Typographic Culture


Lan-Xi - Clerical Script

Chance - Tuscan Slab Serif

Hanna - Hetauma

Jay - Jeepney Signage

Liz - Trajan

Duration: 3 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

Most students that enter our classroom are experienced consumers of typography. Their aesthetic, typographic preferences, and way of decoding visual cues have been shaped and influenced by their surroundings to create their own personal typographic culture. For the project, students explore one aspect of their own typographic culture. They research the style, dig into the history, define notable characteristics, and created their own calligraphic interpretation. Students create a lettering piece that fits the aesthetic and a poster that share their research.


Research Possibilities

Submit 3 possible directions for your research and deep dive into your typographic culture. As part of each submission you should include the following information.

  • Key examples of what defines the aesthetic. These examples should be pulled from real life. The more examples you can bring in the better off you will be. You want to be exploring a trend, not just recreating a single style that you like. Should have at least 5 photos or examples of each aesthetic.
  • Written explanation for how this fits into your own typographic culture. Is it your literal heritage? Is it something you were surrounded by during your upbringing? Is it a community or group that you are embedded in or familiar with? Why are you drawn towards it? What is the timbre or tone of this typographic style? 
  • Start trying to define and describe the characteristics. How was it made historically? How would you classify it? What distinguishes it from other aesthetics?

Some examples of my own Typographic Culture that I could explore.

  • A large portion of my ancestry is Dutch and German. I could look into Dutch or German typography and history.
  • I come from pioneers that traveled across the plains and settled in Utah. I could explore any typographic styles prevalent in those spaces. I could explore and research the roots of this style.
  • I grew up in California, I could explore several aspects from this. Notable signage from my hometown, which has spanish roots.
  • Skate and surf culture of the 90\'s which has a distinct aesthetic. 
  • I spent most of my summers traveling and visiting National Parks in my youth. I can explore where the typography of highway and interstate signs stem from. I can research the distinct typographic styles of the national parks, their posters or signage.
  • I\'ve lived here on Oahu for the past 9 years. There are many distinct typographic influences and elements that I could explore that overlap again with some of my other influences. 

These are just examples and jumping off points for me. You will have your own influences and interests. The goal is to find an aesthetic that you have some authority in, or that you can gain authority and appropriately represent.


Specimen Anaylsis

Take the chosen aesthetic of your typographic culture.

Break down distinguishing characteristics and mark the trends of what sets this aesthetic apart from others. Use the typographic terms we studied last semester. Look at several examples and see if you can spot some trends.

Create some graphics and visuals that help us identify these characteristics.



How was the type you chose historically constructed?

If your chosen aesthetic is Latin type it will most likely be rooted in one of the following categories;
- broad-nib
- expansion pen
- round brush
- flat brush

If it varies beyond these roots how would you classify it typographically? Is it a Transitional Serif? Geometric Sans? Condensded Black Slab Serif?

Depending on the category start exploring your own interpretation of the aesthetic. Practice drawing the letters using the tools we have. Work on proportion, rhythm and consistency. Try doing these while maintaining the distinct style and characteristics of your aesthetic.

You will need to write a word or phrase that you feel exemplifies your chosen Typographic Culture. This phrase should use at least 10 different letters. 



Compile all the research and studies you have completed into your typographic culture into a unified, visually pleasing infographic poster. It should have the following sections:

  • Title: name your Aesthetic
  • Key Samples: distinct real life examples of this style.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Typographic anaylsis of what sets this style apart
  • History: 2-3 paragraphs describing the history and roots of the style.
  • Typographic Classification: How was this type made, how is it classified.
  • Word or phrase that you have refined.

Use a grid to help you organize and design your content.

Finished poster will be an 18 inches wide by however long you need.

Learning Objectives

Students will examine and explore one aspect of their own typographic culture. They will be able to define the aesthetic with key examples, breakdown the identifying features and qualities of the style.

Students will research the root and evolution of their chosen aesthetic. They will summarize their findings into 2-3 paragraphs of writing.

Students will practice the lettering style and complete a lettering piece that fits into their chosen aesthetic. 


Submit a printed 18 in wide by however long they needed poster. Most were around 48 in long. Poster should contain the three aspects of the project, the history, the specimen analysis and their own lettering piece along with any relevant sources and visuals. 



This project was a great way to get students to recognize the value in their own lived experience. They are empowered as a voice of  authority in their chosen aesthetic. Most of them had never given a second thought to the roots or evolution of the styles. When they shared their styles with the class they started to recognize something they thought was maybe mundane had it\'s own fascinating rich history that most of the rest of the class was unfamiliar with. 

If a student chose a latin script I was able to help direct them to some resources about the root and history of the style. There were several students that chose scripts that I was not familiar with. This was daunting. I helped them form some of the questions and directions to search for in their research, but I let them know I didn\'t have the same resources to get them started. Their are some criteria like proportion, rhythm and consistency that can be applied to most the scripts. When evaluating their lettering piece they created I would rely on the samples they provided along with the specimen analysis and those principles to grade. 

This project is given in a lettering course so it capstones with a lettering piece. I can see the research side of the project existing into several different courses and projects. At its core it\'s really just an open ended, student led research into a piece of design history. In place of an aesthetic dictated by the instructor, it is pulled from the students own experience or culture. 

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