Kay Tappan Introduction


Lecture Outtakes: Helvetica (and Font Men!)

Font Men – SXSW 2014 Official Selection from dress code on Vimeo.


I love this film for so many reasons (and if you want more, check out Font Men, above). It does a great job of illustrating the Modernist and Postmodernist socio-political climates and their respective effects on design.
In Vis Com we spend a lot of time discussing visual elements and the powerful ways that something such as color, shape or typeface can communicate a certain mood or feeling in the viewer. Helvetica really illustrates this point. As designer Neville Brody points out, if you see an ad for jeans in a grunge font, most likely you will expect the jeans to be tattered and edgy. If you saw the same ad in Helvetica, you would expect a pair of jeans that won’t “stand out from the crowd.”
The film also addresses the question of whether the medium should be the message, or, as designer Tobias Frere-Jones points out, the type should merely be a “crystal goblet,” serving only to pool and organize information.

And just in case you still didn’t get enough…

Check out type designer Matthew Carter’s Ted Talk: My life in typefaces

#PUR4103: Visual Communication Fall 2014

public relations visual communicationI’m looking forward to an exciting and productive semester. On this site you will find course updates, lecture outtakes, lab material covered each week, and other visual communication miscellany. Feel free to leave comments but make sure to email me regarding assignments, clarification, or any other important questions or notifications that you might have.

Crowd Sourced Design: Bic’s Universal Typeface Experiment Avoids a PR Landmine

Bic’s Universal Typeface Experiment has garnered a lot of buzz of late. Users can upload a digital sample of their handwriting; it then becomes part of a collective, singular typeface, as the name implies. Viewers can explore results using filters such as age, gender, and country.

bic universal typeface

According to Kevin Allen, it’s a smart move on the part of Bic: “It’s totally on-brand, with a tangible product in the end.”

While I agree with Allen that it’s a smart move, my reason for this sentiment is entirely different. In fact, it’s the “tangible product” bit that could lead Bic down the already-trod path of crowd sourced disaster.

Crowd Sourcing Gone Wrong

Crowd sourcing is fun; we all want a part in the play, and the proliferation of social media and advanced desktop publishing capabilities have ushered in an era of unprecedented crowd sourcing. But a magic bullet crowd sourcing is not. Remember when Walmart sent Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska?

That’s to say nothing of design. Yahoo tried it with its logo refresh in 2013, then left our egos smarting after the unveil when it became clear that the final product  did not, and never intended to, take into account our yays and nays.

Kudos Bic: A Crowd Sourced Success Story

Bic has hit the nail on the head because, as opposed to making empty promises, the company hasn’t promised much of anything. (Bic will release the typeface to the public this month.)

That’s a pretty safe bet, considering our collective scrawl could yield a less-than-stellar result.  Let’s face it: the typeface will likely be, well, average.

Takeaway: Don’t make any promises. The Universal Typeface Experiment is fun to use, with a clean interface and non-clunky interactivity. Sometimes participation is an end in itself, and a tangible product need not result.

WordPress Widgets: A Guide

What is a WordPress Widget?

Widgets allow you to customize your sidebar or other widget areas (these vary with theme). There are many to choose from (check out this WordPress Widget Guide). This guide has a list of many of the widgets, what they are useful for, and screen captures of what they look like (although appearance varies depending on how you configure the widget).

Different themes have different widget areas. Go to the dashboard Appearance -> Widgets, and you will see the different widget areas. When you drag a widget into a certain space, it appears in that area on your site. Sometimes it just takes a lot of experimentation to see what looks best.

How to have certain widgets appear on certain pages

At the bottom of each widget, you can expand the “visibility” option and choose which pages that widget appears on. You might also have to go into each page (from the dashboard) and check out which template is activated within that page; this can also affect whether or not widget areas appear on that particular page.

Please reference the tutorial from the link above, and let me know if you have any questions!

Visual Communication Newsletter Design: Thursday Labs

Below are the newsletter designs that the Spring 2014 Thursday lab students created for fictional clients. You can read more about the newsletter design assignment.

Thursday Lab, 3 – 6 p.m.

Thursday Lab, 6:15 – 9:15 p.m.

Visual Communication Newsletter Design: Wednesday Lab

Below are the newsletter designs that the Spring 2014 Wednesday lab students created for fictional clients. You can read more about the newsletter design assignment.