Project Three


Normally we do a Typeface Design project for this part of the class, but to better prepare for using type on our currency designs for Project 4, we will be doing two shorter assignments instead. These assignments and the accompanying readings, field trip, and lecture material are meant to help you gain an appreciation for how much work goes into typeface design, and to encourage you to use type in inventive ways as a graphic designer.

Part 1: Type Anatomy Diagram

Part 2: Type Anatomy Poster (see below)

Required During This Project

  • Read “Formstorming,” “Modularity,” “Grid” chapters from Graphic Design: The New Basics
  • Read  “Thinking with Type” (Anatomy through Font Formats sections)
  • Visit MASC to see type design and currency examples (in class)
  • Watch “Jonathan Hoefler: Typeface Design” from “Abstract: The Art of Design” in class

Type Anatomy Poster

This poster showcases the typeface Officina, which was designed by German designer Erik Spiekermann in 1990. (de Jong, Creative Type, p.274)

Create a poster design that showcases the anatomy, functionality, and beauty of a typeface that has historical significance but also contemporary appeal (see options for typefaces below). Essentially, this is a more expansive and polished version of the type anatomy diagram assignment, this time using a digital typeface. Many of the historic typefaces we saw in the type sample books in Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections have been adapted for use as digital fonts.

Your poster design should showcase the font at large, medium and small scales. Show the viewer how the typeface behaves as a large headline, as a single word, a single line, a paragraph, a column, etc. What do the italic and bold versions look like and how do they behave compared to the regular weight and posture? Are there additional weights and widths of the font available, such as a black version, a semibold version, a condensed version, a wide version? Try to find inventive ways to point to the anatomy of the typeface without always explicitly labelling, though you may explicitly label as well to make sure you show the same important components you looked for last week:

  1. Relationship of cap height to x-height (Uppercase versus lowercase)?
  2. Ascender height: Does it extend above cap height?
  3. Descender height?
  4. Baseline: How do descenders and bowls of letters interact with the baseline? Do the curves at the bottom of the letters overhang the baseline?
  5. Serif or sans serif? What are the serifs like if they are present?
  6. What are the stems like?
  7. What are the spines like?
  8. What are the terminals like?
  9. What are the counters like? (Form/counterform = positive/negative)
  10. Overall Weight: Light, Regular, Bold, Black?
  11. Overall Width: Condensed, Medium, Extended?
  12. Overall Contrast: High contrast, low contrast, no contrast?
  13. Overall Posture: Roman or Italic?
  14. Type Classification: Would you say this is Humanist/Oldstyle, Modern, Slab Serif, Humanist Sans Serif, or Geometric Sans Serif? Why? (Note: I have omitted the Transitional option for now, because it is hard to discern for a beginner)
  15. Are ligatures designed as part of the typeface?
  16. Are small caps designed as part of the typeface?

In addition to being a practical communication about type anatomy—how your typeface behaves when used in real life—try to make your poster design as visually engaging as possible. Think about your readings from Graphic Design: The New Basics on “Point, Line, Plane,” “Scale,” and “Hierarchy”: How can these design principles help you make engaging design decisions for your poster?


Choose one of these typefaces to explore on your poster design. Make sure to check the other styles available for this font family. Each one should at least have a bold and italic version, if not more (semibold, condensed, etc.). Also check the Glyphs panel in Illustrator to see if your font family has ligatures. NOTE: Some of these typefaces may not be available if you are working on a PC, so check ahead of time if you plan to move back and forth between personal and lab computers. Not all computers have the same fonts installed.

Each link above takes you to Wikipedia page on the typeface. This history may be of use to use as you create your poster.

Technical Specifications:

  • Make sure your poster states the name of the typeface clearly, so the viewer understands the purpose of the poster. If you know it, you might also want to include the name of the typeface designer.
  • Primarily use black and white in your poster design. Use of color should be limited.
  • Primarily use instances of the font itself in your poster design. You may use other vector graphics, such as shapes and lines. Don’t use raster graphics.
  • Use Illustrator to design your poster
  • Poster should be 11×17, oriented vertically or horizontally. You may trim edges if you want a full-bleed effect.
  • In Illustrator, be aware of keeping your objects organized on your Layers panel
  • In Illustrator, be aware that you can convert type to outlines. You most likely DO NOT want to convert to outlines for this assignment, because you want to edit your type easily using the Type tool, the Character panel, and the Paragraph panel.
  • Name your file “”
  • Export your final file as a high resolution JPG (Export > Export As) and save it as a PDFs(File > Save As) in addition to saving as an AI file.

What You Will Hand In:

Printed: Print out your design at 11×17 and trim edges if needed. If you go to Cougar Copies, you will want to print from PDF or JPG. You can print 11×17 in color and/or black and white in Avery 103 as well.

Digital Files: Place all your files in a folder called “yourlastname-type”. This folder will contain your AI, PDF and JPG files (see Technical Specs above). Zip the folder before uploading via the relevant assignment page on Blackboard. The folder must be compressed as a ZIP.

This illustration from Timothy Samara’s book, “Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual,” is another good resource for learning type anatomy vocabulary, along with the assigned Letter reading from Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type website.

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Extra: A Few Interesting Questions

What is the difference between font and typeface? You can think of the typeface as the design itself: The way the letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols are drawn. The font, whether digital, wood, or metal, is the vehicle that transports the design into practical use on paper or on screen.

What is a TrueType font?

A TrueType font is a font standard and is the major type of font found in both Mac and Microsoft Windows operating systems. It consists of a single binary file which contains a number of tables related to printer and screen versions of the typeface. Developed by Apple and Microsoft, it gave font developers the much needed flexibility for control of the precise characteristics for font display.

TrueType fonts come pre-installed in both Mac and Windows operating systems. Unlike other font formats, which use rasterization for hinting instructions, the hinting instructions reside in the font. This helps TrueType fonts to be faithfully reproduced right down to the pixels. It also has a far better control over the rasterization.

Since it is a single file, TrueType fonts are easier to manage. Excellent scalability and readability are benefits of TrueType fonts. They can be scaled to any size and are equally readable at all sizes. The glyphs associated can be shown at any resolution and at any specific point size.

What is an OpenType font?

OpenType is a cross-platform font file format developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft. Adobe has converted the entire Adobe Type Library into this format and now offers thousands of OpenType fonts.

The two main benefits of the OpenType format are its cross-platform compatibility (the same font file works on Macintosh and Windows computers), and its ability to support widely expanded character sets and layout features, which provide richer linguistic support and advanced typographic control.