Alphanumeric character transmuter; Euan McVey, ca 1997.
building character
  1. copy, by hand, five letters of a single alphabet, upper or lower case.
    baseline to top of top of a capital H can be our guide, not less than 3/4 inch.
    (some letters ascend higher than that top, and others descend below it.)
    be mindful of the x-height (height of lower-case x).
  2. choose from:
    Adobe Jenson Pro
    Garamond Premier Pro
    ITC New Baskerville Std
    Adobe Caslon Pro
    Fournier Std
    Bauer Bodoni Std
    Gill Sans Std
    Optima Std
  3. do this until your letters are perfect, and keep all imperfect versions.
  4. annotate. indicate best versions of each letter.
  5. create a sixth and new (imaginary) letter based on elements from your other drawings.
  6. provide this artwork by end of Monday; instructor will scan and assemble a catalogue and/or webpage to present selected details, and return originals on Wednesday 12 December.
time3 December
conclusion 12 December
objectivesClose attention to letter forms, strokes, weight, contrast;
discrimination should improve with practice.

Gridded paper will be available for those who wish to try it.
Meanwhile, we’ll be perfecting earlier projects, and dealing with EPUB output of the aphorisms book.

philosophical papers
specsbook of typographical specimens (may be ornaments) and aphorisms, to be prepared for print and EPUB formats
time14 November
conclusion 3 December
objectiveswork with specimens (image) and aphorisms (text); consideration of EPUB issues

Minimum, eight aphorisms. Each on its own spread, facing or otherwise relating to a specimen design in which a typeface is demonstrated. As we have done previously, fonts used must be indicated on each spread; for the aphorism, this includes point size and leading. Book must include title page.

  1. eight aphorisms, each on its own spread, facing (or otherwise relating to) a specimen design;
  2. eight specimens, each using a phrase (or even two or three words) from the aphorism it faces.

The specimen designs may be ornamental or legible, or a combination of both.

We will be generating printed books from the InDesign file, but also exporting as a EPUB. This will probably require us to export the specimens as an EPS, and bring them back in as a (flat) picture.

Collections of aphoristic writing will be available; you may source your own aphorisms from elsewhere, however.

The Historia Type Specimen book (2010) — among the most luscious and quirkily intelligent specimen books I’ve encountered — here.

But see also Hermann Zapf, his Manuale typographicum, subtitled 100 typographical arrangements with considerations about types, typography and the art of printing selected from past and present, printed in eighteen languages. (1968)

specsinventory the contents of a contained space: room, drawer, closet, backpack. even brain.
present this list in (minimum) two ways:
  1. numbered list, multicolumn grid
  2. as annotations of an image (photographic or drawn) of the container
timeassigned 31 October
conclusion 7 November
objectivesstructured information, typographic details (paragraph styles).
working type with image.

annotate each entry: some comment, anecdote, further description of each object.
present this list in (minimum) two ways:

  1. numbered list, multicolumn grid
    as in a table of contents, for example. remember indents, first line (minus) indent.
  2. as annotations of an image (photographic or drawn) of the container
    type can be worked into the image, or around its edges. you might use footnote-like numbers.

All elements should be governed by paragraph (and character) styles.
dimensions : 11 x 17 inches (or larger).

Paul Tankard. Reading Lists, Prose Studies 28: 3 (December 2006): 337-60. (not required, but highly recommended and entertaining)

from Edward Tufte books

See index to tears in 1896 edition of Henry Mackenzie (1745-1831 *) his sensibility novel The Man of Feeling, first published in 1771, here.

The illustration below examples use of index figures within the picture, with annotations below. —

composite from pages 99-100, Joh. Amos Comenii, Orbis Sensualium Pictus (London, 1777) here.

Orbis Sensualium Pictus was first published in 1658 in Nuremberg, in a bilingual Latin-German edition, and appeared in various forms and languages in subsequent years; this edition was Englished by Charles Hoole for the Use of Young Latin Scholars. Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670, *) was a teacher, writer, preacher (and bishop), a proponent of universal education, and is sometimes referred to as the father of modern education.

What else typically has type/lettering in the image? —


errors and corrections
specsCD package 14cm wide, 12.5cm high, 1cm spine
image: derive from glitched jpeg
text: the words errors and corrections, plus a name (yours?), and (optionally) a label name.
fonts: open (but see cautions about serif/sans serif with abstract image)
timeassigned 24 October
conclusion 29 or 31 October
objectivesNotwithstanding the CD format, the main point of this exercise is to work text and (abstract) image.

Here’s the sequence:

  1. take a .jpg file
  2. change extension to .txt
  3. open file in text edit, and do some messing around (add, delete, move around)
  4. save as .txt
  5. change extension back to .jpg
  6. open in Photoshop. voilà!

A resulting JPEG may not be a stable file, e.g., it might open/display differently in Photoshop and in Preview, for example. Or it might not open at all. One way to stabilize it is via screengrabs: apple + shift + 3, simultaneously. Or it may not work at all, and you need to try a simpler intervention. Follow your instincts: maybe it’s better to manipulate gobbledygook code in the middle of the jpg/txt file, rather than beginning or end.

A tip: for higher resolution, you can view at larger size, and do multiple screengrabs (that you’ll need to reassemble in Photoshop, into a single image). Another tip: you may find that a black and white (gray scale image) once manipulated, displays color!

Use that image (and perhaps some of the source image from which you derived it) as your art. I suggest that you create an InDesign file, facing pages switched off. File > document setup > 29cm wide, 12.5 cm high. (You’ll probably need to create a generic "letter" size file, then InDesign > Preferences > Units and increments > picas to centimeters, and then resize the document.)

And another (tip): Consider appropriateness of sans serif vs serif font(s) in your design. It may want to share the technical character of the graphic (hence, sans serif); or it may want to work against this (and so, serif font, e.g., Garamond). And: it will probably make some sense to think color for your type.

See Goldsmith’s video at vimeo. Goldsmith is responsible for ubu web (a digital repository of avant garde film, music, poetry that merits repeated visits), and author of Uncreative Writing (2011), which is in Montserrat’s library.

example (as shown in class) —

raw image, copied from Current Towercam image from the Mt. Wilson 150-Foot Solar Tower (here reduced to 600 x 450 pixels).

detail of code in above jpeg, after given .txt suffix and opened in text editor.

same file, reopened as jpeg after interventions in the code.

Cropped detail of same file, at aspect ratio (2.9 x 1.25) required for front, back and spine of CD cover.

If used in this way, image would pixellate in printed version 29 centimeters wide; that is probably ok (given the abstract nature of the glitch version), but you could also increase resolution as well.

Now with some sample text.

Optional: now with detail from original image.

The main point of this exercise is to work text with (abstract) image.

When talking about the relationship of intended voice to type, I mentioned Voice-of-God Don LaFontaine (1940-2008). He (and some other movie voice specialists) are worth listening to —
Don LaFontaine: The Voice
5 Guys in a Limo
Don LaFontaine: Geico Spot


good form
specsthree posters (10 x 16 inches), each containing
  1. the expression good form;
  2. a graphic — drawing, photograph, even typographic element — evidencing good form (or its opposite); and
  3. typeset language that names and/or explains the good form that is shown.
timeassigned 17 October
conclusion 29 October
objectivesorchestrating type (two units of type) with image, with attention to consistency within single and across three pieces;
consideration of an algebra of units a, b and c;
composition of three elements (with attention to the numerology of three in emblems, advertising, and cognitive processing (clumping).


General concept (or theme) is good form. could be etiquette, could be about typography, ballet/ice skating/diving, anything in which good form matters. these may work straight or ironic.

One element of textual language (either the words good form or the other text unit) should be emphasized.

To avoid confusion (because there will be three of these, each with three units), I will limit the following comments to only one of the pieces.

Its meaning could not be derived from only the expression good form, or the graphic alone, or the explanatory text alone. all three elements together generate its meaning.

this exercise might be thought of as a kind of advertising, except that we’re not necessarily selling anything. The important aspect is to get all three elements involved in generating meaning, and to use the type in an expressive, dramatic way.

All of the elements (text and image) can be stolen or original; the important part is their combination.

The size allows us to print out on tabloid paper, and trim to allow full bleed (for those who want to bleed any type or image off the page).



Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing (New Revised, 1897 edition) *

Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing (New Revised, 1897 edition)

Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing (New Revised, 1897 edition)

Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing (New Revised, 1897 edition)

Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing (New Revised, 1897 edition)


  • Thomas Edie Hill. The new revised Hill’s manual of social and business forms: a guide to correct writing with approved methods in speaking and acting in the various relations of life. Chicago, 1897

    This and earlier editions are available online; several are listed here.

  • Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners.

    Emily Post, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. Illustrated with private photographs and facsimiles of social forms. New York and London, Funk & Wagnalls, 1923

  • A correct card is white, but not intensely white. It is fine in texture, not too heavy, or stiff, and in size it follows a prevailing mode. An exaggeration of the usual shape is bad form.

    Abby Buchanan Longstreet, Cards: Their Significance and Proper Usage, as governed by the usages of New York society / by the author of Social etiquette of New York. New York and London: F.A. Stokes, c1889.


I found myself talking about renaissance/baroque emblems, consisting of (1) motto; (2) allegorical image; and (3) explanatory text. and will show some old (and new) emblems on Monday.

a few comments about emblems can be found here.

the artist whose name I could not remember on Wednesday, is Jenny Holzer, famed for her truisms displayed in public places, often electronically.

three, seven

George A Miller (1920-2012, *, The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. The Psychological Review 63:2 (March 1956): 81-97
online version here

Key concept in Miller’s paper is the idea of chunking in which small amounts of information are processed, then sent forward/up for further processing together with other chunked memory elements. The concept is also addressed, from another perspective, in Bob Snyder, Music and Memory (2000, *), which I highly recommend at least for a quick scan (start with the glossary!).


specsA résumé of yourself, or a fictional or real other. Minimum two versions:
  1. gridded, analytical (= contents broken down and arranged spatially)
  2. narrative (contents handled in sentences, paragraphs; need not exactly duplicate content in #1)
    Both of the above on 8.5 x 11 inch paper.
    and optional:
  3. another form, any size, need not be flat paper.
timeassigned 3 October
conclusion mid-October
objectivesPreparation of content for different formats (here, multi-column grid, and narrative);
differentiation of content types, and consistent formatting of those via paragraph styles (making use of space before and after, roman / italic / smallcaps; etc.


A résumé seeks to describe us so that an interested party can determine whether there’s a match. It says, I know things. I know how to do things, more than one thing. It says this with text, but it also communicates a good amount about us before a single word is read.

The résumé groups attributes, chronologically, categorically. It tends to take the form of a list, or lists, often with multiple columns.

If your resume is of someone else, let it be someone of interest to you, e.g., Suzanne Valadon.

Start with a list. As you compile this list, and then review it, you will see that entries group themselves, suggest yet other like entries. This will form you substance of your cv.

Groups of entries will have headings (either conceptual, e.g., education or body scars, or chronological, e.g., childhood, first Grade, 10th Grade, etc). Your design and use of grid might allow you to present these headings above those entries, or perhaps aligned to their left.

Both required versions should employ paragraph styles. With the multi-column résumé version, give careful thought to grouping elements — separating them from other entries in same class (e.g., jobs, or schools) by judicious use of space after settings. For both versions, differentiate categories of entries by italics, small caps. Use proportional oldstyle numerals (glyphs or, better, Opentype Features > proportional oldstyle).

Résumés for some positions are digitally scanned, and subjected to searches/filtering for key terms. Some complex, multi-column resumes are evidently not suited to this process. We read an article on this topic, Your Résumé vs. Oblivion (by Lauren Weber, The Wall Street Journal, 24 January 2012). NPR covered the same topic, also with Weber, here. It is not obvious that this is the case for design positions; however, the article is worth a read.

Garamond and/or Univers only. Must include date.


specsIndex any source text (20 entries, minimum). Six columns, as follows:
  1. author, title, source
  2. text
  3. text
  4. text
  5. line numbers
  6. index, indicating not page but line numbers
timeassigned mid-October
conclusion mid-October
objectivesThis in between lingodroids poetry and next (résumé) exercise, to bring us into synch and to remind us of our grid, paragraph styles.

for line numbers, use tab (align right)
for paragraph styles, remember Opentype Features, figure style > proportional oldstyle
Indent index entries, e.g., 0p6, but first line indent -0p6)

Showing grid and (blue lines) baseline grid.

Presentation view.

Look at some indexes. Have fun with these, whatever your source text.


specsA book containing minimum five poems, of any length or size. Poems may be conventional or concrete/visual. All language is to be drawn from a single (unpromising) source.
No limit on book size, but keep in mind production realities.
conclusion 1 October

To work and gain fluency with

  1. expressive and informational aspects of typographic design, and synthesize these;
  2. master page-defined multi-page layouts incorporating typographic content (poetry) and paratextual (e.g., title page, page numbers) elements;
  3. sequencing, expressive and conventional poetic forms.

There are two essential categories of information in this book :

  1. its content —
    the poetry itself, which can be understood as exhibits (exhibit A, exhibit B, and so forth, as in a technical book); and
  2. the paratext —
    the parts that belong more properly to the book — identification and explanation of the content, navigation through the content, navigation through the book.
    One category must not be confused for the other.
    There’s the book, and the poems. We do both.

before the book, the poems

The poetry might take two forms: (1) conventional poetry, set up in lines, possibly involving rhymes and metrics, etc., and (2) concrete poetry, emphasizing form over literal meanings of words, and yet derived from those words.

Concrete poetry is a movement, sometimes also called visual poetry (often abbreviated as vispo) that derives meaning from physical elements of words and letters, arranged sometimes in shapes, but sometimes in ways that suggest process or some witty inflection of a word or phrase’s meaning or meanings. More typically, a concrete poem defies a conventional reading.

All five must be created by you. You may mix forms in the book (conventional, concrete). Vocabulary is limited to what you find in the text provided by the instructor.

Create your poems on page sizes that you think you might develop into a book. Thus, any page size larger than 8½ x 11 will be a bad idea (because spreads must be printable on 11 x 17 paper).

You may use a full spread for one poem. And even more pages than that! You might also present five conventional poems, each illustrated by a concrete or visual poem.

after the poems, the book

The completed volume that must integrate:

  1. front and back matter
    including half title and title pages, table of contents, a two-page introduction (drawn straight from the article, two pages), colophon or bibliography
  2. the poetry itself, and
  3. paratext — page numbers, running heads or footers (if any), table of contents. other?
  4. Use only the two typefaces we have explored so far : Univers and Garamond Premier Pro.

Use paragraph and character styles wherever appropriate, and presumably for all paratextual elements.

So that paratextual elements do not compete with poetic content (either concrete or conventional poetry), it is logical that paratextual elements will be somewhat restrained, hence text faces whether roman or italic. Exploit the physical features of the page (edges) and the book itself (gutter, sequence, the materiality of the paper).

Text drawn from
Ruth Schulz, Arren Glover, Michael J. Milford, Gordon Wyeth, Janet Wiles. Lingodroids: Studies in Spatial Cognition and Language.
2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 9-13, 2011, Shanghai, China

PDF of the above text can be accessed via
Stephen Ornes, Robots Invent Their Own Language / But no word yet on when they plan to overthrow us. Discover Magazine, 12 September 2011 (here)
or directly here (PDF).

Whose 30 lovely, dada-istic toponyms are

boho   —   fexo   —   fili   —   futo   —   gige   —   heto   —   higo   —   jaro   —   jaya   —   juhe   —   kiyi   —   kopo   —   kuzo   —   liye   —   mira   —   pize   —   pucu   —   qoze   —   reya   —   rije   —   ruhe   —   sihu   —   soqe   —   vaji   —   xala   —   xapo   —   yaro   —   yifi   —   zuce   —   zuya

Topynyms in red from the initial lexicon.

Lingodroids are language learning robots that play location language games to construct shared lexicons for places, distances, and directions.
Taken from this good (simple) overview of the lingodroids project.

Why this language?
Previously, we’ve drawn on language from geological texts, and from poetry about rocks. This allowed us to emphasize space, location in space, and the page as landscape whose features include edges and the gutter. The lingodroid language still involves space, also movement, and dada-istic terms.


Project briefs, resources, examples of current and past student work.
being added retrospectively.

building character
philosophical papers
errors and corrections
good form posters
cv / résumé
lingodroids (poetry book)
alphabets / letter spaces / words
grid / paragraph studies
grid studies I (6 cols, 9 rows)
Form and Space (tracings)

syllabus   pdf


Sandee Cohen. InDesign CS6 (Visual Quickstart Guide, 2012) — required

Adobe Font Folio 11, Type Reference Guide
recommended (and always in classroom)

Cyrus Highsmith. Inside Paragraphs (2012)


Adobe Typography Primer pdf
a 20-page concise and useful overview; includes glossary. recommended.

Letter Anatomy
from web component of Lupton’s Thinking with Type.


Comments/questions to jmcvey.