Featured Course

Typography as Image

Transmedia Typography is an organism expressing its behavior across varied platforms: from the materiality of print-based communications to the dimensionality of environmental design, to the dynamics of networked interaction, and to the glow of screen and projection.

In Typography as Image, taught by Tyrone Drake, Graduate Graphic Design students tackle a transmedia installation project after researching and analyzing the theories and methodology of a creative individual who is considered to have substantial influence and impact on contemporary culture: a visual or performance artist, a philosopher or social theorist, a linguist, critic, writer or poet. Then, working in a variety of media types, students propose, develop and execute a typographic narrative installation that pays homage to the chosen subject. The creative solution must work across three media types: print, screen and on a three-dimensional, architectural scale. 

In the Spring of 2018, the final execution of this class project was developed as a spatial graphic installation leading into and across the first parking level of the 1111 building at South Campus—transforming a routine arrival pathway into an integral component of the visitor experience.


Typography as Image Student Work

In their own words, students describe their installations:

The Ellipsis of Yayoi Kusama by Aiki Chen

My work showcases Yayoi Kusama, a well-known artist who gained fame through her use of art (and mental illness) to create a psychedelic pop art world. But was it all for real, or done merely for fame and fortune? Was she truly a visionary, or simply someone who exploited her “supposed” illness and famed polka-dots to become famous? My project expresses personal critical thoughts on this artist, who proclaims herself to be The Modern Day Alice.

Permanent Impermanence by Pan Hu
Inspired by Jackson Pollock’s method of dripping paint, I created a series of posters that translate his drip painting movements into abstract forms. The concept of this project is to imagine what Jackson Pollock would have done had he utilized other tools and materials to visualize his expressions. The posters are evolutions into environmental graphics that communicate Pollock’s ideology in a spatial environment. In addition, I created a series of correlated motion graphics to better showcase the movements of the abstract expressionist. 

They Are Watching You by Kexin Lin

Michel Foucault, one of the most famous philosophers of the 20th century, critiqued the essence of modernity, explored the power of mechanism; how it worked, influenced everyone, and ultimately eliminated human personality. In addition, he changed the direction of Marx’s utopian world and pointed out the relationship between power and personal discipline. 

This project researched Foucault’s key ideology, discussing a reflection on the masses. Foucault believed that schools, hospitals and the police all played roles in disciplining people, the primary cause for the loss of people's souls under the surveillance mechanism of power structures. Watched by power, people also helped create a monster, which disciplined others. 

Foucault did not present a solution as to how to escape this procedure but declared this cycle as the death of the human being. After the discipline of minds and behaviors, after the disconnection of souls, people will merely be reduced to their physical functions as human bodies, slaves of a power machine. 

Thus, I used an unsettling yet serene visual language to discuss the potential domestication of our brains and to reveal this invisible disciplining process which surrounds us. The question remains: is it possible that life is just the progression from a low-grade prison to a high-end cage?

Marina Abramovic by Qin Shen

Marina Abramovic is one of the long-celebrated actors who explores the limitations of her body to communicate through acting. In traditional acting various aspects such as movement, sound, intonation, and environmental associations accompany a play, a poem, or a film, to engage the audience. The question is how attractive a play can be if not all of these aspects are embraced. This explains the reason for considering Marina’s works which are commonly characterized by the stillness of the body, without language, sound, or movement. This type of performance is frequently referred to as “limited body”. Within the garage installation, I communicate this through an interpretative project with a specific focus on Marina Abramovic’s personality.

Solid Sound by YuanYuan Su

Music is the most beautiful thing in the world. Some people listen to it through their eyes. David Hockney, an artist with synesthesia, utilizes this perceptive phenomenon in his work. Hockney was also inspired by the Cavalier perspective from Chinese Gongbi scroll paintings, and I, therefore, designed a set of fonts that explore synesthesia and Cavalier perspective in typography to create an immersive experience for viewers. In my poster series, I blow up three-dimensional elements in the letterforms to lead viewers to feel they can immerse themselves in the space of fonts and touch it.

Objectification by Ye Tian 

Art critic John Berger’s phrase: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at,” led me to do research on female objectification. This became my primary topic because it is a persistent social problem that cannot be solved. The concept of Typography As Image for this class inspired me to use letterpress as the main elements in a poster series against female objectification.

See the Unseen by Lemon Zhai

This series is my interpretation of German photographer Andreas Gursky’s ideology and philosophy. He manipulates everyday scenes through alternate means into man-made landscapes in admiration of nature and to reveal the contemporary as sublime. Gursky produces work that surpasses the limitations of human eyes in both dimension and quantity but stays faithful to minute visual textures and details. 

Terms and Conditions | MMXVIII by Nik Hafermaas*

This project is an interpretation of artist Wim Delvoye’s creative strategies in the age of a crisis of trust in social media platforms, search, and governments. The provocative Belgian artist questions the relation between art and commerce through ephemeral “maximalist” pieces that defy traditional museum norms of status and permanence. This installation uses Twitter’s user agreement combined with infamous tweets to create Deviant Type that comments on the current discourse around social media, freedom of speech and pent-up rage in our society.

* In his last term as Graphic Design Department Chair, Hafermaas chose to participate in the class project as a student. He departs Pasadena this summer to head up the College’s ArtCenter Berlin program.

backlit person in front of art project projection

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