Design Studio: Typography (Project 1: Word and Meaning)

8 years

My word is honest and my material is paper.

Assessment 1: Project 1 – Word and meaning

This assessment task requires you to create original graphic forms – of letters, of a word – to tell a story. The outcome is to be highly resolved both conceptually and technically.

Week 2

  • In Week 2, bring to your learning group a well-defined description of your theme/concept.
  • In the group blog, present collected references for the various aspects of your theme and sketches of your concepts. You may also have begun constructing the letterforms and have rough photographs to show and discuss.
  • Set up your design process document using the InDesign template found in the assessment area. Refer to the Design process document brief for more information.
  • In the group discussion forum, discuss submission requirements and formatting.

In week 1 for project 1 I conducted research into the meaning of honest and the material, paper. I attempted to link these two together and found that I was drawn to the theme of minimal, inspired by modern design and practices of honesty in typography.

In week 2, I created a number of sketches and variations on how the typeface could be established with the theme (see draft thoughts below). After receiving feedback from my teacher, that I needed to explore further the element of honesty on paper, I am revising my process for week 2, to make sure that I have a solid and consistent process.

Honesty on paper

When honesty is shared on paper, we are confronted with the sharing of information that we seek to trust. Such as the exchange of currency, thoughts and words in a book, the legality of a contract and even the news from a newspaper. When considering the connection to honesty and paper in this form, it shows the great deal of importance that exists in what we expect and how we interact with that meaning on paper. This is a very crucial connection that I had missed in my initial research. I believe that there is also the expectation and the human influence that alters the importance of honesty on paper, in the various forms that it takes. For example, words on paper, but if those words have consequence in the human structure (such as a legal document) we will adhere to what has been stated, and trust it as honesty or something that can not be recalled without consequence. If we can also think beyond this, the very foundation of the human system is also written, defined and controlled by what has been decreed on paper. It gives me an updated and bigger perspective on the concept I have to work with.

Types of honesty on paper

  • Currency (paper money)
  • Legal documentation
  • Books
  • Journals
  • Business Cards
  • Cards
  • Letters
  • Academic documents
  • Contracts
  • Newspapers
  • Posters
  • Advertising
  • Signs (if on paper)
  • Wanted Posters

After looking into the types of honesty used with paper, I found I was particularly drawn to the idea of a business card. A business card is used to represent a person. You trust that the information that is shared on the card is honest, that you are provided with truthful information, especially in circumstances where you may have only met the person once, or have never met them and pick up a card. The way that the business card is designed also influences the honesty in the card. For example, a business card for a solicitor and a designer, would have very different design styles, because each has a different target audience and ways that they want themselves to be represented. Maybe the designer chooses minimal elements, while the solicitor may have a structured, blocked design.

History of business cards
Business cards excited as early as the 17th Century, for advertising, and expanded as a way for the upper classes to abide by the social etiquette of the period (especially during the 19th century, across Europe and America.) (BeLight Software Ltd, 2016) The particular societal rules for the use of business cards was very precise and not only had specific obligations, but also distinct signs that had varied meaning. Some examples include; “On making a first call you must have a card for each lady of the household.”, “On making a call leave your card to the servant. You will be allowed to see the hostess only after she examines your card.”, “On the hall table in every house, there should be a small silver, or other card tray, a pad and a pencil.”, “A young lady can have a card of her own after having been in society a year.” (BeLight Software Ltd, 2016)

During the industrial revolution, and the changes in the way that production was undertaken, a long with the economical shift of the working class, business cards became available to more people, of different social statuses (Mortimer, 2012).

Business cards today, although may not all use paper as there primary source, still have associations and rules that they mostly adhere too. Such as the sizing of cards, the information that is usually presented (name, occupation, contact information) as well as the general purpose of promoting identity and to further connection with other people.

Scan 5

Scan 6

In my sketches I started by drawing a business card and using the standard Australian size of 90mm x 55mm (I incorrectly labeled the first one). I then experimented with the lettering in the card by using the full word honest on one card, or suggesting the idea of one letter on six cards to form the word. I think that using fix cards could have an interesting effect I want to trial, but feel a stronger foundation in one card. After this I created a measured sketch, to find how the type could be aligned within the frame of the card. I also sketched the way that the individual letters could be constructed in a 10mm area. I than focussed on the actual typeface, and labelled the anatomy of the elements.

Embossing Techniques

IMG_0395 IMG_0396 IMG_0397 IMG_0400 IMG_0402 IMG_0404 IMG_0405 IMG_0406 IMG_0407 IMG_0410 IMG_0411

I attempted to do some embossing by hand. In these attempts I used a digital drawing tablet pen to make the indents in the paper. I used a number of different paper types and looked at both the inverted and inverted effects of the embossing. What I found particularly difficult, was if the clarity of the text is clear enough, and if it can translate my intention well.

Concept Improvement
After further research and time spend considering the elements of the project, I decided that to add more depth to the project, that I could consider a spread of business cards, rather than just one. This would give more variety to the intention of the message of honesty being present in a range of styles within the theme.

I began by creating sketches of different kinds of business cards. Drawing inspiration from many modern designs, while also considering how the placement of the letters on the card could create different meaning using scale, tension and dynamics.

Scan 9

After this I picked a number of ideas that I wanted to explore further, and created a draft of those forms.

Scan 7

Scan 8

I also played with the typeface, and tried a few alternatives.

Scan 10

Once I had the general idea of the types of business cards I wanted to make, I began using different kinds of paper to bring the elements together. I also used techniques such as cutting, embossing and layering the paper to give contrasting effects.


IMG_0423 IMG_0427 IMG_0426 IMG_0425 IMG_0424 IMG_0423 IMG_0428 IMG_0420 IMG_0422

When I am refining the business card designs, I need to consider the colour used to create repetition and unity between all of the individual cards to form a design that has consistent appeal and loyalty to the theme. As well as any the typeface that is either for the text or decoration.

Theme and Concept
The word that I was allocated was honest and the material, paper. I decided that I wanted to remain honest to the material of paper and form the words using minimal resources, such as no ink, or words written. After further research on the ways that paper can be used in an honest form, I decided that I would like to present the words on business cards. Primarily because of the long history of business cards being used and because they are a way that honest information is presented. Drawing inspiration from modern and minimal designs, I plan to have 9 business cards with varying designs, presented on an A4 piece of paper (that has been scrunched for texture). The business cards will each have a different design, that uses varying techniques such as; cutting, embossing and layering of paper.

The Typeface
One of the most important aspects of the project, that I have not yet examined in detail is the actual typeface that is used, or created. Different typefaces portray different messages and meaning to the audience. Lupton (2010, p. 47) writes “A basic system for classifying typefaces was devised in the nineteenth century, when printers sought to identity a heritage for their own craft analogous to that of art history. Humanist letterforms are closely connected to calligraphy and the movement of the hand. Transitional and modern typefaces are more abstract and less organic.” (p. 47).

For my business cards I want to use a sans serif typeface that connects to the modern and minimal element of my theme. By attempting to create letter forms that are geometric in shape and diameter, I want to translate the meaning of honestly through precisely constructed forms. Even though a serif typeface may be easier to read, because my business cards do not contain large amounts of text, I believe that the structured form of a sans serif fits a lot better.

Sans Serif Inspiration

FF Basic Gothic SC Web Pro
FF Basic Gothic SC Web Pro

Niveau Grotesk Small Caps
Niveau Grotesk Small Caps

P22 Underground Petite Caps
P22 Underground Petite Caps

An area of the business cards that I need to revise is the use of the same form of typeface for the spelling of honest and the special display of the H in some cases. This does not create any contrast and because the forms are too similar it doesn’t add a lot of dimension. For the instances where there is a H, a display typeface would be better suited.

Display Inspiration

Balboa Plus Primary
Balboa Plus Primary

Acier BAT Text Noir
Acier BAT Text Noir

Cheap Pine
Cheap Pine

Industry Inc In-N-Out
Industry Inc In-N-Out

DeLittle Chromatic Inlay
DeLittle Chromatic Inlay



Keedy Sans
Keedy Sans


Steinzeit Fill In
Steinzeit Fill In

Corpulent Web
Corpulent Web

BD Colonius
BD Colonius


BeLight Software Ltd. 2016. Business Card Composer — Business Card History. Retrieved July 19, 2016 from

Lupton, E. 2010. Thinking with type : a critical guide for designers, writers, editors, & students (2nd rev. and expanded ed). New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Mortimer. 2012. A Brief History of Business Cards | DesignFloat Blog. Retrieved July 19, 2016 from

Design Process Documentation

Idea Sketches

Draft Design
test1 test12

test2 test22


Draft Thoughts

What to do…

  • Draw sketches of my ideas, see where it takes me
  • Consider the way the letterforms are constructed from those sketches
  • Create some letterforms with paper, analyse what needs alteration
  • Seek feedback on if something works or not
  • Setup the process document, remember concept > development > refinement

This week we are learning about the history and development of typography, as well as looking at the anatomy of a typeface. It’s important that I make sure that in my sketches, that I have room for creative ideas, but also spend time with a greater detailed look at the typeface I want to create and the relevant elements (think heavy reference to all parts, and use learning material as reference). This will enable me to make sure that the created typeface can be as accurate as possible, with repetition of appropriate proportions across all elements. Especially when my theme that I am most drawn too (minimal) is very particular on accuracy and precision. ?



Scan 1

Scan 2

Scan 3

I created a series of sketches where I worked with my idea from week 1 and found that doing so raised a few different directions that I wanted to go.

Originally I had wanted to have slightly textured paper, that was cut out and placed over more paper. This just would not create enough contrast to make the effect interesting enough. So I decided to use scrunched paper, that adds a great amount of contrast with the shadows of the ridges and lines in the paper.

I decided that the typeface I wanted to use should be; sans serif, small caps, with wide tracking, and drawn/measured as accurately as possible, that will be a challenge in itself, but should (hopefully) provide rewarding results.

The important thing that I must consider, is, does this effect stay true to the actual word and meaning as well as the theme of minimal? I believe that the effect is true, because I am using the paper as a background, that has only been folded/scrunched to form a natural texture, and is honest in nature. Having the typeface over this, does have a slight complication. In order to be able to see it clearly, I have to decide if blocking in/adding black ink conflicts with the honesty of what I am doing. There is the obvious link to paper > Ink > Typography, and it would be fitting in the minimal theme, because it is the only altered element, everything else is paper.

I decided on all small caps, and large tracking to capture the theme. From many inspirations on modern designs, and minimalism there is a large emphasis on the scale and measure of whitespace around the main elements. Most importantly, it must have a function and adhere to that correctly. Which is to present a word and be able to capture the meaning through the use of the material. In my case, to be able to translate honesty through the use of paper.

I do have a niggling feeling, like maybe this is not right, or I should try exploring a few other directions. Have I gone far enough, or just become interested in only one idea?

I had a bit of a break and decided to draw some sketches of a few new ideas, from viewing my inspiration list and trying to think outside the idea I have above.

Scan 4

The idea that I found particular interesting was using imprinting or embossing to create the words on the page. But I want to do this in an honest way, making the stencils from paper and imprinting with those. Not an easy task, but worth a try…

Draft Construction


In this craft, I tried just some basic ideas, which included the word removed by cutting, letters formed with only parts visible, folding corners of type and folded type. I was not really happy with these, so continued on.




In this example I continued on with my idea of small caps on scrunched paper. I decided to try various placement ideas.




This time I took the idea of embossing the letters. I decided to take this endeavour without actually researching how to emboss (by hand). So it is a bit funny. I basically wanted to make a ‘mould’ with the letter, and pushed the paper around the letters (sometimes ripping the paper). I have since researched ways to emboss by hand, such as the tutorial available on Instructables: which I would like to try!

Draft Ideas

At this stage I am torn between two different directions.

  1. Small caps on scrunched paper
  2. Embossed lettering/imprint on page

I am going to seek peer feedback to have some outside opinion.

Theme/Concept Description


Design Documentation

The design process document is an important part of the assessment and shows how we formed ideas, in a visual way.

  • Sketch ideas of layouts
  • Research for inspiration on page spreads
  • Analyse favourite spreads and why they work

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