The MVA Studio creates original and effective graphic design through fast and easy collaboration.

Intro to Typography

September 9–November 11, 2014
(10 Weeks)

It's one thing to make a message legible—clear to another person and beautifully typeset (meaning how the letters have been arranged)—but quite another to render that message so that it has emotional and aesthetic qualities. The ability to do so is grounded in a thorough understanding of the history of typography. In this class, students will learn how to do just that. They will explore the development of typography and then apply what they've discovered to an engaging series of assignments and projects.

Over a period of 10 weeks, students will deconstruct, interpret, and build upon the major historical styles of typography—from the beautiful centered layouts of the Renaissance to the exuberant explosion of fonts found in Victorian advertising, from the modernization of design through the Russian Constructivists and the Bauhaus in German, to the refined minimalism of 1960s Swiss typography.

One‐off experimental workshops and film screenings will supplement students' exploration of the history of printed communication.

At the conclusion of the class, students will have been exposed to 500 years of typographic innovation, developed a greater sense of detail in their work, and created a series of original publications informed by individual interests.

Each student will have access throughout the class to a lab workstation equipped with the latest software. / Open to students ages 16 and above.


Schedule: Tuesdays, 6:30–9:30pm
Instructor: Namdev Hardisty
Non-Credit Tuition: $380.00 (+ $40 facilities fee)
1 Credit Tuition: $776.00 (+ $40 facilities fee)

More details—including financial aid information—here.


Registration closes September 5th

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Why should I take this class? 
There are 2 major reasons to take this class:

  1. To gain an understanding of how typography has evolved over the centuries to meet the communications needs of the day and how the aesthetic concerns have changed through time.

  2. To develop a finer touch for typography by working through major historical styles such as Classical Typography, Victorian Woodtype Advertising, Early Modernism, and the International Typographic Style. By the end of the course you’ll have a better understanding of how typography has come to look like it does today as well as a broader range of visual languages to use in your work.

Have you taught this class before?

How will this class be structured?
Every other class will be a lecture on the development of a major style followed by an assignment to make a piece in that style.

The opposite weeks will consist of feedback and working time followed by a new assignment to break the “rules” of the style through new communications challenges, “inappropriate” typefaces, or “wrong” lay-outs.

In addition, there will be a one-night Letraset workshop to work with typography free from restrictions and a design movie night where we’ll see how cultures are shaped by communications and advertising.

The assignments are to work in a historical style? So we’re just copying old stuff?

No, the assignments aren’t to copy the original style but to take contemporary content and design it in that style. The goal is to understand it at both a communication and aesthetic level and to find out firsthand the limitations of that style. The assignments will answer 2 questions: Why did this typography work? And why did it have to evolve? A nice side-effect will be that you’ll develop a more discerning eye for detail and a more skillful hand.

The follow-up assignments then push past the original. How do you maintain the DNA of the style while dealing with a more complex communications problem, different formats or contemporary typefaces?

After these working on these assignments you’ll look at the visual environment differently and see new details in the graphic design around you.

Is there homework? How much?
Yes. There will be 3 homework tracks during the workshop: 

Track 1: Heavy (6+ hours a week)
Description: A 2–3 night homework commitment (3 two-hour sessions) that will allow you to explore a wider range of ideas for each historical style.
Homework Expectations: 3 or more complete lay-outs for each assignment
Feedback Promise: You’ll get a formal group critique at least every other week (non-lecture nights). We’ll use your work as the bar with which to teach the concepts behind each style. 

Track 2: Medium (3–5 hours a week)
Description: A moderate homework commitment that will allow you to get an introductory grasp on the concepts.
Homework Expectations: 2–3 complete lay-outs for each assignment
Feedback Promise: You’ll get a formal group critique at least every other week (non-lecture nights). We’ll use your work as the bar with which to teach the concepts behind each style. 

Track 3: Light (0–2 hours)
Description: A beginner’s history of typography with some exploration of each period.
Homework Expectations: 1 complete lay-out for each assignment
Feedback Promise: You will not get formal scheduled critiques. Instead, you’ll sit in on the group critiques. After the formal critiques, you may get 1-on-1 feedback when I do walk-around check-ins *as time permits*.

Please choose a track that fits your schedule and needs before the first class. You may always change tracks during the course of the workshop but this will help us understand how the class will progress.

*Note to degree-seeking students taking the course for 1 credit: You will be expected to commit to the Heavy level.

Readings from Thinking With Type will be assigned with each assignment. These chosen texts will give you a broader understanding of the technical and aesthetic components of each assignment (i.e, you should be able to work better). It may be possible to read each chapter during the class its assigned but no promises.

What do you mean by “complete”?
All information is in the lay-out and considered and you are able to introduce your work without saying anything like “I didn’t get to design that part yet.”

So are you going to ignore me if I choose the Light track?
No. It just means you aren’t guaranteed a critique each week. Because we’ll be dealing with codified visual styles that have “rules” (of a sort) there’s no need to talk about all the work. Furthermore, it stands to reason that the people who’ve had the most time to work will produce the most refined work. You should benefit from the critiques of their work.

There will be no judgement held against the Light track. I only want to make the most effective use of critique time.


Have you checked out the rest of our Fall 2014 classes?

10 week courses and short in typography, illustration and image-making for beginning and advanced-level designers.

Find them all here.