Type Lessons: 1 Hour Typeface Experiment

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The world of design is always changing, but let’s be honest — type continues to engage and stimulate our brains. You’re actively making decisions about type that influence not only your client projects, but also the way in which the public sees and interacts with this art form. You’re drawing inspiration from your influences and creating great work.

But have you let complacency set in? While you’re not a newbie, searching for the right typeface and afraid to try something new, you may have — unwittingly — become complacent in your type choices. It’s easy to use the tricks you know work when you’re slammed or rely on your experience and resort to a tried and true design solution.

And, as professor, designer, illustrator, and author of Mastering Type, Denise Bosler explains, you may be limiting yourself in these situations: “There is a missed opportunity to bring something fresh — which is sometimes limited by time or by the client — when you rely only what’s worked before.” That’s why it’s important to challenge yourself by learning something new and breaking out of your comfort zone. That’s why you may need to, even as a seasoned pro, take on a few type lessons.

The Patent, designed by BANK (Sebastian Bissinger & Laure Boer).

The Patent, designed by BANK (Sebastian Bissinger & Laure Boer). All alphabet images courtesy Share Some Candy.

In her upcoming HOW Design University course Better, Faster Type, Bosler challenges designers to explore again, providing guided creative exercises to help you refresh your curiosity and push you to continue to be aware of your type choices. Below, she shares one lesson from her course to help you fight complacency today.

1 Hour Typeface ExperimentExperimenting with type, especially when it’s not geared to be your final piece opens you up to experiences with how to approach future projects. For example, if you’re working on a fashion ad, maybe you form the typography out of scarf. And why not create strong visual verbal synergy by using a related object to create typography?

Clothing and accessories black-and-white alphabet by Stuart Whitton.

Clothing and accessories black-and-white alphabet by Stuart Whitton.

Creating a found letter alphabet is not a new idea, but it’s an idea that never gets old. The possibilities are endless. The challenge of this challenge, however, is to create an alphabet only with items found in your house or office. Think of it as a MacGyver training exercise. (He would probably solve this this problem with only duct tape, toothpaste and a paperclip.)

Alphabet by Nicholas Davies. https://www.behance.net/Gallery/Papercraft/270519

Alphabet by Nicholas Davies.

Your alphabet can consist of:

  1. Found letters such as letters photographed from packaging

  2. Objects that look like letters such as an open stapler is an L, a coat rack is a Y, and an open pair of scissors is an X

  3. Single object manipulated to form letters such as toilet paper, a scarf, or headphone wires

  4. Multiple objects arranged to form letters such as snack mix arranged and rearranged to form the 26 letters.

Supplies:– Camera– Creativity

Step 1: Decide which style of alphabet you want to create. Take a walk around to see what you can find.Step 2: Set your timer for 1 hour.Step 3: Form your alphabet. Photograph to record your work as you go.Step 4: Assemble your photographs together to form 1 large image of your alphabetStep 5: Post it. #BetterFasterType

Bosler also reminds us that “experimenting doesn’t mean you have to go crazy and do graffiti or hand lettered chalk drawings if that’s not you.” She continues: “It doesn’t mean you have to create a David Carson-inspired or Dada inspired work, rather, experimenting means taking a look at typography in a completely different way.”


Refresh the way you look at typography with Better, Faster Type. Challenge your thinking, refine your craft and continue your design education with HOWDesign University.