Photographs + letterforms + words + graphic support elements: Photographics explores purely formal elements of graphic design, including composition, scale, hierarchy, value, tone, and texture. Credit: Tim Jacoby

Explorations in Graphic Form

Photographics | Course: Studio | Students: 20 | The Ohio State University
Design 671. Winter Quarter 2012

Unlike more traditional design classes, the work produced for Photographics is highly abstract in nature. While many of the formal elements of graphic design—contrast, alignment, scale, hierarchy, repetition—are experienced early on in education, the control of tone (light and dark values) to create graphic “space” with overlapping foreground and background elements remains a challenging task, even for experienced designers. Layering a number of elements, such as type, graphic support elements, iconography, and photography, while maintaining graphic clarity and readability requires a good understanding of line, value, and contrast. Standard assignments eschew complexity in lieu of graphic clarity, causing many of the more subtle lessons to be missed. By freeing students from the typical requirement to communicate a specific message, class assignments encourage a more experimental approach through an understated—though often daring—series of executions.

Design is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking.” —Ellen Lupton

Graphic design, as a profession, deals primarily with image and type; students likewise begin the course by photographing an object and combining it with letterforms, words, and icons. Each successive exercise adds elements to increase the visual complexity of their work, magnifying the challenge of maintaining sufficient contrast between elements to cut noise and clutter. In the end, students are expected to create detail-rich compositions with strong visual impact, striking a balance between the intricacy of the parts with a clear visual organization.

Required Text:
Type and Image: The Language of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs

Recommended Texts:
Musikraphics by Victionary
Cover Art By: New Music Graphics by Adrian Shaughnessy

Below: Examples of student work, presented as two-page spreads from their final project: A book documenting the quarter’s assignments .