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CUNY Queens ︎︎︎(ARTS241) Design 1

custom “memes”

Moholy-Nagy, feeling cute might delete later


“Memes” are a fusion of words + images. This was, according to the designer László Moholy-Nagy, the ultimate path of design. László Moholy-Nagy was a multidisciplinary designer known for his contributions to the Bauhaus; a famous design school in Germany between the World Wars. It was the birth of what is commonly referred to as Modernism.

Moholy-Nagy was particularly concerned with photography and type as those were new technologies at the time. Moholy-Nagy created something he termed “typophoto.” Here’s what he had to say about it:
What is typophoto? Typography is communication composed in type. Photography is the visual presentation of what can be optically apprehended. Typophoto is the visually most exact rendering of communication.

He also said, related to technology:
Every period has its own optical focus. Our age: that of the film; the electric sign, simultaneity of sensorially perceptible events. It has given us a new, progressively developing creative basis for typography, too. Gutenberg’s typography, which has endured almost to our own day, moves exclusively in the linear dimension. The invention of the photographic process has extended it to a new dimensionality, recognized today as total. The preliminary work in the field has done by the illustrated papers, posters, and by display printing.


Create 40 custom “memes” with custom typography.


  • You cannot use any pre-existing fonts (you must create a customized font using FontStruct a “Knitting Circle” or tutorial accompanies this project. You can share fonts with other students in the class, you still must create your own first)
  • You cannot use the text or “template” of an existing meme
  • (No “TFW” etc., write your own text. It can be as simple as one word)
  • You cannot use any pre-existing imagery. (this is most explicitly to say you cannot use Google Images, and you cannot use pre-existing “meme template” images. You must use your camera (on your computer, phone, etc, draw, scan, or collage. You can intervene on these images in Photoshop or retrace them in Illustrator).
  • You cannot use color, your work must be black + white.
  • You do not need to be funny
    (The work will be judged on it’s aesthetic quality and not how funny it is)
  • All images must be 2000px ︎ 2000px at 72dpi. 

Final submission is:

    • (at least) 40 .png files that are 2000px ︎ 2000px at 72dpi. They must be named and numbered appropriately.
    • (at least) 1 .ttf file create via FontStruct
    • All sketches and early drafts.

No Shuriken Mode Challenges

    • Try making a “memes” that would be moving enough to make someone cry. 
    • Use a different custom font for every meme
    • Create 60+ memes 
    • Arrange your “memes” into a curated .PDF booklet


    • The primary visual concern here is to think about how you are integrating words and images? Are they on top of each other? Near each other? 
    • How does the same text change with a different image?
    • How does the same image change with different text?
    • How readable (or not readable) is the text? 
    • How do the shapes of the letters relate to the shapes in your imagery?


You may be stuck in the following areas, writing words and generating images. Here are some ideas on how to deal with this if you’re having trouble.

  • Go through photos you’ve already taken ︎︎︎ You probably have some photos you totally forgot about in there. Go through your archives and consider what could be repurposed. Would a family photo be more creepy if you zoomed into a blurry person in the background? 
  • Take a walk︎︎︎ if you feel safe/comfortable going outside. Use it to take pictures, capture anything that strikes you, a nice store front, a stray cat, a bench. You could even do this where you live. Start manipulating these in Photoshop Illustrator. If you draw, or like to draw, you could do the same but with a sketchbook.
  • Try automatic drawing︎︎︎
    There are a lot of ways to do that. One of my favorite is by the artist (not writer) James Paterson (known as Presstube). He does something he calls “Psychic Vomit Portraits” that start with meditative scribbling that he later embellishes.

  • Try automatic writing ︎︎︎ for whatever reason most of these, I believe because of Edgar Cayce have some relationship to channeling or talking to spirits, but you can use it to just start creating content.
    If you don’t like these, or find them too serious, you might try something goofier and improvisational, closer to Garth and Kat from SNL:
  • Try the cut-up technique︎︎︎Take some writing that might be “boring” like your journal, or paper you’ve written and cut words and phrases out and look at how they work when, or what happens when new phrases or words are paired together. This comes from William Burroughs, but was used by musicians like Bowie and Thome Yorke

Relevant Dates

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