John Caserta
Activity and talk given at Brown Design Workshop on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 5pm – 7pm This page contains 352 words and is filed under teaching

Type and Materials


The shape of letters is dependent on tools and materials. Materials are involved in two ways: the material used to inscribe letterforms, and the material into which the letters are inscribed. Letters are made by something and exist on something (or in it). The history of typography shadows the history of printing presses and papermaking. But given the boon in digital fabrication options, letterforms themselves are finding new shapes. Whether on plastic, styrofoam, wood, vinyl, metal or made by hand, letters can look like almost anything if you work with the material to shape the letterform.

Artist Shannon Ebner works with cement blocks.

I will show digital and physical examples of typography made with various tools and materials. Attendees should bring their laptops in order to fabricate their own letterforms in the Brown Design Workshop. Some materials will be on hand, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own.

Index of works

I have started a Type & Materials collection on arena. Anyone is welcome to add to this open collection of bookmarks. Each block (bookmark) is tagged with a material or tool below.

  • bike chain, brick, building projection, caution tape, cement, clay, computation, desks, dots, earth, everyday objects, fabric, fence, flag, flowers, food, furniture, granite, hair, hands, hot dogs, LED, lego, letters, light, lips, light, light bulb, marble, meat, metal, milk crates, neon, newsprint, organic, people, perforation, plastic, powder, router, rubber stamps, scissors, sheets, stencil, stairs, sticks, stone, styrofoam, sword, tape, thread, traffic light, water, wax, weave, wire

Let’s make something

In the time remaining, design and fabricate the word “we”. Pick a machine and a material (clean or used) first, then make a design based on your choice. How can you push the conventional shapes of the letters based on the material, the machine and your own desire to stay something. Instagram pix of your final images with a mention of “@designofficepvd” and hashtag “we-made-type”

Index of everything


Interim Dean of Architecture + Design and formerly Department Head of the Graphic Design Department at Rhode Island School of Design. Founded The Design Office, a workspace for designers, in 2007, and ran it until its closing in 2021. Hear an interview that covers my teaching and design career. Read an overview of my work from The Noun Project. This site is updated regularly and outputs to a book with Bindery. Get in touch via email.