Assignment 06.10: Type Families and Visual Reinforcement


The goal of this assign­ment is to increase sophis­ti­ca­tion in design­ing with type. The type font is the set of char­ac­ters that make up one size of a type­face. This usu­ally includes upper and lower case let­ters, num­bers, frac­tions, punc­tu­a­tion marks etc. The type fam­ily is the var­i­ous weights, widths and ital­ics that are avail­able in a par­tic­u­lar typeface.

It has always puz­zled me that stu­dents are attracted to type spec­i­men books show­ing hun­dreds of type­faces, many of which are either incom­plete or so poorly designed as to be use­less. Pro­fes­sional design­ers often man­age to get along quite well with only a dozen or so type­faces! In a field as com­plex as typog­ra­phy, the stu­dents would ben­e­fit much more by work­ing with a few well designed type­faces until they have a good grasp of the fun­da­men­tals.” A quote by James Craig, author of “Design­ing with Type”


The objec­tive of this assign­ment is to cre­ate typog­ra­phy that empha­sizes dif­fer­ent aspects of words to add mean­ing or draw atten­tion to the forms.

Background Reading

  • Dab­ner, p 62–91.
  • Kane, p 52–73.
  • San­toro, p 151–180


Your assign­ment is to cre­ate a visual metaphor for the words you choose, cre­at­ing a com­po­si­tion of let­ters rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the word’s meaning.

Part One

Cre­ate a list of ten (10) dif­fer­ent action and/or descrip­tive words of your choice. Choose a sin­gle type­face from the restricted type­face list. You will visu­ally illus­trate or rein­force the mean­ing of five (5) words using the tools of com­po­si­tion and the font styles within the cho­sen type fam­ily. Make your word selec­tions care­fully so that the style that you use is visu­ally appro­pri­ate for the word that you have cho­sen. Sketch out five (5) tests for each word (25 sketches min­i­mum), exper­i­ment­ing with style, size, posi­tion, crop­ping, omis­sion, etc. Let­ters may not be dis­torted, and ele­ments taken or cre­ated from out­side the char­ac­ter set are not allowed. 

Part Two

Select the best con­cep­tual solu­tions from Part One and re-sketch these with the intent of manip­u­lat­ing the char­ac­ters in Adobe Illus­tra­tor and/or Pho­to­shop. The manip­u­la­tion should be sub­tle and involve or reflect less than a 50% change. The idea is not to cre­ate some­thing easy on the com­puter, but to add a sub­tle high­light that makes the visual ref­er­ence stronger. Sketch out five (5) tests for each word exper­i­ment­ing with you new para­me­ters, but keep­ing your pre­vi­ous stage of design visible.

Cre­ate the best words from Part One and the con­tin­u­a­tion improve­ments from Part Two (these should be the same words for both sets) using Adobe Illus­tra­tor and/or Pho­to­shop. Spend some time exper­i­ment­ing and gen­er­at­ing vari­a­tions that work to pro­duce the best solu­tion pos­si­ble. (updated 10.23.2023)

Part Three

Cre­ate a final pre­sen­ta­tion by fin­ish­ing the solu­tions, and then arrang­ing them together. Words should be pro­duced at about 72 pt, black and white (no gray) on let­ter size paper. Mount prints on black matte board. Cre­ate PDF files for Parts One and Two and upload them to the appro­pri­ate drop­box on the course D2L server.


  • The fol­low­ing rubric posted on D2L will deter­mine assign­ment score: Assign­ment 06.10: Type Fam­i­lies and Visual Reinforcement


Scan­ning, image cor­rec­tion, vec­tor draw­ing, PDF cre­ation, printing


Paper, pen­cil, eraser dic­tio­nary, the­saurus, Adobe Illus­tra­tor, Pho­to­shop, Acro­bat Distiller


As defined by cor­re­spond­ing cal­en­dar item, drop­box, dis­cus­sion or con­tent topic description.