPLES FROM PROF. SANTOS ► HERE
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PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

During Sophomore Portfolio Assessment students are required to complete a physical and digital portfolio containing a minimum of 8 portfolio pieces. In addition, they are given a new assignment to add to their portfolio. During this trimester I gave my students the task of conceptualizing & designing a campaign for a good cause. This student chose to create a non-profit organization called SOAR, specializing in helping single parents. As part of his campaign he designed a logo, app, infographic and various apparel.




INTERMEDIATE PRINT ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

As part of a collaboration project, I had my Junior Intermediate Print Class partner with FM Global to design an infographic
for their Reason Magazine. FM Global provided all of the specifications and brand standards for my students to conceptualize and design a single page or spread infographic focusing on tornados. Here are a few of the designs
done by the students.


WINNING DESIGN


ADVANCED PRINT ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

I assigned my class the task of rebranding either a theme park provided or a section of the theme park. This particular student decided to create a new section to an existing theme park. They were required to create environmental graphics, branding and a digital component.



PRINT PRODUCTION ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

As part of my Print Production course I introduce students to different vendors and paper suppliers. I required students to create their own paper sample book for a line and company of their choice. As with any of my assignments, all imagery must be entirely their own and all of the book binding & final prototyping was done by the student. This student chose the Neenah Royal Sundance line and created a complex die-cut/french fold book around whimsical design quotes and references.





PRINT DESIGN ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

In Print Design I address more complex package design. In this particular assignment students were required to create beverage branding for a hypothetical company. They needed to create a brand strategy and identify their target audience, demographic, etc. They had to design for a series, so it also introduced the concept of visual coding and consistancy across different media. It was required that students also create a website, in this case, this student went above and beyond and also created an app design for his company.




►PRINT PRODUCTION ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

As part of my Print Production course I introduce students to different vendors and paper suppliers. I required students to create their own paper sample book for a line and company of their choice. As with any of my assignments, all imagery must be entirely their own and all of the book binding & final prototyping was done by the student. This student chose the Neenah Environmental line.




TYPOGRAPHY ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

As an introduction to page layout I had my Typography class design a Typography book. I provided them with an article on the history of typography. They were required to use all of the text given, but the format and theme was entirely up to them. The only other requirement was that all imagery and/or illustration be entirely their own.




PRINT DESIGN ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK
For this project, students were given the task of conceptualizing, designing and prototyping (physically & digitally) the branding for a food truck of their choice. As part of the parameters of the project, they were required to design a logo, menu, packaging & vehicle graphics for the food truck. Below are two different student designs.




ADVANCED PRINT ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

For this particular assignment my students were required to design a catalog. I made an exception for this project they could use some borrowed hi-resolution imagery for their product shots. This student chose to mix her own photography and some borrowed images.




SENIOR PORTFOLIO ► SENIOR STUDENT WORK

Part of Senior Portfolio is meant for Seniors to bulk up their portfolios, as well as revisit any previous projects and get them to portfolio level. This was one of the solo projects I assigned, where students were required to design a campaign for a cause. It needed to include an infographic, logo, digital component and advertising. The student chose to create an organization that would help different student organizations raise funding for their music programs.




INTERMEDIATE PRINT ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

For this particular assignment students were asked to rebrand an existing restaurant chain. This student chose to rebrand Don Pablos. As part of the requirements, they had to create packaging, branding, a website and/or app and environmental graphics. The student created a lino-block to use to print the napkins.




PRINT DESIGN ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

For this project students were required to create a menu design for a restaurant of their choice and brand or rebrand the establishment depending on if the restaurant was hypothetical or existing.




SENIOR PORTFOLIO ► SENIOR STUDENT WORK

Part of Senior Portfolio is meant for Seniors to bulk up their portfolios, as well as revisit any previous projects and get them to portfolio level. This was one of the solo projects I assigned, where students were required to design a campaign for a cause. It needed to include an infographic, logo, digital component and advertising.




VISUALIZATION & DESIGN ► FRESHMAN STUDENT WORK

To introduce my freshman to 3 dimensional design, I had them create a label design for a product of their choice. This particular student chose to brand a beverage and go above and beyond and create 4 different flavors.




SENIOR PORTFOLIO ► SENIOR STUDENT WORK

Part of Senior Portfolio is meant for Seniors to bulk up their portfolios, as well as revisit any previous projects and get them to portfolio level. This was one of the solo projects I assigned, where students were required to design a campaign for a cause. It needed to include an infographic, logo, digital component and advertising.



ADVANCED ► SENIOR STUDENT WORK

During my Advanced Print class, I assigned my students the task of creating a brand for a hypothetical popcorn company. As part of the parameters, they were required to create a logo, packaging and advertisements.




►PRINT DESIGN ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

In print design I like to introduce my students to working with, as well as customizing templates. In this assignment I had my students design 12" album designs. All photographs and/or illustrations are entirely their own.



PRINT PRODUCTION ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

As part of my Print Production course I introduce students to different vendors and paper suppliers. I required students to create their own paper sample book for a line and company of their choice. As with any of my assignments, all imagery must be entirely their own and all of the book binding & final prototyping was done by the student. This student mimicked foil stamping with the use of a bone folder and metallic sharpie. She also chose to create an elaborate interactive experience for the user all around the Mohawk Carnival line.




VISUALIZATION & DESIGN ► FRESHMAN STUDENT WORK

To introduce my freshman to 3 dimensional design, I had them create a label design for a product of their choice. This particular student chose to brand a beverage and go above and beyond and create 4 different flavors. In order to print the white ink on the Neenah Desert Storm paper, this student created a lino block.




TYPOGRAPHY ► SOPHOMORE STUDENT WORK

As part of my Typography & Spatial Design course, I gave my students an article on the history of typography. We then had a day where we walked around the city and took photos of type. Their task was to conceptualize, format, bind and design a book that contained the entire article and any photos and/or illustration had to be entirely their own. This student chose to create a large format poster that when folded would fit into an envelope sleeve.




ADVANCED PRINT ► SENIOR STUDENT WORK

For this assignment I gave the class the task of designing and brand around their own hypothetical company for popcorn. This particular student chose to focus on creating a campfire kit targeted towards boy scouts.




DESIGN STUDIO II ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

At the time the new Nissan Cube was about to be released, so as part of a national campaign I had my students take part in the challenge of coming up with a new marketing campaign for the vehicle, specified by Nissan. This student created the a multi-page magazine advertisement as well as a billboard and full promo video you can view by CLICKING HERE All imagery and vector illustration was entirely his own.





TYPOGRAPHY ► FRESHMAN STUDENT WORK

Here are a few Typography Book designs done by several of my Freshman Typography students. They were given an article on the history of Typography, and they were required to conceptualize, design, bind and prototype a book around it. All imagery used in their designs is completely their own.



SENIOR PORTFOLIO ► SENIOR STUDENT WORK

Part of Senior Portfolio is meant for Seniors to bulk up their portfolios, as well as revisit any previous projects and get them to portfolio level. This was one of the solo projects I assigned, where students were required to design a campaign for a cause. It needed to include an infographic, logo, digital component and advertising. This student chose to create an organization/ campaign called Break The Cycle, for addicts and families of addicts.




INTERMEDIATE PRINT ► JUNIOR STUDENT WORK

Below is a collection of several menu and restaurant redesigns done by my junior Intermediate Print Design Class. They were able to select the restaurant of their choice, and then they were required to redesign the logo and print menu for a new target audience.




MORE WORK & EVENT PHOTOS ► HERE

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