Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homework (And a Little Type History)

Here are two versions of a recent assignment to design a poster for a typeface. I picked Letter Gothic, which was designed in 1962 for the IBM Selectric typewriter. The font was often used for tabular items (like columns of numbers) because of the even spacing between letters.

The type element in the IBM Selectric was a pivoting ball (nicknamed the golf ball) that was removable, so you could change fonts on the typewriter. I think only the teacher and a couple of other older students knew what the heck I was talking about, but I remember using one in the office in the late 70s.

The first poster was inspired by the history of the typewriter and the art of the time; the second poster focused more on the properties of the font.

It’s been a long time since I worked in graphic design and much longer since I walked a college campus as a student. When I signed up for a semester length course in digital media this fall, I was sure I was in over my head. I’ve taken some workshops but never really used programs like Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. The first thing I did was look up the last day to drop the course.

So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It turns out not every nineteen year old is already an expert in Photoshop, and not everyone that grew up in front of a computer screen has a perfect sense of design. There’s a whole range of skill and talent, and although I have yet to see a grade, I think I’m keeping up.

The best surprise is how much I enjoy the projects. I love a design challenge and the chance to apply what I’ve learned. I also like deadlines – nothing better to motivate you to get your butt in gear.

Have you tried something new lately? Was it terrifying? Exhilarating? A little of both?


Bish Denham said...

Oh, I had an IBM Selectric. A red one. I LOVED that machine. I loved the feel of the keys under my fingers, loved the way it sounded. A light touch, a strong sound, not like the plastic plink of a computer key board.

As for trying something new...went to my first SCBWI 1 day conference, talked to my first big name editor. That was a bit scary.

Kim Kasch said...

Good for you - I've wanted to sign up for a class like that and just haven't gotten around to you. I'll have to live vicariously through you for a bit.

ICQB said...

I love the posters. It must be fun to find out the secrets to manipulating digital media. Good luck with your course!

As to trying new things, I've just taken up spinning, I'm taking a weaving class, and I just dyed my first sock yarn in a pot on my stove.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I remember those balls! I do!
And I love fonts!
What an exciting thing to learn about. I've been learning the ins and outs of a school cafeteria. Whoo-hoo.

Suzanne Casamento said...

How cool! Good for you for trying something new. So glad you're enjoying it.

I recently started cooking for a family a couple nights a week. I've always enjoyed cooking, but doing it for other people and getting paid for it is new and FUN!

sruble said...

I love your type posters - especially the top one! It really does look like typewriter keys striking out the letters. Very cool. Your class sounds great. Wish I were there with you (I've been told I need help using type).

BTW, I got your typewriter reference, even if I never had to change the golf ball (I avoided learning how to type, not knowing that computers and the internet would be in my future).

Good luck with your class and avoiding zombies and wheelbarrows!

sruble said...

Forgot to answer your question. I'm trying a new style of art for my portfolio. If I get enough done in time, it will debut at a critique in early November. Eep!

Anne Spollen said...

My mom had a Selectric typewriter that she bought second hand. This was way before PC's and everyone thought it was so cool. I remember that golf ball thingy.

I joined a writers' group where no one writes (or much trusts) folks who write YA. I'm getting critiqued next week: so new, scary and a little funny.

Good luck in your class!

Rena said...

Sounds wonderful! I love the info you wrote about fonts. I seem to have quite a "collection" of those myself. Good luck with your class!

Ara Burklund said...

Adrienne, you are so talented!!! I love your typeface posters! Have you ever worked in advertising? Or a publisher's art department? In addition to your talent for illustration, you've got an awesome sense of design.

As far as new stuff goes for me, I recently tried writing a couple of technical scenes after doing a bunch of research. Not sure if they work or not, but it was fun trying something new.

Nora MacFarlane said...

I'm jealous! I would love to try a class like that.

This past summer I left my family alone for 2 weeks and went first to the Chautauqua Writer's Institute, then to the George Washington's Mount Vernon's Teacher Institute. Both were wonderful experiences!

LW said...

Fantastic posters, I am sure you are going to get an A in this class.

The golf ball, I remember them, I thought that they were wonderful and at the time I could not think of anything that could get any better. Just like the old copy machine in black and white.

Enjoy your class and have fun…


C.R. Evers said...

awesome girl! I love it!

I recently had to update an article that I did for a local magazine for a magazine in another city. It was tedious to veyify and update the changes . . . especially since I suffer from an illness that causes me to feel overwhelmed at otherwise "simple" deadlines . . .

However, it's always good to feel like I've accomplished something and had reason to get my butt in gear. Even if my illness tries to make me feel otherwise.

Great post!

Mary Witzl said...

Good for you, going back to school and getting outside of your comfort zone. I had a teaching interview yesterday, with two people asking the questions, and it was 45 minutes of pure terror.

I took a modern English literature class once, and we had two mature students, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 60s. On the first day, during the course of the class, the professor just happened to ask questions that only they could answer properly -- one was something nautical (the man had been in the Navy) and the other was about WWII. When the two mature students nailed those questions, the professor made a comment about how lucky we were to have them in the class. And he was right: they were storehouses of all sorts of information we didn't have -- and as it happened, a lot of fun.

Oh, the memories! I learned to type on a manual, then graduated to an electric with separate keys. When my mother came back from work one day and told us about the Selectric with its key-golfball, my sisters and I were astounded -- imagine a typewriter without keys! The next huge thing was Selectrics that came with their own erasing tape, then typewriters with memory components, then word processors with tiny little screens... (sniff) My kids have no idea!