Student expressive typography project. Any help appreciated

accidental's picture

I trust most of know fellow member Kris Sowersby? I'm a student of his pilot Typeface Design class at Massey University. I am in my final year of a 4 year Bachelor of Design degree and am currently doing my major (honours) project on expressive typography. Kris suggested starting a thread here since you guys could point me in some directions for research/inspiration or just general feedback and ideas.

I'll outline my project for you:

"Can typography be used in an expressive and symbolic way to visually interpret/extrapolate meanings contained within the words of the Bible?"
To test this I will visually interpret/express the book of Job of the Bible.

I'm looking for any examples of expressive typography that you know of that may help or relate to my project. I am especially on the look out for work that visually interprets a text (poetry for example) and feelings/atmospheres. It can be crazy and 'fine-artsy' as well!

Any help would be hugely appreciated. Thanks a lot, and I hope to hang around for a while--Kris' type design paper has re-energised my love of typography.

EDIT: As an example of the kind of thing I'm looking at, Tomato's Mmmm... Skyscraper I Love You. I'm looking for work that's much cleaner and/or minimalist than that too.

nikimelon's picture

have you looked at stuff by ed ruscha? it's probably not exactly what you're looking for, but he uses everyday phrases in a lot of his work, and the compositions are much more symbolic than literal.


accidental's picture

No I haven't, thanks for the link. Truly anything is helpful. Cheers.

Hiroshige's picture

Job is an interesting choice. Perhaps the work of Reid Miles could give some insight - and believe it or not - the work of Jean Michel Basquiat.

scruggsdesign's picture

do you have a link to Kris' type design paper you mentioned?

accidental's picture

Basquiat's work reminds me of Stanley Donwood's work – particularly his artwork for Radiohead during the OK Computer period. I like it, and some works are heavily typographic. Thanks Hiroshige.

accidental's picture

Hi Scruggdesign, sorry as far as I know there are no links to anything related to the paper. Typeface Design hasn't been offered at Massey for years due to low numbers and/or no tutor available. This is the first time in [I don't know how long] it's been able to run thanks to Kris. In fact, it must have been quite a while because nobody has any records of past student work or project briefs or anything.

First project was to create an upper case typeface, using Fontlab. We finished that a few weeks ago. Second project is to create a lower case. If you're curious I can post a copy of my upper case typeface for you to look at?

EDIT: In fact, I'll post it in the Critique section as I'm curious about where to go for the lower case.

H. Todd Duren's picture

Instead of an unusual/experimental font, have you considered expressing the suffering of Job in another way? His story strikes me as one of complete bleakness, darkness, and deprivation. Why not go Modernist/Minimal? Helvetica blind embossed into black paper? At first it might be orderly and robust, then it might start to wander and disperse, until finally the words are crawling across the page as if on the desert. But they are still Helvetica.

H. Todd Duren,
designer. educator. yada yada

accidental's picture

Hi Todd, great idea thanks a lot. I wasn't intending on using unusual/experimental fonts, more the compositions and how the type is treated. Your suggestion is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for.

JABZOOG's picture

I suppose this is my first post on here after being a member for over a year, and I regret that this post is a link to my own work. That said, I think I've a couple examples that somewhat match what you're looking for. At the end of freshman foundation year, I got into interpreting text with hand-drawn letters for 2D Design.

This uses a passage from Milton's Paradise Lost that describes Eden.

And one for Chaos

Sorry for the bad photos. Hope this helps, though.


accidental's picture

Awesome that's some great looking stuff. Did you do it all by hand?
Thanks for the reference to your work, I haven't actually seen anything like that before so it's good!

JABZOOG's picture

Accidental, thank you! Yes, it was all done by hand.


jcallais's picture

You many want to look at the typographic layouts in Emigre publications. They work with large bodies of type used in very interesting ways (,.

Quincunx's picture

If you have access to (really) older issues of Eye Magazine, you should try to get EYE 20/96. There's an article in there called 'Concrete poems just are', which is about poems that are typeset in a way that supports the meaning of the poem (that description doesn't really do justice to the article). I think it might be of interest to you, given your project outline.

If you can't get it, I can scan it for you, although I only have photocopies myself.

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