A–Z Type Sketchbook and Poster
|Institution:||Massachusetts College of Art and Design|
|Level:||Foundations, Introductory, Non-design Majors, Sophomore, Undergraduate|
|Category:||Design Methods, Graphic Design, Print, Type Design, Typography, Visual Communication|
|Filed Under:||BA Program, Color Theory, Community College, Four-year Program, Iconography, Illustration, Non-design Majors, Online Learning, Photography, Poster, Printed Matter, Storytelling, Two-year Program, Visualization, Workshop|
The A–Z assignment, in its myriad forms, has been a foundational staple in art and design higher education for decades. As an undergraduate in the 1960s, I did the A–Z assignment using my 35mm camera capturing found letterform shapes in the built environment. As an instructor in the 1970s, I continued to assign this project as it was the perfect visual exercise to see typographic forms in the everyday environment. In 2011, inspired by Jessica Hische's Daily Drop Cap project: http://www.dailydropcap.com/ I recreated the A–Z assignment as a weekly sketchbook assignment and resulting poster for my Typography 1 class.
Each week students are challenged to find, photograph, design, draw, create and/or construct 3 letters of the alphabet in their wire-o sketchbook, until, by the 9th week of the semester, they have created all 26 letters.
The sketchbook is an opportunity for students to respond to individual letters of the alphabet typographically, without the limitations that formal assignments require. I assign a 9" x 12" wire-o sketchbook that gives the students sufficient space to work in.
We start each class period by displaying the assigned weekly letterforms enabling all students to see and be inspired by the creativity of their classmates on the subject of each letter. The A–Z Type Sketchbook is not formally critiqued during the semester.
Students love the freedom of this assignment. I encourage them to be very creative with each of the letter drawings, trying out different methods and media. Students will often explore dimensional materials like sewing, beading, pasting objects onto their drawing, painting, or photograph. The goal is to empower them to free with their weekly decisions and just enjoy the experience.
The sketchbook is turned in at the end of the semester and is graded based on students' initiative, inventiveness, creativity, and craftsmanship displayed throughout the course of the project.
To showcase the results of this assignment, students scan all 26 letters individually @300DPI RGB to fit comfortably within a 4-inch square. Using InDesign software, they create a 24" x 24" document with a border of 2 inches on all sides is drawn. Within the 20" x 20" students subdivide the space into twenty-five 4-inch squares. They place each letter within a 4-inch square (letters i & j will share one square). The file is saved as a PDF to present to the class, and the poster is printed out full-size to display in end-of-semester reviews (not in 2020).
Jessica Hische, Daily Drop Cap Project
Although I do emphasize that students should explore different ways to express their letterforms by trying out different methods and media, some students have a particular drawing style and will often create their letters within this style. As the goal of this assignment is to empower students to be free with their weekly decisions and just enjoy the experience, I do not criticize or penalize those students who do not explore more fully. I have dozens of successful posters and it was most challenging to choose only 5 to include with this brief.