Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Questions. Answered.

Thanks to everyone for leaving your questions. Hopefully I'll answer them satisfactorally :)

I love typography. So I wanna know what basic tools you would need to get started in doing some. Is there programs you can get for free/cheaper that someone just starting out could buy/get? How much experience with computers do you think someone would need to be able to do it successfully?
-Sara (Cleverest_Witch)

Well that depends on what you mean by "doing" typography. If you mean making your own fonts, I can't help you there since I've never done it, only read about the basics and then got scared off from how much work goes into it. But if you mean things like laying out books and magazines, the best programs (in my, and most of the industry's opinion) are Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Illustrator's the best for manipulating letterforms for making logos, while InDesign is the best for any multi-page publication, especially if it has a lot of text. They're pretty expensive, but you can get a student discount which should make it a lot cheaper. But if you're really serious about this, you will need to know those programs really well, so you might as well start now.

In terms of experience, some of it is knowing about the computer but a lot of it is just learning about typography the same as you would learn any other subject. I highly recommend The Type Primer by John Kane. It was my textbook for my Typography I class, and it's great for learning the basics. Once you've learned the basic rules, the best thing to do is experiment. Give yourself fake projects like redesigning an ugly brochure and see what you can come up with. Also, if you ever want feedback, feel free to send me an email.

What has your curriculum been like at during art school, since you're doing graphic design? Is it all art classes, or are there other general education requirements? Do they try to incorporate art-y things into them, since it's an art school and all?

Early on, do you find yourself taking the same sort of classes as people specializing in others things like people doing illustration, painting, and photography? Is only later on that you get to really get into the nitty-gritty of what you'd like to do?

Well at RISD, freshman year is foundation year, which means all the freshman take classes together. Both semesters, we were required to take 2D Design, 3D Design, and Drawing, as well as two liberal arts classes which could be either art history, english, or social sciences (as far as I know, math and science classes taken at Brown don't count for anything so no one takes them).

All the freshman declare majors around March, and then starting sophomore year, we all take classes within our majors. For graphic design, the required courses for sophomores are Typography I and II (which is six credits), Form and Communication (also six credits), and History of Graphic Design. That leaves enough time to also take two liberal arts classes each semester, in which people from all majors are mixed together. Also, we have a short six-week semester called wintersession in which we're encouraged to take studio classes outside our major, so all wintersession classes are also mixed.

Do certain "camps" of art school get along very well, or are there some that are always at odds with each other? (I have in mind that at my school, philosophy/English and business majors would not usually get along so well).

Well, sort of. Almost all the apparel design people I've met have been pretty snotty, so I don't tend to hang around them. And the architecture majors have so much work we hardly ever see them (it's nicknamed archi-torture). But otherwise, the cliques that seem to form don't really seem to be around each major, it's just whoever ends up being friends. So no, from what I've seen, there isn't all that much rivalry between majors.

What programs do you use?
How did you start?
I really want to get into graphic design but I don't know where to begin.

I use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign CS3. They're really the standard for graphic design, so it's in your best interest to learn them. I started 6 years ago just by experimenting. I didn't know all that much about the programs, but I wanted to be better at it so I just worked really hard and made stuff in Photoshop for a few hours every day for about 4 years. If you want to start, I'd recommend checking some books on graphic design out of the library just so you have some idea of what typography is, and what is considered "good" design, and then just experiment. Don't worry if the stuff you make at first doesn't look good; if you keep at it, you will improve. Find things that aren't well designed and challenge yourself to redo them, or make up a product or band or something and create a logo and poster design for them. Or, try to design something in the style of a poster or website you like. I promise it's not copying, since you'll inevitably put in some of your own style. And if you ever want feedback, please send me an email and I'd be happy to help.

What sparked your interest in graphic design?

This question has slowly been answered throughout older posts from this blog, so I don't really want to go through it all again. This post: is about as much as I'm going to tell you :P

Well, I think that was all the questions. Thank you so much to everyone who commented and I hope I answered your questions fully. If you have any followup questions or if something was unclear, please send me an email or leave a comment!


  1. I posted a comment, even though I don't exactly enjoy your videos, but I get the gist. And you asked for a comment. I like to please people.

  2. Hey Karen, nice post. I think my Desktop Publishing question has been answered in the Graphic Design answer :-)

  3. Thanks for ansewering my question and giveing me some advice =)
    Laura <3

  4. Thanks for the response, Karen. I'll have to look into those programs... do people who aren't actually students still get these discounts? I'm not technically in school anymore.


  5. Did you know that you can create short urls with OUO and make money from every visitor to your short urls.