Typography, especially used for graphics, should have an effortless cadence. The accordion-style booklet was an exemplary exercise to work on visual storytelling through timing and sequence. The accordion-style book is expected to work together as a whole and also have balance within each panel. The poem or lyric chosen (in my case a quote) was to be energetic enough so that the typography could support not only the word but the action as well.
Furthermore, the booklet was to be 4” by 20”. A front and back panel was also necessary for the finished project. This added a new dynamic to the assignment: styling 2 more panels and planning for print. The professor aimed to teach us many things with this assignment, and she even ended up teaching us new skills that we didn’t anticipate. After the project was completed, we were expected to understand the use of timing and sequence in visual storytelling, explore type form, consider storytelling in a visual context, experiment with typeface, styles, and sizes, and use expressive typography in an interesting way.
There are many people who inspire me, so I set out to discover their quotes that had the most meaning for me. I wanted to conceptualize a piece that was personal to me while showcasing an artist or writer that I have a lot of respect for. In my brainstorming sessions, my ideas run rampant. I try to pull in the reigns on my conscious, but setting it free tends to take me to beautiful places. I started researching Stephen King first. I looked up quotes from his novels, namely The Dark Series. Later I searched for his quotes on writing. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. I wrote down quotes from his novels and then I sought some lyrics. Sia inspires my daughter, Cadence, and I am inspired by Concrete Blonde (both musical artists). I wrote down some lyrics from my little girl’s favorite song and some of my own. I even sketched some lyrics by Concrete Blonde-“God got his ass kicked the first time he came down here slummin’. Yes, this is powerful, and it would be simple to express with typography, but I wasn’t satisfied.
To dig further into my inspirations, I researched Aleister Crowley. I focused my research on his work within the “Thoth Tarot” and “The Book of Lies”. I was experiencing overload very quickly, and my sketchbook was getting to be too full of ideas. The quotes were lovely, poetic, and strong. They evoked emotion and challenged minds… exactly what I wanted. Still, I wasn’t settled. Even though I had sketches of these ideas, I didn’t stop there.
Since my greatest passion is writing, I looked around GoodReads.com and some other sites for a list of quotes by top writers. That was great—lots of writers had impactful things to say. But, I needed to represent someone who I look up to. Stephen King is my favorite author, but I already went there. My first novel, “Water and Stone” was deemed Kafka-esque, and I very much enjoy his work. It came as no surprise to me after choosing my quote why my novel was called Kafka-esque. We have a lot in common, at least the way we write and apparently the way our brains work. The quote couldn’t be more appropriate for me.
This is the full quote: “This tremendous world I have inside my head. But how to free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times I’d rather be town to pieces than rather it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.” Because this was a tad long for my project, and I wanted emphasize only a portion, I edited it slightly for my piece: “This tremendous world inside me, how to free myself and this world without tearing myself to pieces.”
After several sketches, I was even more convinced that this was the way to go. Franz Kafka is German, and I am mostly German as well. I was excited to start learning more about this man and the time period that he was writing so I could choose suitable typefaces. The themes in Kafka’s work are alienation, brutality, labyrinths, transformations, regret, depression, and insomnia.
I wanted to set the tone for the piece. I tend towards darker art, and so does Kafka. I looked at artwork online and used them as inspiration for my color scheme. The images were chilling and imaginative. They were full of concept and make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Another theme of his work is breaking free. After finding images of Kafka and artwork for his novels, I found some images that inspired me. Purple always evokes great emotion in me. Black, white, and purple are the primary colors of my logo, and I love the dichotomy that black and white represent conceptually. Black and white would dominate my work with touches of purple. I would add dimension with color and gradation.
Type studies were fun. It is easy to get caught up in all of the free typefaces online, so I limited myself to typefaces that I feel strongly about and typefaces that come from the time Kafka was a writer. My favorite typeface is Rat Infested Mailbox. I use it for my logo and letterheads. A typeface artist name Jellyka produces swirly, whirly fonts that I enjoy, so I searched for some of those as well. After narrowing down my typefaces, I finally opened up my Illustrator document. I set all of the text in each typeface that I wanted to use and narrowed my choices down yet again. The typefaces must be harmonious with each other while representing my ideas and concept.
Initially, the cadence of my piece was rough. The critiques from my peers helped me to remedy this issue. To keep my vision for this piece alive, I looked at Kafka images before I did any work on the piece. I wanted to be true to him while being true to myself. Once I had the cadence of the work set, the design process was very smooth. Time went by quickly, and I got to enjoy that dazed-out-of-place feeling a good session provides.
I presented two drafts for review. My peers expressed that they liked the balance and it was very interesting to look at. My professor suggested adjusting the kerning on a couple of words and watching the spacing on one panel from the top and bottom. Additionally, the final word needed adjustments. The draft showed the word “pieces” in three different colors. To add more balance to the piece, I colored the first and last word in white. It was a comfortable change.
After these edits, my peers expressed a strong impression. They liked the overall look of the design and I explained my concept. I used a gradient from white to black to white to black to create depth in some words. I wanted the words to appear as if they were sinking into the black background while pulling back towards the viewer. I wanted the viewer to feel stuck but freed at the same time. I like to express balance in my work. There is darkness in my booklet, but there is also this feeling of having another way. I did a test print, and my darker purple shade was not contrasting well with my black background, so I adjusted this darker purple to be a bit lighter with a hint of blue in it.
The backside of my piece was simplistic, so it didn’t take long. I applied the same black background, added the author’s name to the back fold and duplicated the front part of a letter from the inside to the front fold. I didn’t want much of anything on the front, and this one, small element served as a lead-in to the design. The rest of it stayed black. The black on the front and back provided a nice cohesion.
Finding a printer in my area for this size of print was difficult. While some of my peers found success by using a sticker, I did not want to use that solution. After stopping by some printers, I decided to stick with the printer that I use most frequently and have a good, working relationship with. Unfortunately, this print could not be the size I needed, nor could they print front and back. It was a tough decision to forgo the specifications of the assignment, as I am generally very anal-retentive when it comes to producing what was asked for. It was in my best interest and most cost-effective to go this route, so instead of a 20X4inch piece, I ended up with a piece that was only around 16 inches long. I taped the two sides together and folded it where I planned. I achieved the same look, only smaller. In hindsight, I would have printed each panel individually to get the size specifications correct. I also considered using that method with a hole-punch and yarn to hold the booklet together. That may be an alternative for the future.
This piece represents the emotion I wanted to evoke while staying true to myself and true to Franz Kafka. Too often, designers rely on graphics to present information and creating a feeling. This exercise proves that beautiful dimension and truth can be achieved with type that is set appropriately.