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Designing Play, One Letter at a Time

Guest blogger, Kindra Murphy talks about Type Face, a workshop she led on April 15th as part of the Walker’s Designing Play series. Murphy is a graphic designer and employs many levels of technology in her work, from InDesign to letterpress. As an instructor at MCAD, she encourages her students to experiment broadly with their […]

Guest blogger, Kindra Murphy talks about Type Face, a workshop she led on April 15th as part of the Walker’s Designing Play series. Murphy is a graphic designer and employs many levels of technology in her work, from InDesign to letterpress. As an instructor at MCAD, she encourages her students to experiment broadly with their approaches to design, utilizing simple as well as complex tools to create new possibilities. She was assisted by her partner Tim Tozer — a painter and instructor at UWSout — and daughter Hazel.

The Type Face workshop gave participants a chance to use Letraset typefaces to create portraits and self-portraits, combining letters, numerals and symbols to make a unique community of faces. Letraset is a dry transfer lettering system (much like stickers), used before the advent of digital technology to provide artists and designers with a wide range of mechanical type; applied by rubbing onto a surface, it’s easy to use all or part of a letter form, rotate and overlap shapes and improvise with several different fonts, weights and sizes on the same image. Good news, Letraset can be still found at many local art supply stores and on ebay! Participants were invited to experiment with as many approaches as they could invent; it was evident from the quiet concentration in the room, the hours spent working and the incredible range of responses that many got lost in exploring the tactile possibilities of this flexible medium.

Each participant left with a handout outlining typographic ‘anatomy’, ie. letters are made of various components, such as arm, ear, shoulder, spine, tail, beaks and feet (serifs). For an interactive experience, try this great site.

Completed portraits were xeroxed and hung on our display wall; some generous artists donated their work, eager for others to see accents of color lost in the photocopying process.

We also created a typographic map of the Twin Cities as an additional surface to work on — many adding faces, animals and messages to create an imaginary portrait of the metropolitan area. Surrounded by the individual portraits, the wall represented a spontaneous creative community.

Click below to view more type portraits and images of the workshop on the Walker’s Flickr site.

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