Roman Frederic Cabay's Typography Unit Adventures & Misadventures

During the course of this unit in graphics, I used and experimented with various letter forms to create certain impressions upon the reader.

Found letterforms

To begin our progress with playing with letterforms, it was important to break down the letters to what they consisted of; basic shapes. Because of this, we went looking for letterforms that had been created accidentally; letterforms that weren't intended to be letters.

Finding these letters was much more difficult in practice than it was in theory. I ended up finding most of these letters stumbling around at night in a basement carpark, looking for anything that vaguely resembled a letter. "W"s were surprisingly hard to come by. However, I did cheat a little by using the car brand as an "S", as the logo was supposed to be a stylised "S". I made a few of these letters myself, such as the "i", "R", and "N".

Some letterforms seem much easier to find than they really are. For example, I'd expected finding an "S" to be easy. All I needed was two curves! Some letters were predictably hard to find, like the "B". What I found was that I often expect simple letters to be easily found, but reality was much more complicated. It was only easy to find right-angled straight-lined letters, like "E", "F", "H", "T", and "X". This, I imagine, is because right angled objects are more widely used, unlike unpractical shapes like "G" and "B". This meant I had to use a little more creativity to find the less practical shapes, as the right angled-ones were more common and obvious.


Helvetica high modernist basic facts poster

The high modernist style involved breaking the norm, and consequentially the designer's grid. Attempting this method was quite difficult for me, because I usually never stray away from a grid, especially when any form of text is involved. This would make a great prelude to distorting, breaking, and changing Helvetica itself. I'm not sure if I like the black-and-white colour scheme though, after trying to make translucent "shadows" of the circles that were in bright colours, this looked a little drab. I do like the rising circles, similar to what bubbles look like.

Distortions, Contortions, and Proportions

To achieve the following effects on the font Helvetica, we were given pieces of paper with "Helvetica" printed on them. We would then distort them however we pleased, and use the image trace tool on adobe illustrator to convert the images to stark black-and-white, shadowless files. Remember that the image trace tool can scan various levels of darkness according to the preferences set on it.

This is one of my favourite text effects. To achieve this, I used a knife to cut up the paper in a combination of ripping and cutting that I think turned out very well.
This is my favourite version of "Helvetica". I cut "Helvetica" into strips, and then removed some of them, after which I put them back together.
This simplistic effect was achieved by folding Helvetica up into a smaller rectangle, creasing the folds, and then unfolding it.
Here, I folded up the word helvetica, and took a top-down photo of it. The way the paper was folded and the angle of the shot meant that some letters weren't even seen. I don't really like this one, because two letters are bigger than the rest and are unchanged.
For this one, I folded the paper in several places onto itself. Simple, but effective.
Here I wobbled the paper up and down while the scanner scanned it. The effect on the first few letters is moderate but amusing. I prefer the second variation of this effect.
Here I wobbled the paper up and down, right and left while the scanner scanned it. This time it came out barely legible, and I don't think anyone can recognise it as Helvetica anymore. Which is good! The most distorted letter here is the "c" which now resembles a side-on view of a man carrying two mountain-shaped objects on his forearms.
I crinkled up the paper, tossed it against a wall, and slammed a door against it to get this effect. Simple, but effective.
I took the previous distortion and ripped it apart. Keep in mind that this time, I set the image trace tool to accept almost anything into becoming black, instead of last time where only the darkest spots could pass. This is why the previous version looked much more cracked.

Experiment with displacement maps

For this text effect, I used a displacement map created with the Adobe Illustrator Moiré tool, and then applied that displacement map onto my first text effect. After that, I messed around with neon colours for fun.

The displacement map I used. A little trippy.
The product. You'll notice that each looks slightly different based on where they were on the page when they were displaced by the displacement map.

Final Helvetica Project Poster Inspiration

The goal of this project was to make a poster with Helvetica distorted almost beyond recognition on it. The poster needed to have the words: "1957-2027", "70th anniversary", and "Helvetica Destroyed". However, we never finished the unit. I can still attest to the journey, if not the destination.

These are posters I found on a website called "typographic". These would inspire many of the thumbnails I thought up later. I chose many of these because their grids and patterns, or lack thereof, made me think I could do the same.

Poster ideas for Helvetica poster

From each of the posters I thought of different possibilities, and on each of these, I included the text effect I thought would be best. The "papers stacked on top of each other" poster made me think of scattered sheets of paper, each with a letter corresponding to "Helvetica Destroyed". The "Space Invaders" poster made me think of posters with unorthodox grids, leading me to create the distorted grids in the top-left corner. I would later choose two of those posters for further development. The "Water Pollution" poster would inspire some rushing water effects, and a poster where the letters making up the word "Helvetica" fall to disrupt the others, inspired by the physical weight the poster made me feel.

This was the development of the thumbnails seen before. I chose the distorted grid effect, which inspired me to make the swirling-around-the-center-of-the-page poster on the middle left. With Mr. McGrath, I found that I had no obligation to make the poster spin around the center. I also scrapped the idea of keeping a circle in the middle with 1957-2027. Making everything circle around one focal point that wasn't the middle meant that some parts were thicker and longer than others. This allowed me to give the longer, more important words, like "Helvetica", "Destroyed", and "Anniversary" more space. However, this would be the furthest I would get into the Helvetica unit.

Typographic portraits

In this unit, I would overlay a photo of myself with letters of a font. Then I would remove the original photo, creating a portrait of myself comprised solely of letters.

Laying letters out

This was the photo I used for my first two typographic portraits. The lighting isn't great, nor is the background, but posture and angling my head right are the only thing that counts. It's better to have a side-on typographic portrait than a frontal one, because it's easier to outline your nose's contours when it's side on. Another reason is that my ears, (to me at least), stick out impressively if I make a typographic portrait head-on. I made three portraits. One with a sans serif font, one with a serif font, and one with a font of my choice. Below, you'll see all the different fonts I used for my typographic portraits, and modifications that I made.

Different fonts -Sans Serif -Helvetica

The first of some. Notice that this one lacks any collar

In this typographic portrait, I used Helvetica as my sans serif font. I'm still not sure how I feel about this one. There're the obvious improvements, like my head being more accurately sized, my nose being less unsightly, my chin looking more like a chin, and my collar existing. There're also subtler changes, such as the hair being more spaced out, lending some breathing room, the hair line being smoother, the bottom line of my collar being less messy, my cheek and neck being pulled in a little, and my, (from my perspective), right eye looking like it's looking at you. I like the "mood" or "impression" that it exudes.

Different fonts -Serif -Times New Roman

The font choice might have something to do with the name, or rather, my name.

I made some improvements with the second version. I added detail to the left eyebrow from my point of view, I tried out a whole variety of techniques for the lip, but every time, I ended up looking like a saber tooth tiger, or a warthog, or something with teeth sticking out. Here I tried using empty space with the question mark on the right corner to try and convey the sense of lips. My mouth is much more accurately sized, but I didn't feel that I'd found an elegant manner of representing my lips. I meant to look inquisitive, but here I just look frustrated. I attempted using sideways "E"s, "F"s, "R"s, "H"s, "W"s, "M"s, and "K"s to make a line underneath my lips that had a lot of lines connecting the two. The result was me looking like I was biting my lower lip.

Only a few changes in this last variant, but they were deceivingly important. The right side of my face, (from your perspective), is now a little less blocky, and my mouth doesn't make me look like I'm chewing the corner of my lips anymore, as I deleted an unnecessary "J".

Different fonts -Personal Choice -Bellerose

I made a few minor changes over the course of making this, but they were inconsequential enough that I decided to present only the final product. I think this typographic portrait doesn't resemble me enough, and that's got a lot to do with the fact that I didn't use many small letterforms, which meant that the piece lacks some detail. I tried a lot of different methods of making the mouth, but each was uglier than the last, so I settled on simplicity. This is the first time I tried not outlining my cheek, as this was a first for a few things. This portrait was a little less detailed, and a little more broad lined than the other portraits, and I think that that experiment was worthwhile.

Further Experimentations

Here I used many different colours, gradients, and shadows to make a three-dimensional typographic portraits. In this instance I used what I consider to be my best portrait to experiment.

This is the text effect I used on my portrait, by which I mean, the only successful text effect I used on my portrait. I tried no less than six text effects, but only this one succeeded. Almost each time I was foiled was because of a lack of letterform width. For example, I made a pattern where the portrait looked like it was made of metal with holes in it, but the letters were so thin you couldn't make out the holes, so it looked like a normal typographic portrait. I think this typographic effect was a success, however. To me, it looks like molten gold that has been moulded into the shape of my face, put over a dramatic background.

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