Type + Communication / Working with a Monologue


Katie Suskin / HAL 2001 Space Odyssey (Type as Image)

Katie Suskin / HAL 2001 Space Odyssey (Type as Text + Image)

Natalie Siderius / Mad Men (Type as Image)

Katherine Wong / Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Type as Text)

Ellen Peterson / Trainspotting (Type as Text + Image)

Level: ,
Duration: 3 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

Using one of the movie monologues listed here, design a series of three typographic posters according to the criteria below. The movie monologues are: Kodak (Mad Men), HAL (2001 Space Odyssey), and There’s So Much Beauty in the World (American Beauty). Part A. Type as Text. Work with a column grid or a modular grid to organize the text into a dynamic composition. Typeset the entire monologue so that is engaging, readable and accessible. Considerations include choice of typeface/s, hierarchy, type size + weight, leading, column width, white space and margins. The rules of proper typesetting (widows, rags, line length etc) apply. Part B. Type as Image. For this version the meaning of the text should be evident by how the type looks rather than what it says. The composition does not have to be readable — the letterforms can be manipulated to capture the tension, anger or another emotion present in the text. You can cue off the actual setting where the monologue takes place (in the water, in the air etc), or the emotions expressed by a particular character. You don’t need to rely on just computer-generated type for this version. Consider collage or other media. Do not use type to create illustrations (text should be combined to create a picture of a shark for example). Part C. Type as Text + Image. Combine the methods used in parts A and B to produce a solution that is visually expressive as well as readable. The meaning of the monologue should be evident by how the text looks as well as how it reads.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how typography acts as a communication tool both conceptually and visually 
  • Become more adept at working with grids and large amounts of text
  • Interpret and visualize themes within a particular text


  • A series of three prints, following the criteria above (Parts A, B and C), each 11x17 format, orientation is up to the student
  • Color is optional




I’ve used other well-known monologues such as Gollum’s My Precious from Lord of the Rings, The Whale Falling in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Indianapolis Speech Scene from JAWS, Harold’s Wristwatch from Stranger than Fiction and Jeff Daniels’ rant “America is NOT The Greatest Country Anymore” from The Newsroom. I typically give three diverse films or shows so students can choose one based on some level of interest. It’s not hard to find the text and accompanying video clips online. I do encourage them to watch the entire movie or show too. The project is a fun but challenging way to work with type. No photography allowed. The first poster emphasizing grids and type hierarchy is fairly straightforward. Most of them haven’t worked with a lengthy amount of text before. They typically struggle with the second version because it’s more about the emotions conjured from the text than what the text actually says. This contradicts most of my lectures about how type is meant to be read! The second poster is really just a stepping stone to the third one in which the type must be emotive but still have an effective hierarchy. Some students want to take the first and second posters and jam them together on the last one. This typically doesn’t work. Although I don’t discourage this method, the most successful set of solutions are usually distinctly different from one another. 2001 Space Odyssey has been one of the most successful ones over the years (type can break apart, degrade, disappear — students can play with tracking, spacing, color etc to show how HAL dies.) The Whale Falling is lively. Mad Men was harder than I thought it would be, but it’s loaded with emotion and perhaps that particular group of students just couldn’t dial it in.

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