Typography I: Course Syllabus

Course Description

An introductory course in the history and exploration of basic principles of typography. Emphasis is on interrelationships of letter, word, line, page and the logical evolution of the grid as a structural device. The course will emphasize techniques and ideas that influence meaning through the visual design of letterforms and words. The structure of type will be explored through projects in two- and three-dimensional media.


You must complete ART 331 and ART 332 with a grade of “C” or better and complete the Visual Arts Milestone (portfolio review process) before taking this class.

Learning Objectives

You will develop the ability to create and design with letter forms in printed and online communications by:

Required Texts

Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students by Ellen Lupton

Department of Visual Arts’ EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to Lynda.com In partnership with UMBC’s Division of Information Technology (DoIT) ALL students enrolled in ART courses in Fall’16/Spring’17 will have access to Lynda.com, the on-demand learning provider. Take full advantage of this resource, not only to complete the assigned tutorials but also to expand your knowledge and skill-set beyond classroom expectations by browsing Lynda.com for additional learning opportunities.

There are quite a few recommended books you should be reading if you are serious about design.

There are quite a few recommended magazines and blogs you should be following if you are serious about web design and development.


You will need the following software and supplies.

Policy on Student Expectations

This is not an instructional computer class. In terms of your commitment to learning objectives within each exercise, I recommend to students that they work and practice on their own personal equipment to further develop the necessary computer skills. However, I will help anyone who asks. If you are having trouble, questions or concerns please tell me.

Class Participation

A crucial quality for every designer is the ability to communicate—both visually and verbally! We will have frequent critiques in class during which you will be required to actively participate (no, attendance doesn’t mean active).

If you are shy, don’t let this stress you! Your participation will help others work out the kinks in their projects and vice versa, the more you talk the more you will learn. Becoming comfortable in a critique situation makes you better able to analyze and discuss your own work and the work of others, an essential skill in almost any job. It just might make you a better public speaker too…

Class Demos

When I’m conducting the demo you shouldn’t be talking to your neighbor. It’s important that you pay attention during the demos and it’s frustrating to those around you if you’re talking and distracting others. Additionally, you shouldn’t have browser windows open so you can check Facebook, your email or instant message your friends during demos. I see when you aren’t paying attention and it’s annoying try to catch you up and slow the class down because you couldn’t pay attention.

If you miss a step during the demo—it does happen—please let me know! If I’m going to fast let me know! If you didn’t hear what I said let me know! If you can’t see all the code on the screen let me know! I will either make adjustments, take a step back or come to your desk and help you. Asking your neighbor for help usually just ends up getting both of you behind and looks like you are distracted. So please, if you do get behind raise your hand or simply say something and I’ll gladly help or adjust.

Outside Assignments

24 hours prior to a project or exercise being due I will not answer assignment related questions via email or before/during/after class. You should not be starting an assignment 48 hours before it’s due! I will still answer assignment related questions regardless of deadline if you stop by during my office hours.

5 classes is considered a typical course load 15 credits a semester × 8 semesters = 120 credits. Each class is 4 contact hours 4 hours × 5 classes = 20 hours. Each class also has 4 hours of outside work each week 20 classroom hours + 20 outside work hours = 40 hrs). I will assign projects and readings each week to fit within that formula. If you can’t commit to a minimum of 4 hours of outside work each week you won’t do well in this course.


Finally, read the class blog carefully before asking questions. 99.9% of your questions have already been answered and are on the blog, including your grades, my office hours and contact info! If you email me a question that is already on the blog I’ll remind you to read the blog.

Policy on Grading

Over the course of the semester you will earn up to 1655 points by completing the weekly assignments, readings and quizzes, and four projects.

Late Work, Incompletes, and Make-Up

Professionalism will be stressed. Treat this class as you would a job. Late arrival to a client meeting or missed deadlines will cost you a job and your ex-employer a client. Therefore, all assignments must be completed on time, and are due at the beginning of class.

An assignment not ready for the start of class will be considered late. Assignments lose 10% each day not class period they are late. Assignments over 7 days late will be given a 0, no exceptions. Turn in your Assignments even if you aren’t finished, it’s better to turn in something. Getting partial points is better than getting a 0.

The semester grading scale is as follows:

Policy on Attendance

Students must be on time to class, prepared with all the tools and materials necessary for that day’s work and have completed personal conversations so class can begin on time. If a student does not have materials to work with, or is talking away ignoring the start of class, it will be noted. Unless UMBC officially closes, there are no excused absences for weather.

You get two personal days (unexcused absences). On your third absence your final course grade will be lowered by one full letter grade. Your fourth unexcused absence will lower your final course grade by two full letter grades, meaning if you had an A, the highest grade you can receive is a C. Your fifth absence will result in a failing course grade. There are no exceptions to this policy. The only excused absences—illness or participation in UMBC organized mandatory activities—must be accompanied by a note from the UMBC Student Health Center, another health care provider, or UMBC faculty/coach.

Attendance will be taken within the first 10 minutes of class. Students who show up after attendance is taken are already marked absent. Being late disrupts the flow of class for the students who are on time if I have to stop everything to update your attendance from absent to late. To avoid disrupting the class to change your Absent to a Late you will need to use the class blog to submit a late notification. Failure to do this in a timely manner upon arrival to class will result in your late arrival remaining an absence. There are no exception to this policy. Lates will be recorded in ten minute increments. For every ten minutes you are late, you will receive one-tenth of an absence. Ten one-tenths of an absence equal one full absence.

Just as important as being on time is staying for the entire class period. By the latter half of the semester I will give open class time at the end of each period for working on class related projects. You are expected to be working during this time. Leaving early will be treated the same as a late. Two early departures from class will result in one absence.

A grade of Incomplete will only be assigned to students who currently have a passing grade of a “B” or higher who are unable to complete the course due to a serious illness or personal tragedy that is well documented and out of their control.

Policy on Final Exam Attendance

The final exam will be held during the final exam period posted on the UMBC website for our class. The final exam could consist of a critique, in class quiz or simply turning in assignment files. In person attendance for the final exam is mandatory. Failure to attend the final exam will result in lowering your final course grade by one letter grade.

The only excused absences—illness or participation in UMBC organized mandatory activities or a common final exam with an overlapping time—must be accompanied by a note from the UMBC Student Health Center, another health care provider, or UMBC faculty/coach.

Policy on Use of Stock Photography and Other Imagery

Your portfolio is just another word for your reputation, which is just another word for your integrity. @monteiro

There is a very small place in the industry for the use of stock photography, imagery, and code. However, as a designer your are hired on your ability to create visual content, not use content created by others. There aren’t any legitimate design jobs for designers who use the work of others either claiming it as their own, or using it because you don’t want to create your own. If all designers had to do was buy or steal the work from others, why would anybody need a designer?

In this class, this means that all imagery used during the semester must be your own or supplied by me. If I suspect that you have copied the work of others I will ask to see your original sketches and digital files. If you find work that is listed as creative commons, technically you are free to use it if you cite the original author, but again, you are designers and you are the content generators.

Copying the code—HTML/CSS/Javascript—of others is a legitimate way to learn to design and develop for the web. There are tons of repositories and tutorials out there such as Code Pen and Pattern Lab available to you. However, you should never simply cut and paste the code from one of these sources and say it’s your design. While you learn from mimicking these sources you are still expected to significantly change the visual look and context of use.

UMBC Statement of Values for Academic Integrity

By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC’s scholarly community in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal. To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult UMBC policies, or the Faculty Handbook (Section 14.3). For graduate courses, see the Graduate School website.

Access and Accommodations

UMBC is committed to eliminating discriminatory obstacles that disadvantage students based on disability. Student Support / Academic Accommodation is the UMBC department designated to:

Course Calendar

Week 1

Class Introduction, and Letterforms

Week 2

Letterforms Continued

Weeks 3 & 4

Typographic Rules

Weeks 5–8

Analog & Digital Gridded Hierarchy Compositions

Week 9

Mixing Typefaces

Week 10–15

Environmental Typography
April 9th is the last day to withdraw from individual courses with a “W”.

Anything and Everything is Subject to Change and posts to the class blog supersede the syllabus!*

*The Really Big Disclaimer