Yehrin Tong creates beautiful, detailed patterns as illustrations.
She recently won the V&A Book Cover Illustration Award with a cover for Michel Faber’s book ‘The Book of Strange New Things’.
Yehrin Tong creates beautiful, detailed patterns as illustrations.
She recently won the V&A Book Cover Illustration Award with a cover for Michel Faber’s book ‘The Book of Strange New Things’.
Choose a magazine, newspaper or journal and work out the grid or grids they have used.
Measure the size of the pages, the margins, the text columns and the gaps in between them. How many columns do they use? Is it the same on every page?
Can you identify the fonts they use? Do you have it or one with similar properties?
How do they use photographs and illustrations? How much ‘white space’ on the pages is
The pages use a two column layout with a narrow 4mm gutter between them. There is not much white space in the article but there is quite a generous margin at the top of the page . Images take up the first column and almost half of the second column is taken up by the title of the article.
The main heading is written in a large high contrast serif font (HDF Didot?). The font size of the body text of the article is quite small and uses a serif font (www.identifont.com suggests the closest match was ‘Imprint (URW)’). Not sure if the text is justified within the columns but hypenation is used a fair bit to keep text aligned with the right hand side of the columns and keeping the overall look of the text neat.
Images in the article have a sense of forming a ‘circle’ around the edges of the pages:
The images also have a sense of balance – the title and photo of the statue holding a banner with words on are diagonally opposite each other. On the other diagonal, groups of small busy images are grouped in opposite corners of the pages. A small image straddles the columns on the bottom left and top right of the spread. The black and white image next to the title also works because it does not detract too much from the title.
This page uses a two column layout with a narrow 4mm gutter between them. There is barely any white space in the article but the margins on the left and right of the page are more generous than in the article above. Images take up about half of the space on the page and columns of text appear to overlap the images. As result the images and the text feel closely connected.
The main heading is written in a large high contrast serif font (HDF Didot?). The font size of the body text of the article is quite small and uses a serif font (www.identifont.com suggests the closest match was ‘Imprint (URW)’). Not sure if the text is justified within the columns but hyphenation is used a fair bit to keep text aligned with the right hand side of the columns and keeping the overall look of the text neat.
The two larger images on this page are on opposite corners of the page. The overlays on the images also form a series of ‘steps’ on the compliment each other. The text on the page is in two blocks that are also diagonally opposite each other. A small black and white images sits almost in the centre of the page and there is a sense that all the other content of this page pivots around this image.
Draw up a two page spread using the same grid as the magazine. Indicate text using
Lorum Ipsum and indicate images by either filling a picture box with a 10% tint or using
a picture from your collection.
The layout below is based on the ‘Mind the Gap’ double page spread above.
When you have done this see if you can develop the grid further.
Select a title and images and see how many variations you can come up with.
The final part of this exercise needs to be completed.
Design the font for use on the cover of a magazine called type and write a short article for the magazine using a range of typefaces, with typographic illustrations, drawing on all that you have learned in this section. The article should include sections on:
• what makes a typeface interesting
• how a typeface is constructed
• question marks.
Do a mock up of the magazine cover to show where and how your title font will appear
along with other cover elements.
Produce a magazine article that is attractive and interesting enough for someone to want to pick it up to read, and which shows off what that you have learnt so far about typography.
I started the process of designing a font by defining my own ‘brief’ for the typeface in order to set some parameters in which to work. There are a vast number potential variations of typeface designs, so to help with designing the font, I first considered what the purpose of the font was and what it would be used for?
The font is required for use on the cover of a magazine called ‘Type’. I have assumed the magazine to be 23cm wide by 29.6cm high (with a portrait orientation). I assumed that the name of the magazine was the most important element of the cover so I wanted my typeface design to specifically consider the letters ‘T’, ‘Y’, ‘P’ and ‘E’.
The typeface will be used for headings and will be displayed in quite large letters and as such needs to be a reasonably heavy weight so that it is clearly visible. However, given it is required for headings and not for body text, it has the potential to be quite decorative.
Only the characters of the uppercase alphabet are required.
Because the magazine is about typography and is likely to be read by graphic designers, I also decided that I wanted the font to have a modern, graphic and ‘designed’ feel and not be a handwritten style font or feature elements that were too contrived or ‘gimmicky’.
I decided to consider a serif font because of the scope that the serifs would give to design specific characteristics of the typeface. However, serif typefaces can sometimes look a little ‘old fashioned’, so I wanted the serifs to give my typeface a modern feel. I researched other serif typefaces which I felt had a modern design and examined them to determine what their key features where and what I felt made them look ‘modern’:
I concluded there were several design elements which were appealing to me in these typefaces. The Courier New font had a very retro feel which is what i think was making it feel contemporary. With the Vollkorn SC font it was the monospacing, again I think it was the retro feel of this attribute that I liked. Cormorant SC and Cinzel are both quite similar. They have a high contrast in the width of strokes, are generally quite slim and delicate with refined serifs.
I was also particularly inspired by the typeface used by the National Trust, which I had researched in an earlier exercise. At first glance, this looks like a sans serif typeface but on close inspection there is a subtle ‘flare’ at the ends of the terminals.
I started by drawing letters freehand, focusing on the uppercase letters ‘T’, ‘Y’, ‘P’ and ‘E’ and exploring different variations with contrast and small serifs:
I was feeling rather uninspired and did not feel there was anything particularly original about my ideas, so I then considered looking at my own handwriting for inspiration, looking at both upper and lower case and how I write with different sizes of pen…
I noticed that on certain uppercase letters, such as ‘A’, ‘F’ ‘H’ and ‘M’, I often draw a long descending stem, so I decided to incorporate this design element into my typeface design to give it some ‘personality’.
After a bit more experimentation, I decided to try a low contrast style with quite thick stems, small triangular serifs and ascenders terminating at an angle.
Now that I had a clearer idea of the characteristics of my typeface, I worked on defining all letterforms (both upper and lower case). I drew the letters out by hand using guide lines to define the baseline, x height, ascender height and cap height. This process helped to define a set of ‘rules’ for how characters with similar shapes should be drawn.
Having completed this exercise, I wasn’t entirely happy with the design as I felt it was a bit ordinary. I experimented a bit more, this time using the idea of a slightly flared serif but having the serif flare out from the centre of the stem:
I was happier with this design, so again, I drew out the whole alphabet to define the ‘rules’ for how all characters would be formed:
Having a clear idea now of how my letterforms would be constructed, I created the letters using Adobe Illustrator.
As an additional task working in Illustrator, I also carefully defined the widths of each letter. I did this by analysing Google Fonts, ‘Marcellus Regular’, a font that I liked and whose styling was similar to my design. I printed out the alphabet and measured the width of each letter and grouped the letters together into ‘families’ where the letters had the same widths. I then used this as a guide for my own design, although I didn’t follow exactly the same proportions for my letters, e.g. my ‘E,F’L’ family is wider than the Marcellus font.
As I created the letters, I also experimented with placing them together to see how they would look as words. As a result, I did some final finessing with the designs, making the stems and the flared serifs a little wider.
The final design for the uppercase letters is here:
The next stage was to design a cover for the ‘Type’ magazine. I started by researching typography and graphic design magazine covers on the internet. I collected samples in Pinterest, here:
Taking inspiration from these samples, I sketched out some ideas for the magazine cover:
Graphic design magazines often do not have much text on the cover and are quite minimalist, focusing more on graphics or images to give high visual impact. I decided to follow this trend with my own designs.
I reviewed my design ideas with my husband and we selected six to develop into a mock ups:
After further discussion with my husband, we selected the cover below as the final design. We both really like the cover with the yellow letters as flowers, chosen for the spring edition of the magazine and felt that the coloured cover would have a lot of visual impact if the magazine was on a shelf. However, we felt that the cover with the ‘blood spatter’ was communicating more visually and had an element of humour which made the cover more interesting.
Final Cover Design:
The final step was to write a short, magazine article with typographic illustrations.
I started by mapping out ideas for the structure and content of my article:
The brief was to write an article discussing how a typeface is constructed so I decided to write an article describing (briefly) the steps I had gone through in creating my own typeface. Because there was potentially quite a lot of information on this, I decided to make the article fill two pages of the magazine.
As this was quite an ‘informational’ article with a lot of text, based on previous analysis of other similar articles, I opted for a three column layout.
The article heading is large and bold and spans the first two columns. It is intended to attract attention and encourage people to read the article. The main heading is Libre Baskerville Bold 48pt. I specifically chose this typeface because it has a traditional feel and is often used in diagrams that illustrate the components of a typeface – the same typeface is used in the diagram on the second page which illustrates guidelines.
The sub-heading is in Lato Bold 21pt. The Body text is also all in Lato Light 10pt. I chose Lato for the body text because I felt a magazine about type would have a particularly contemporary design aesthetic and I wanted something that felt a bit more contemporary than the more common serif fonts often used for small sized body text in magazines. The light weight Lato font has a clean, uncluttered and delicate feel which I felt was still quite readable printed at a small size.
The body text is split into sections, each with an uppercase heading in Lato Bold 10pt. The section headings divide up the text and signpost the information which is contained within the section. Sections are also broken up into short paragraphs, separated with a blank line. The columns, sections and paragraphs all serve to break up the text and make it more digestible.
I wanted the typographic illustrations to be distributed evenly around the article so that it would look balanced and also help to avoid having too much text in one block. I also wanted the illustrations to be located at least close to the part of the text they were relevant to. This meant that I chose the illustration specifically on where I wanted it to be placed in the article (rather than because I specifically felt a part of the text needed a diagram to help explain it). On the first page, the text wraps around the word ‘Love’ for visual interest. I also think this large graphic, slightly offset to the right, nicely balances the large title.
I kept all the illustrations in black, partly for consistency but also because type is very typically in black and white.
Illustrations are annotated in Lato Bold Italic 9pt.
The completed article is here:
I really enjoyed the process of designing a typeface. The process requires a lot of attention to detail and is quite methodical and I think appealed to my quite logical way of thinking. The process has also really given me an appreciation of how many subtle elements can be changed to influence type design. It has also made me realise how difficult it is to design something truly original. I was pleased with the typeface that I eventually created although it may be considered a little ordinary for the cover of a ‘Type’ magazine. Having created the complete uppercase alphabet with my design, I did feel that some of the letters not used on the magazine cover, needed a bit more refinement (the ‘A’ and ‘U’ are a bit wide, for example). I would have also quite liked to take my font design to the next stage and used a font generator program to create a font file, but I didn’t feel this was necessary for this assignment and did not really have the time.
I found the design of the magazine cover quite difficult as I lack confidence in working with colours. Also there is a danger with a ‘minimalist’ design that it has very little to say. I wasn’t totally happy with any of my cover designs but I did like the feeling of anarchy evoked by my blood spatter design.
Creating a magazine layout is also surprisingly time consuming and I found this process quite annoying at times! A lot of tweaking was required to balance the text and illustrations, keep the layout tidy, stop text being separated from its heading, fill the required space without leaving gaps, etc. Very often I was having to take out sentences I wanted to leave in or add words I didn’t really want just to make layout work. Patience and flexibility are what are needed here.
My tutor made the following comments regarding this assignment:
“This is a great assignment for you where you show a range of attributes that
grant you the staying power to over time, become a good type designer. Your systematic and detailed approach has paid off and you create a credible uppercase font – I particularly like the ‘A’ which feels influenced by the Cyrillic alphabet. I love the process you undertook for inspiration for this through your own handwriting and how this thinking has spread over into your final front cover which discusses handwriting. As an engaging cover and title I think this final design works well.. more could be explored in terms of the dynamics of the full front cover page (the blood and the type are very similar scale, what happens if you make either one of them larger or how could these two elements somehow connect better to avoid there being a channel of white on your page.
Your interior article is great too.. very thoughtfully written – the design style feels closer to a journal on classic type design for serious discussion rather than a more trendy or cutting-edge magazine. It’s worth thinking about this in terms of your own design values and where your ongoing work sits.”
In response to my tutor’s suggestion regarding changing the scale of the elements on the front cover, I reworked the design to make the ‘blood spatter’ much larger and overlapping the word ‘Type’.
I think this version of the cover has much greater impact. The larger blood spatter is much more prominent and, in turn, much more violent and aggressive. The larger spatter makes better use of the full front cover. In this design, the title of the magazine feels less relevant. The word ‘TYPE’ just happened to be standing in the way when handwriting was killed.
Using about 500 words of Lorum Ipsum (or other dummy text) you are going to design three different pages:
• an interview with a TV actor in a listings magazine entitled: Will Sheila tell the
• a review of a new piece of hardware or software in a specialist computer magazine
• a book review in a newspaper’s weekend edition.
Note: My rationale for why I chose certain text combinations and what my intentions were for each design are contained within the text of each layout design. PDF versions of each design are included so that the text is easier to read.
Shaded boxes and circles are intended to represent placeholders for images.
Select one of the designs from your research that you like and think works. Using the dummy text, try and copy the layout and design as closely as possible. You will need to measure the margins and column widths. If you don’t have the exact typeface get as near as you can. If you are copying a page that includes photographs just leave 10% tinted boxes to indicate their position.
The text is a mixture of serif and sans serif typefaces with the section headings and body text in a serif font and the highlight text (under the headings) in a sans serif font. There are no lines between the paragraphs but each new paragraph is indented. In the original document, the first letter of the first paragraph is large and bold, but I wasn’t able to replicate this effect in Adobe Illustrator.
The ‘..to try’ sections also use a serif font for the heading, a bold sans serif font for the product name and a light weight sans serif font for the product description.
The page is based on a three column layout with each section only having text in two columns. The sections are then offset from each other using images in the third column.
The text is ragged and in the lower section, wraps around the edge of the image.
The title is quite long, taking up three lines, and is in a quite unusual serif font, in bold. The subtitle, author and body text are all in a sans serif typeface. The subtitle is mid-sized and the author and body text are printed in quite a small font, the author is bold and the body text is regular. The body text is ragged.
There are no lines between the paragraphs but each new paragraph is indented, with the exception of the first paragraph which is not.
There is also an annotation for the image which is in a very small, italic, sans serif font.
The page is based on a three column layout. The first column holds only the sub-title and author (and lower down, the image annotation). The other two columns hold the body text. The image takes up nearly half of the height of the page and fills the width of three columns.
This exercise made me appreciate how many different typefaces, font types and font sizes can be used together on a single page. This is particularly evident in the Waitrose magazine page which uses a serif typeface for the section heading and body text, and a sans serif typeface for the highlight text and product description, the product title is bold and the page header uses a serif, bold italic font.
I was also quite surprised at how small the body text could be as I would not have thought to make the text such a small size.
The three column layout that each page is using breaks up the text, making it more digestible and easier to read. In the BJP magazine, I particularly liked how the first column is given over only to the subtitle and therefore introduces a lot of white space into the page, allowing all the elements of the page to breathe. I think this works particularly well with the large image as the white space sets balances the image and lets it stand out.
Collect as many newspapers, newsletters, magazines and brochures as you can. Start by going through them and dividing them into the ones that immediately look easy to read and those that don’t. Is this due to the typefaces used, the way the type is laid out – the number of words per line and the column width, or its alignment?
Work out from your examples what the designers have done to make things more legible and readable.
There isn’t much text on this flier but I find the whole page quite difficult to make sense of. I find the mix of colours quite jarring. The image styles are also incongruous, mixing an illustration with two photographs – these two styles do not work together and for one image I can’t tell what it is (a table top?).
The mix of colours of the fonts also doesn’t work for me. I am also questioning why just the words ‘Christmas Contemporary’ are in a serif font. The text on this flier is printed small and is cramped into the bottom of the page, with all points running one after the next. For me, the design of this flier is so chaotic and jumbled that I don’t have the energy to read the text.
The front cover of this restaurant takeaway menu is too busy with too much information crammed onto it. There is some consistency with most of the text being in different weights of the same font but the different colours, font weights and sizes, images and decorative backgrounds all make the page look too busy. Information is broken up over a series of centre justified lines but I think the lines of text are too close to each other. I find that my eyes wander over this page without actually taking anything in.
This document provides a lot of quite technical information. Text is broken up with bold headings and bullet points, and the most important information is in red which makes it stand out. My main difficulty with this document is that the text is too small. This combined with the fact that the paragraphs are quite long just make this document feel like a chore to read. It doesn’t help that I know that financial information is already going to be a dry read.
The main message on this flier is illegible!It is printed in reflective gold foil and the very cursive typeface used is printed directly over a really busy background illustration. Its a beautiful document but it would have been better without the ‘Together we’re merrier’ (or is that ‘terrier’?) printed on it.
There is a lot of text on this page, the subject matter is quite dry and the body text font size is very small but, despite that, I do find this document quite legible. Even though there is a lot of text, it is broken up into short paragraphs with a generous line break between them. The information is broken up into sections with bold headings and the text is further broken up into three columns, so the lines of text are quite short. This all makes the text much less daunting to read. Only two typefaces are used and the colours on the page are a harmonious dark and light blue and shades of grey so that the graphics don’t distract.
The key informaton on this flier is printed in large font sizes and is centre justified. There are only two images on this page which are quite large but they are positioned symetrically which makes the design feel balanced. There are quite a few colours being used but they work well together and more importantly, there is a logic to their use. The two events on this flier are being differentiated by the use of colour with one in gold and one in purple. Because the colours are harmonious and the layout balanced, I am much more inclined to read the text.. I didn’t even notice the single use of the serif font at the top of the page!
Interestingly, I find it is the image here which is really contributing to the legibility of this article! I like the illustration and am intrigued by it which is making me want to invest the effort into reading the article.
There is quite a lot of small sized text on this page but text only fills the bottom third of the page. The text is split into short paragraphs, there is no line break between them but the first line of each paragraph is indented. The text is further split over two columns making it more manageable. Key pieces of information in the text are in bold.
The title of the article is printed in a large font and is easier to read, and serves as a good introduction to the text. The line drawing, white space and tiny hints of colour give this page a calm and balanced feel.
Based on my analysis of various documents, text on a page is more likely to be legible if:
Text does not require effort to read. It is not an issue if the text size is small but breaking the text up into short paragraphs which are easily discernible and splitting larger blocks of body text across columns, so that the length of the line that the eye needs to scan is shorter, all help .
Images add to rather than distract from the text. I am more likely to invest the effort into reading text if I am not being distracted by confusing images with jarring colours. It also helps if the image placement on the page is balanced.
White space is used to allow text to ‘breathe’. Rather than cram text onto a page, text is more readable if it is broken up and de-cluttered with white space.
There is a logic or harmony to the use of typefaces and fonts. I was more comfortable reading documents where the use of fonts had a clear purpose, such as a sans serif font for headings and a serif font for body text. More chaotic or unstructured use of type was confusing and more challenging to read.
Text is not overlaid on a busy background. Text on plain backgrounds (with good contrast between the background and the text colours) was easier to read.