The Six-Word Memoir
|Institution:||Massachusetts College of Art and Design|
|Category:||Graphic Design, Print, Typography, Visual Communication|
|Filed Under:||BA Program, Brainstorming, Color Theory, Community College, Composition, Four-year Program, Grids, Non-design Majors, Poster, Process, Storytelling, Two-year Program|
Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Can you describe your life in six words?
Six-Word Memoirs is a project founded in November 2006 by the online storytelling publication Smith Magazine, which challenged readers to write their memoirs in six words—no more, no less.
A memoir is any nonfiction narrative writing based on the author's personal memories or experiences. For this assignment, you will be asked to “reflect’ on a personal memory or experience articulated in six words. You will then be tasked to design a visual response illustrating the meaning of the ‘memoir’ using typography, a minimal amount of imagery, and color.
• To explore and interpret meaning through typographic form
• To employ the elements and principles of design to create a strong visual message in the form of a poster
Size: 24 x 24 inches (square) or 24 x 34 inches (horizontal or vertical). The format should respond to the concept.
Media: any medium that can be reproduced digitally.
Copy: the six words of your memoir.
Begin the design process by writing and conceptualizing at least ten six-word memoirs.
Choose five of the six-word memoirs and brainstorm many possible visualizations in sketch form.
Review the sketch visualizations you created from the five six-word memoirs you chose.
Select two sketches to develop into two half-size (12 x 12-inch square or 12 x 18 inch horizontal or vertical) color computer compositions.
Review and evaluate the two half-size color compositions once you have received feedback from your instructor and classmates. Choose one direction to further develop into the final six-word memoir poster at full size.
Print out the full-size poster for class review. Collect all the process materials generated during the course of the project and create a PDF. Create a second PDF of the poster file. Turn both PDF files in for grading.
For the past decade, The Six-Word Memoir assignment has operated as a pivot point in my Typography 1 course. I structure my curriculum first with an exploration of the letter (as form and counter form), second, with an exploration of the word (as expressive visual language), and third, with an exploration of text and how it is used in a grid structure and page architecture. Once students have mastered an understanding of how to work with one word, The Six-Word Memoir assignment challenges them to work with a unit of 6 words that create form and visual semantics.
Students enjoy working on this project because they are the subject. And, although this assignment does require some understanding of page composition, color, scale grouping, and positioning; most students, with good guidance from their peers and instructor, are capable of producing a strong yet unique result.