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Arts 079: Typography Imarieannalee

University Course Catalog Description

This course provides an introduction to the study of the letterform as a cornerstone of graphic design. It focuses on how typography can be used as a communicative device as well as a graphic, compositional and expressive element. Areas explored include letterform anatomy, letterform analysis, measuring systems, typographic identification, and practical issues of setting and using type effectively.

This course is a requirement of students pursuing a BFA and Minor in Graphic Design. It is not a general education course.

Course Prerequisites

Arts 075 Graphic Design I or instructor's permission.

Course Overview

This course will provide the groundwork for innovative and effective typographic design practice upon which other concentrated courses within the Graphic Design area can build. The primary objective of Typography relies upon the exploration of letterforms in both theoretical and practical aspects. Typography is the most basic element of design. A solid understanding of its potential in this context will expand to other areas of design beyond this course.

We will examine and gain an understanding of the function of typography as communicative element and graphic element. Through the structure of studio lectures, demonstrations, discussions, projects, and critiques we will explore basic components of typography including but not limited to: letterform anatomy, letterform analysis, measuring systems, typographic identification, practical issues of setting and using type effectively, form and counterform issues, hierarchy, legibility, type as conduit for meaning, and content as well as other issues related to visual problem solving through typographic form.

Assignments are geared to applying and exploring the possibilities inherent in the theoretical principles introduced; they allow us to focus on meaning aesthetics and functionality in typographic design. Conceptual development, verbal articulation of visual solutions, research, production, and visual, verbal, and written presentation skills are all essential to this course.

Course Objectives/Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course the student should be able to:

  1. Appreciate typography’s role in design and understand its potential for effective communication
  2. Identify and distinguish between basic typefaces and identify nuances of specific letterforms.
  3. Apply typographic theory to type setting and use established norms of typography.
  4. Explore specifically the relationship between experimental/visual and functional typographic design with readability as its ultimate goal.
  5. Apply the principles of hierarchy and dominance to typographic elements.
  6. Organize words and images in design layouts using typographic structural systems, alignments and grids.
  7. Develop an understanding of the language of typography, which includes critical theory, critique, history, technology, and craftsmanship.

The objectives will be achieved by:

  1. Completing projects of increasing complexity
  2. In class & homework exercises
  3. Analysis & critique one’s own work & then apply the skill to the work of others
  4. Readings, lectures & discussion of readings

Tentative Class Exercises and Projects

  • Letter 10%
  • Word 10%
  • Text 15%
  • Grid 15%
  • Poster 20%
  • Book 25%

Students will submit a comprehensive CD containing all projects completed during this course at the conclusion of the semester to assess how the learning objectives of the course are being met. I reserve the right to adjust the projects and percentages as I see fit for the students’ learning benefit.

Retention of Student Work

Student work may be retained for assessment purposes. It may be used in teaching and in publication by the instructor.

BFA in Graphic Design Program Learning Objectives

The undergraduate degree in graphic design is intended to prepare you, the student, specifically in the common body of knowledge
and skills required for entry as a professional graphic designer. You should additionally possess the education necessary to move toward management and/or leadership positions within the field and also be ready for advanced graduate study in the field of graphic design.

Critical Thinking, Written Communication, Oral Communication, Information Literacy

Core Competencies and Program Learning Objectives

Class Project
Fulfilling Learning Objective/Competencies

Mastery Level

Solve communication problems, including the skills of problem identification, research and information gathering, analysis, generation of alternative solutions, prototyping and user testing,
and evaluation of outcomes.

Poster Book


Describe and respond to the audiences and contexts, which communication solutions must address, including recognition of the physical, cognitive, cultural, and social human factors that shape design decisions.

Poster Book


Create and develop visual form in response to communication problems, including an understanding of principles of visual organization/ composition, information hierarchy, symbolic representation, typography, aesthetics, and the construction of meaningful messages.

Letter / Word / Text / Grid / Poster /Book


Understand design-related tools and technology, including their roles in the creation, reproduction, and distribution of visual messages. Relevant tools and technologies include, but are not limited to, drawing, offset printing, photography, and time-based and interactive media (film, video, computer multimedia).

Letter / Word / Text / Grid / Poster /Book


Demonstrate proficiency in communication, presentation, and business skills necessary to engage in professional practice in graphic design including the ability to organize and manage design projects and to productively collaborate with others in a team. This competency is based on an understanding of organizational structures and working patterns in design, intellectual, economic, technological, and political contexts.

Project Critiques, group discussions


Demonstrate ability to form and defend value judgments about graphic design and to communicate art ideas, concepts, and requirements to professionals and laypersons related to the practice.

Letter / Word / Text / Grid / Poster /Book


Identify the major historical achievements, current issues, processes, and directions in the graphic design field as well as in art in general.

Class discussions


Identify current intercultural and global issues as they relate to visual communication. Apply ethical reasoning to create sustainable, and socially and environmentally responsible design solutions.

Class discussions


Required Texts & Learning Materials

Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton, Princeton Architectural Press, ISBN 1-56898-448-0
further materials at

Further Reading Resources

  • Typographic Design: Form and Communication (fourth edition) by Rob Carter, Ben Day, Philip Meggs. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (ISBN: 978-0-471-78390-9)
  • Typography by Emil Ruder
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst (second edition)
  • History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs (third edition)

Purchase following required supplies as needed

  • Three-ring binder notebook
  • Sketchbook, 11" x 14"
  • Drawing pencils; H, 2B, 2H
  • Bone folder
  • Eraser for Pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • French Curve
  • Micron Inking Pens (2), Size 03 (.30mm)
  • Black markers, a variety of widths or weights
  • Metal Rule 18" with Cork Back (for Cutting)
  • T-Square Steel 18"
  • 9" Triangles with Beveled Edge for Inking, 45°/90° and 30°/60°/90°
  • Circle Template with Beveled Edge for Inking 1/4" Diameter and Up
  • Masking Tape / White Artist Tape (lower tack)
  • White Bristol Smooth Finish, Pad 11” x 14”
  • Tracing Paper pad or 18”x50 Yards Roll
  • 3M Spray Mount or Rubber Cement and Rubber Cement pick up
  • Scissors
  • Xacto Knife, No. 1 and Pack of #11 Blades
  • Cutting Mat
  • Container to carry supplies (tackle box, plastic bucket, etc.)
  • Black solid core mat board 
  • Flash media jump drive
  • Portable hard drive

Lab Fee

There will be a lab fee of $30 to cover purchase of consumable some materials maintenance, printing costs, & upkeep of computer facilities. There will be no refund of this fee if the course is dropped after the drop deadline, third week of the semester.


Grading scale:

A          Minimum 95%
A-         Minimum 90%
B+        Minimum 87%
B          Minimum 83%
B-         Minimum 80%
C+         Minimum 77%
C          Minimum 73%
C-         Minimum 70%
D+        Minimum 67%
D          Minimum 60%
F          Below 60%

Below is university policy followed when administering letter grades on projects, papers, & other tasks that do not utilize a point or percentage system.

A: Exceptional, means objectives of the assignment are fully understood as applied to the particular assignment & an intriguing balance exists between clear communication of the message & creativity. The assignment is executed with impeccable craftsmanship, accuracy, & neatness & exists as part of the complete design development of thumbnail, rough, & finished comp; a quality piece of work. Minimum 95%

B: High, objectives are met & design principles are primarily well understood. May be lacking in overall quality, craftsmanship, clarity, or design development; good overall effort. Minimum

C: Average, the minimum requirements of the assignment have been met but not exceeded. Extra effort & insight into development of the basic assignment are necessary to produce higher quality work.

D: Below average, there exist problems in completely understanding the concept or objectives of an assignment. Incompleteness in several areas of craftsmanship, design, creativity, clarity, or development is also apparent; see instructor.

F: Unacceptable, please see instructor immediately for further clarification.

Areas of evaluation:
Professionalism, Process & Realization:

Project grades are the result of three areas of evaluation: Professionalism, Process & Realization. At any time during the semester, you may meet with the instructor for evaluations of current grades or dissatisfactions with a grade that you received on any project & how it may be improved upon.

Professionalism: Your grade in the area of professionalism will focus on issues of attendance, preparation, deadlines, critique participation, personal attitude & articulation - the ability to speak & write clearly about ideas/concepts presented in class. Projects for this course will be assigned similar to the way that professional designers receive "design briefs" detailing the specific requirements for a project. The student will then be expected to document the creative process, which they follow in developing individual design solutions. Successive projects will be assigned for the class, & modified or customized to a certain degree based on the overall understanding of previous assignments.

Process: Faculty rely on classroom observation in evaluating a student’s process in developing a project. It will focus generally on how thoroughly the student pushes visual exploration & concept research through such processes as sketching/thumbnails & creative/thoughtful writing. Students, who attend class, make visible their process investigations & are prepared for the scheduled activities/discussions, reveal valuable information about their performance. In the absence of such information, faculty must resort to an unsatisfactory rating in evaluating the student’s process. When handing in an assignment, you may be required to include photocopies of relevant pages from the journal & other process materials in addition to the actual assignment.

Realization: The final evaluation of work (realization) involves more than totaling the grades on individual projects &/or determining that all assignments have been completed. Faculty assess student’s abilities in realizing concepts & controlling the visual elements of communication throughout the semester. This includes such issues as craftsmanship & the improvement & progressive mastery of increasingly complex material are evaluated.

Grade Dissemination: For each project & assignment, you will receive a detailed rubric that will break down the grade according to your performance within the areas of Professionalism, Process & Realization. Each area will be customized to the project’s specifications & learning objectives.

Late Work Policy: All projects & exercises are due on the day & time given, always at the beginning of class unless otherwise noted. A late accommodation is given only with the understanding that emergencies & unforeseen circumstances occasionally arise. A late project must be turned in by the following class & will be marked down one letter grade accordingly. A later submission will not be accepted. Missing a scheduled critique or presentation will result in an “F” for that project.

              Grades of "Incomplete": The current university policy concerning incomplete grades will be followed in this course. Incomplete grades are given only in situations where unexpected emergencies prevent a student from completing the course & the remaining work can be completed the next semester. Your instructor is the final authority on whether you qualify for an incomplete. Incomplete work must be finished by the end of the subsequent semester or the “I” will automatically be recorded as an “F” on your transcript.

Technology & Media

Email: Email is the preferred communication tool. Please check your university email regularly since I may send out important announcements pertaining to the class. When emailing me, please follow standard email conventions including addressing me & signing your communications. I check my email regularly & will try answer your questions within one day (with the exception of weekends or holidays.)

Laptop Usage: You are welcome to bring your own laptop & use it in class. Although it is possible to use different computer platforms, the Apple Macintosh is the industry standard used in the majority of professional design fields & is the platform used in the Visual Arts Department.

All programs in the computer labs are licensed for the machines in the labs only. Students are prohibited from copying programs from the computers in the lab for their personal use. It is not only a violation of University policy; it is a violation of the law.

Cell Phone Usage: Per university policy & classroom etiquette; mobile phones, iPods, etc. must be silenced during all classroom & lab lectures. Those not heeding this rule will be asked to leave the classroom/lab immediately so as to not disrupt the learning environment

Course Policies/Student Expectations
Student Requirements & Responsibilities:

  • A minimum of six studio hours in class & three hours outside of class per week.
  • Three-ring binder notebook for lectures, sketches, & for assignment sheets & critiques. This notebook should be brought class & utilized for recording lectures & demonstrations, as well as drawings & sketches.
  • Active participation in all phases of the course, attendance, lecture / demonstrations / critiques
  • Materials described in the attached materials list.
  • Projects for this course will be assigned similar to the way that professional designers receive "design briefs" detailing the specific requirements for a project. The student will then be expected to document their creative process, which they follow in developing individual design solutions. Successive projects will be assigned for the class, and modified or customized to a certain degree based on the overall understanding of previous assignments.

Expectations & Work Load: The basic structure of this course will revolve around assigned studio problems. There will be time given to lecture & class discussion, practical tutorials, exercises, & assignments. A significant amount of time will be also spent in critique of student work.

It is very important that all students engage themselves in a discourse of the work at h&. In turn I will give each of you conscientious feedback on as much of your work as is possible. All students should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time outside of class time for research, process & final production of assigned projects.

Students are expected to think creatively & critically as well as participate thoughtfully in class. As a good portion of this class is based in critique of student work, it is expected that all students will participate in this dialogue so that we may all benefit from the feedback. All comments are expected to be constructive & honest. It is the group dynamic that will inform & educate our individual projects. Be open to the critique process, as your lack of participation will impact your final grade.

Class Preparation: Students are expected to arrive to class on time & be prepared for work with the requested supplies/materials/assignments. Class preparation is essential to receiving feedback on one’s work. Lack of preparation on a continual basis will affect your final grade. If you happen to miss a class or lecture, please make arrangements with a fellow student who can either take notes for you &/or get the required handouts, etc. While I will be happy to clarify information for students who are confused, I cannot repeat lectures or elaborate project descriptions on an individual basis.

Controversial Content: Since a portion of the course will include studying art/design throughout history, there may be times when some of this art may have nudity in it. If you feel uncomfortable with this, please let me know & we can make accommodations.

Attendance Policy: No more than three absences are allowed per semester. Students are required to make prior arrangements with the instructor whenever possible. Students are expected to be on time & to participate for the duration of the class. The student’s grade will be negatively affected & lowered one full grade point for each absence exceeding the three allowed. So, for example, if you were to earn a B+ & had four absences, your final grade will be C+.

Students should be informed that the allotted absences are to accommodate routine illness, weddings, transportation troubles, etc. Doctor appointments, advisor conferences, trips to supply stores & labs, employment, etc. should not be scheduled to conflict with class. Religious Observances cited in the handbook will be followed.

Tardiness is defined as being fifteen minutes late for class or departing before class has been formally dismissed by the teacher. Three tardies will be counted as one absence. Tardiness that exceeds one hour will be counted as an absence. Each student is responsible for his/her own recorded attendance. If you are late it is your responsibility after that class period to make sure the teacher has you added to the roll.

Open Studio Hours Policy:
Studio Hours are:

M, T, W, TR 8:30 to 9:00 p.m.
F 8:00 to 5:00 p.m.
(Sat) Sun 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Plan your schedule so that you will be able to complete your assignments during these hours. If you have exhausted these times & need additional time to finish projects or have extenuating circumstances that keep you from finishing during these scheduled hours you must receive written permission to stay in the studio beyond the normal hours. You must obtain this permission by 5:00 p.m. on the day in question. This written permission will allow you to work until midnight only. No students will be allowed in the building after 12:00 midnight.

Honor Code: The University Honor Code is an essential element in academic integrity. It is a violation of the Honor Code to give or receive information from another student during an examination; to use unauthorized sources during an examination; or to submit all or part of someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own. If a student violates the Honor Code, the faculty member may refer the matter to the Office of Student Life. If found guilty, the student may be penalized with failure of the assignment or failure of the course. The student may also be reprimanded or suspended from the University. A complete statement of the Honor Code may be found in the Student Handbook, Tiger Lore. Section 1.1 – 1.3

A violation of the principle includes, but is not limited to: Plagiarism: Intentionally or knowingly presenting the work of another as one’s own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source). The sole exception to the requirement of acknowledging sources is when the ideas, information, etc., is common knowledge. Artists & designers occasionally work from photographs or other imagery. This is allowed & is sometimes necessary, however the artist’s intent must be clear that the new work was not made to merely duplicate someone else’s artwork in another medium or form & claim it as one’s own.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you are a student with a disability, who requires accommodations, please contact Mr. Daniel Nuss, Coordinator of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities in Bannister Hall, room 101, for information on how to obtain an Accommodation Request Letter. Contact: or (209) 946-2879. Then please schedule a meeting with me during office hours or some mutually convenient time to arrange the accommodation(s). These services may include, but are not limited to, extended time for completing exams, alternative testing procedures, note takers, & transportation to & from classes. The Policy Manual can be found at:

University Writing Center

The University Writing Center is a free resource for student, where a trained writing consultant will work individually with you on anything you are writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing.

Last Day to Add/Drop Classes: September 8
Withdrawal Deadline: October 30
Final Examination: Thursday, Dec 7 (you need to attend to pass the class.)

Please retain a copy of your syllabus. It is not only an outline of the course it represents a contract between you, the instructor & the University.


Syllabus PDF
marie anna lee • assistant professor • department of the visual arts • university of the pacific•