Feeling lost with my thesis

bluealgae's picture

I've just started my last year in school, and I'm about to embark on my thesis project. But I'm feeling a little lost.

I am definitely interested in doing something typographic. Ultimately, I want to design a typeface and use it in a book. But I'm open to other things like posters and even a boardgame (I actually love designing boardgames).

I've been looking into topics like attempts to reforming the English language through new alphabets (such as the initial teaching alphabet, Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet, etc.). It's interesting that all these reforms either failed or were scapped by their inventors.

In any case, I still feel like I have no direction. The thesis program at school unfortunately doesn't give students a lot of time to research before we propose a topic.

Since I only discovered the wonderful world of type a couple of years ago and most of you are pros (a business-major friend of mine uses the term "type psychics"), I wanted to start a discussion about interesting topics in typography that are worthy of exploration.

Also, when you were in school, what did you do for your thesis? Was it an enjoyable experience? Or did you want to tear out your hair? Perhaps both?

hrant's picture

You seem to have good interests, although it's hard to
make a living off of such things after you graduate... :-/

> all these reforms either failed or were scapped by their inventors.

Mostly because of two factors:
1) Lack of central authority.
2) Expecting too much conscious learning effort.

But actually there have been two notable successes in alphabet reform: the best one was the invention of Korean Hangul in the 15th century; and the other was the Carolingian standardization of the Latin script (a much milder case than Hangul though). And it's very encouraging that Hangul -the only major "designed" script- is arguably the best writing on the planet. Sadly though, we don't have a king...

BTW, you could get a copy (maybe your college library can buy it) of Gunnar Swanson's "Graphic Design and Reading" if you'd like to read my full Alphabet Reform essay.


hrant's picture

Another under-explored topic I find highly interesting is the design and use of a "network" of visually compatible font styles to change "moods" in running text. I'm talking about taking the one-dimensional Roman/Italic system to much higher levels. I've tried to do that in the display realm with my Daam Entity*, but the real gold is in text.

* http://themicrofoundry.com/s_latin.html (See the second column.)

A third is ligatures, and how they can be elevated above a mere device for make things pretty/less_ugly.


Dana, do you read Chinese? Because the topic of Latin-Chinese
typographic relationships has yet to be properly addressed.


Stephan Kurz's picture

I'd love to read a thesis that comes up with answers to the question 'What do type design and typography do to a text?'
Probably that would have to cover a whole lot of semiotic and signologic stuff, combined with linguistic thoughts about the complex correlation of signifiant and signifie.
That's a hard one, though.

Regarding alphabet reform: it came to my mind that in addition to hrants examples, alphabet systems have been exchanged, e.g. in Turkey from arab to an extended latin alphabet, also in parts of Croatia and Bosnia from cyrillic to latin and vice versa. Another interesting point would be interrelationship between coexisting alphabet systems (in correlation to language) as in the Balkans.

dan_reynolds's picture

Thank heavens that we don't have a king (in either of the countries I've lived in…)!

bluealgae's picture


Sadly, I no longer have the ability to read Chinese. But I did explore the relationship between English typography and Chinese typography in a project last year. I only scratched at the surface of that topic, but I agree with you that there is more there that is worthy of further exploration.

What did you have in mind? In my project, I covered about how the two languages vary in their construction of words, the existence of a "center line" as opposed to a baseline in Chinese (especially for vertical type), etc. Looking back at it now, it's almost a "Stop Stealing Sheep" for Chinese typography.

hrant's picture

You say "no longer"? If you had the ability when you were really young (like less than 8, preferably less than 4) then all it should take to wake it up is something on the level of a college Chinese course.

Since so little has been done in the field of Latin-CJK "symbiosis" there should be a treasure-trove of angles to explore. One obvious project would be the creation of a Latin face subordinate to a classic Chinese font style - although the risk of kitsch is huge there. Or you could explore the role of notan in both scripts. In fact I have an idea concerning notan that I call "Yang-style" :-) which I'd however like to keep non-public for now...


amyp's picture

Inspiration: Abecedaria Blog

bluealgae's picture

Oooh, thanks, Amy! I'm just scrolling and skimming right now, but it looks like it's packed full of inspirational goodies.

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