Type+Image: New WPA Posters

Project Brief:

The Works Progress Administration  generated hundreds of posters, murals, and other works of art. Many of the pieces were reflective of the time: after WWI, into WWII, with traces of Art Deco.

Your assignment is to design a *new* WPA poster. Something that encourages good ideas like voting, environmental conservation, or other positive ideas. (There are plenty of things to make posters against, but part of your objective in this case is to find a positive approach.)

ALL IMAGES utilized in this poster will come from your own hands/process. NO INTERNET images. That’s not to say that an image from the internet can’t serve as reference or part of some kind of process, but no copy/pasting.

Your poster is to be 18”x24” with no more than 3 base colors. Remember, white (or what ever your paper color is, doesn’t count as a color, but black or anything else does. You can even use colors to overlap to create more colors. Like we discussed in class.

And finally, your poster will have a simple animated version, using either the frame-by-frame or video timeline methods demonstrated in class.

View hundreds of WPA posters here. 

Type + Image: Modular Type

Second Wave by WeWorkForThem
Second Wave by WeWorkForThem

Your objective for this project is to design a creative and expressive typeface from three basic shapes. Of course, all letterform design is modular, in a way. Once you have a stem, curves, transitions, and the like, you can use those parts and pieces to create an entire typeface. That’s exactly what you are going to do, but with just a few shapes. Often, we think of the bauhaus and their heavily geometric and modular ideas. Here’s a link to a great looking workshop on modular type.


  1. You will begin by drawing your modules on graph paper. Try out a few different combinations of shapes. Try a circle, square, and quarter-circle. That would yield a typeface like Josef Albers’s Kombination Schrift above. Then maybe try some less geometric, more organic shapes. Then mix the two styles together to get something new and interesting.
  2. Then test your design by designing a series of letters and numbers with those modules. You might instinctively start out with A, B, C, etc. But that isn’t really the best way to go. Instead, start out with A, E, N, S, G, and 2.
  3. Next, transfer your final selection of modules to clean, white paper and carefully cut them out. Use the cut out shapes to create upper-case A through Z, and 0 through 9. Trace the shapes with pencil and fill in with marker on white paper.
  4. Scan the results of your tracing and markering and digitize in Illustrator.
  5. When that is finished, design a poster promoting your new typeface, featuring A-Z, 0-9, the name of the typeface,  and your name set in that typeface. Put you name and class on the back of the boards.


  • Design with your hands
  • Design a typographic system
  • Implement a creative typographic solution
  • Analyze typographic design processes


Tue Oct 31
Draw shapes (modules) on graph paper
Test by designing characters with those modules on graph paper
Thr Nov 02
Develop letterforms
Tue Nov 7
Start re-drawing in Illustrator
Thr Nov 9
Refine letterforms / Start designing promo poster
Tue Nov 14
Refine poster
Thr Nov 16
Project Due


• 15” x 20” board with promotional composition featuring A-Z, 0-9, name of typeface, and your name
• Project Notebook






Type + Image: Papel Picado

Papel picado, loosely translated as “perforated paper,” is a folk art technique practiced in Mexico. Colorful pieces of cut paper are strung to flutter in the wind during many holiday celebrations, including Día de los Muertos, Christmas, Easter, and personal ceremonies such as weddings and christenings. Specific color schemes are tied to each of these holidays. Pink, orange, and purple, for instance, often decorate ofrendas for Día de los Muertos, while red, white, and green (colors of the Mexican flag) are used in commemorating Independence Day or Mexico’s patroness, La Virgen de Guadalupe. It consists of rectangular pieces of tissue paper cut away into intricate, repetitive designs. Simple versions can be constructed by folding and snipping with scissors; more elaborate versions require awls, chisels, and other special tools. The design emerges as the artist manipulates the negative space of the tissue paper. Experts in the craft will handle many layers of paper at once, generating extensive designs that often include motifs such as flowers, birds, skeletons, crosses, and historic figures, among others. Papel picado decorations are ephemeral, existing only during the celebration. They are typically displayed outside, where their delicate construction will disintegrate naturally in the wind and rain. This transitory existence is repeated in many of the other elements of Día de los Muertos celebrations, such as the fresh food and flowers that adorn many ofrendas at this time.

You are going to create your own papel picado triptych consisting of type & image honoring technology that has become obsolete and/or extinct or rock stars that have passed on.

Color choice is up to you and should be expressive of your subject and Día de los Muertos. We will not be using tissue paper for our project. Instead we will be using 11×17″ 24lb astrobright paper. (This will be provided.) You are free to use your own paper if you wish–be sure it is at least 24lb but not more than 28lb (or equivalent). During your exploration, remember to consider you will be creating your image across three panels. In these panels you may want repeating motifs and you will need structure across the panels to “hold” your image and type in the panels. Also remember, these pieces you create will ultimately be strung together and hung in the hallway. The technology your are celebrating is the focus and typical iconography is secondary. Stretch the boundaries of your imagination and skills of concept to challenge your representation of your chosen mechanical corpse.


  • Explore a culture and medium in which to create
  • Develop an awareness of the relationship between design and meaning
  • Increase conceptual skills through research
  • Use your hand skills to create your design


  • Start your sketches in pencil on 5½ x 8½” horizontal paper; use this size to keep the design in ratio of the horizontal 11×17″ panels
  • Finalize your design in the 5½ x 8½” size and copy it to 11×17″ white paper to create your cutting patterns (sometimes an inverted copy will help you see the positive and negative spaces more clearly)
  • Affix your white patterns to your colored stock and start cutting with an xacto
  • A paper hole punch will be used to create the holes for hanging, the string will run across the back of the panels and secured by masking tape (keep this in mind as you design, the top of the panel will need to be at least ½” wide)


  • pencil, sharpie, micron, computer
  • xacto knife (not a box cutter, not a snap-off blade)
  • scissors, if you have scrapbook type with decorative blades you may use them
  • paper punches (if you have them)
  • cutting mat
  • masking tape, painter’s tape
  • one sheet of poster board or a folder (to store your panels between classes)


  • Assignment sheet, research, sketches should be kept in a process notebook
  • Final pieces will be hung in the hallway; you will be responsible for helping to hang the work
  • Be sure to photo your panel hanging in the classroom against the white critique boards before hanging and again after it is hung for exhibit


There are plenty of resources on the web for information about papel picado and many wonderful images. Research is highly encouraged—take note of the repeating motifs, look at structure within the panels, and make note of how type is used. Using known structures you have observed for this project is ok, using a found pattern is not. YOU are responsible for creating a unique image incorporating a “portrait.”



Tue Oct 10: Begin Project / Brainstorm, Research, Sketch
Thr Oct 12: Discuss your subject / View sketches
Tue Oct 17: Critique 5.5″ x 8.5″ triptych drawings / make copies for 11″ x 17″
Thr Oct 19: Work in class
Tue Oct 24: Work in class
Thr Oct 26: Three panels are complete and ready to hang

Micropublishing – Collections

Bernd & Hilla Becher • Blast Furnaces • Image via C4gallery.com

Your next zine will reflect the theme of COLLECTIONS.

Not everyone has a collection, but some people collect records, beanie babies, baseball cards, stamps, cars, books, posters, houseplants, or a million different things.

However, for this assignment, I don’t want you to just go home and photograph your collection of Breaking Bad bobbleheads. Instead, think back to artists like Bernd & Hilla Becher (1, 2), Kate Bingaman-Burt, and Ed Ruscha (12, 3, 4).

You will choose an object or subject to photograph, draw, or otherwise document, and create a 20-page zine about that collection of objects, with commentary. Whatever the subject, I want there to be text and images. You will write about the things your are documenting: where did you find it, describe the context, the date/time, people involved, etc…

Text can be set digitally, but the zine should be designed by hand. There should also be some consideration given to a special production technique of your choice: a page that folds out to reveal a bigger image, hand-added color to each copy, block printing, emboss, colored paper, vellum, … something else? It could be as simple as using a different paper stock for the cover than the interior (but you can do better than that!).

Project Components:
1 Paste-up Original
5 Photocopies (with an interesting production element)

Project Timeline:
Thr Sept 28: Begin Project / Brainstorm / Collect images over weekend
Tue Oct 03: Review Images / Work
Thr Oct 05: Critique
Tue Oct 10: Revisions
Thr Oct 12: Project Due

Type + Image: Book Jackets

In this day of high speed internet and instant information, do we still take time to appreciate the classics. Is information like classic literature, art, poetry still pertinent and vital? How would you encourage a 17 year old to put down the phone and pick up a book? Perhaps that book just needs to be presented in a new and interesting way?

Your problem for this assignment is to re-package a familiar piece of literature in a way that is appealing to younger readers (16-29). Your task is two-fold. First, you must redesign the book cover. It should stand out amongst the overcrowded shelves, AND it should represent the story in an honest way.

The most successful book covers are those that give a hint of the story inside, without revealing all the details.

  • Design the front, back, spine, and flaps of the book.
  • The book cover must include, the title and author. The Penguin logo must be on the spine and back. Download it here.
  • Give your book a barcode by visiting this site, or download this vector file.
  • Make your book as much as possible like a “real” book. Add an ISBN number, reviews, price, and other details.
  • There are no color or typographic limitations on this assignment.


  • Increase your ability as a planner and form giver
  • Develop an awareness of the relationship between design and meaning
  • Increase and improve the quality idea generation (quality & quantity)
  • Understand and identify a “target” audience
  • Increase conceptual skills through research


You will be required to maintain thorough documentation of your process throughout this and all assignments in this class. Keep a collection of everything pertaining to this project (project sheet, research, sketches, thumbnails, copies, etc.) and bring it to each class meeting. This collection will be turned in at the completion of this assignment and will be part of your final grade.


  • One book cover mounted on 15″ x 20″ black mat board (shrink to fit)
  • One book cover attached to an actual book
  • One process notebook


  • Thr Sept 21 – Introduce Project/ Research / Begin thumbnails sketches
  • Tue Sept 26 – 3 full-color (8.5”x11”) computer comps due for book cover
  • Thr Sept 28 – revisions due for book covers / 1 full-color comp (cover, back cover, spine, flaps)
  • Tue Oct 03 – Revisions of book cover due
  • Thr Oct 05 – Finished book cover due Work day
  • Tue Oct 10 – Finished book cover due

Book and book cover design resources:



Moby Dick
Herman Melville

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson

George Orwell

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Washington Irving

Little Women
Louisa May Alcott

Of Mice And Men
John Steinbeck

Mary Shelley

Bram Stoker

Animal Farm
George Orwell

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison

Elie Wiesel

Micropublishing: Poetry Zines

Your next zine will not be your own writing, but that of a poet. Your assignment is to create a zine that merges type and image in an expressive and interpretive way. This zine will be a poetry chapbook that synthesizes the words of a chosen poet, with your creative and expressive imagery.

There are going to be a few rules to follow for this project, but try not to think of them as limitations, so much as opportunities for expression.

  1. 20 pages (including covers)
  2. Black and white
  3. No internet images whatsoever
  4. You may print the text once (make copies, enlargements, etc. from that)

In particular, I want you to think about illustration vs. interpretation. Are the images/layouts you are creating showing the reader what they’re reading in the text? Or is it adding to the impact of the text by doing something else?

Project Timeline

Tue Sept 12 – Begin Project / Get text
Thr Sept 14 – Review progress
Tue Sept 19 – Work Day
Thr Sept 21 – Group Critique
Tue Sept 26 – Implement Changes
Thr Sept 28 – Project Due