︎Back Typographic Investigations

Spring 2024 ︎︎︎Purchase College, SUNY ︎︎︎ (DES3440) 

imagined genesis


Rather than diving into the nitty gritty of a new program or technique; today we’ll look more at the underlying structures surrounding (written) language as a way to begin the class. 

What you must do

Imagine a world → Think of a context. It can be fantastic (10,000 years in the future where people have evolved to not need hands and plastics can no longer be produced), or realistic (ancient Sumeria). It could simply be yourself in White Plains in five years (though I would strongly urge you to think outside of yourself) or reality from your friend or partner’s or cat’s perspective. Whatever it is, be very clear with yourself about what the context is. Sketch images of it, write down what it smells like, what emotions you feel. Immerse yourself and see what is there.

Think of a means → Think of a way that someone, or some-sentient-thing from your above context would create a mark. Would it be a kind of brush, a feather dipped in ink, a chisel in stone or clay, or an algorithm in a computer? Think of how that tool would create different kinds of marks.

Think of content → Think of 7 concepts that someone from this context would need to express. How would a Yup’ik person think about the idea of coldness, or the sun versus someone from an archipelago near the equator? Do people in the future need food to survive? How would they perceive the concept of chewing food in that world? List your concepts as well as how they interrelate.
You might want to consider something like, the swadesh list, for relatively “universal” concepts

Create the symbols → From the concepts, create 7 symbols. Do not simply draw pictures, however the symbols may have pictographic elements.

(Image showing the presumed evolution of Chinese characters from the past to today from John Ruskamp on ResearchGate.com)

Circular symbols from Arrival (2016) compiled by Emma Hollen

Additionally, think of how the marks interrelate to each other. What do they look like grouped together? What shapes might they share? How long would each symbol take to write?

For Class

We’ll do an in-progress pin-up at the end of class and talk through what people are thinking and feeling so far.

For Homework

Take your symbols, refine them and then create (at least) three mockup images or posters (at least 11x17) that show the symbols in a way that shows their context. That is to say scan them, draw them at a higher definition or fidelity and if for example, you want the “means” to be carved in stone, attempt to photoshop them in such a way that they appear carved in stone. Re-draw them in Illustrator (you are not obligated to do this but this will become part of the presumed skillset of the class so you may want to feel out this process).

Include text or diagrams, or other explanation on or near your image (as in a museum) describing the context and means.

Have these ready to pin-up at the beginning of our next class as well as both steps uploaded to the folder on the website. 

Grading Process

This is considered an extended exercise. As such it will be pass/fail; with some addition or subtraction for a combination of subjectivity and perceived effort and inquisitiveness. That is to say; completing the assignment is not automatically an A.

︎Back Typographic Investigations