John Caserta
Fall 2017 required course for juniors taught at RISD. This page contains 1,127 words and is filed under teaching

Typography III

In today’s world, the medium is often just the medium, as content seeks to migrate freely across platforms rather than embody the qualities of a specific medium. “Device independence” has become a goal more urgent than the task of crafting unique page layouts. – Ellen Lupton

In this third semester of typography, we focus our attention on two topics: type on screen and typographic systems. Contemporary typography, although built upon the formal inventions of the past, is evolving to work better onscreen. Typography is used in interfaces, stored on servers, rendered on various screens, and increasingly in motion. The screen, although becoming primary, is often paired with printed materials. The typographic system is the set of typographic elements that should work together, serving different audiences, substrates and technologies. This course gets into this new territory while giving students additional practice with medium non-specific aspects of typography like spacing, choosing fonts, composition, etc.

Course particulars

  • John Caserta, instructor,
  • Rhode Island School of Design, Graphic Design Dept.
  • GRAPH-3223-04 is a 3 credit required studio
  • Fall 2017, Thursdays, 1:10 – 6:10pm in DC 210
  • Office Hours: Tue/Thu 10-12p, DC 704

Learning Objectives

  • Continued practice with the fundamentals of typography
  • Introduce issues and problems related to interface design
  • Develop skills and understanding of type in motion
  • Deal with problems of designing for multiple media

Course Units

Type in Response

Typography is a mutable material, its properties adapting to the contexts in which they appear. It is increasingly rare for typography to exist in a fixed setting — as Lupton’s quote attests to. This section of the course will push you to become more comfortable with giving up on a single composition as end goal. We will look at how typography works on websites, mobile apps. 4 weeks

  • Activity: Reverse wireframe with Sketch
  • Project: Civic Design Interface

Type in Motion

With the prevalence of screens, type is constantly in motion. When entering a museum, when entering an application, letters can vary in space and time. In this section of the course, we will look at examples of typography as it has played out in films, television and other “pre-Internet” culture. Students will get experience with AfterEffects as it relates to the Web. 4 weeks

  • Activity: Animate type for native Apps and the Browser with Lottie
  • Project: Choose a poem, and animate it for a vertical screen that appears on the city bus.

Typographic Systems

The culminating unit in the RISD type sequence is about the ‘typographic system’. A typographic system implies a collection of fonts, spacing guidelines across many media. Institutions of any size require a thoughtful relationship of design artifacts that hold their voice together. Our area of focus will be in the cultural space, working with exhibition collateral. The typographic system will rely on all of your previous work to form a cohesive whole. 5 weeks

  • Project: With museum partner. Identity, catalog, website, animated promotional screen, billboard, promotional poster, wall graphics

Additionally as Exercise / Practice

Throughout the semester, I will ask you to produce a few brush-up exercises, meant to give you practice with various aspects of typography. In each case I will ask to see your files, hoping to catch ways to help you make certain types of work better.

  • R.I. Driver’s license
  • Typeset a reading related to typography from Wikipedia. Make a booklet for everyone.
  • Make a flyer promoting an event, selling something, or seeking a lost cat

Ongoing research

  • You are responsible for adding links with typographic news/updates/etc to our Arena Channels (and your own) and logging feedback in Slack.


Links to specific write-ups will appear here throughout the semester. Be on the lookout for relevant lectures on and announced in class.


20% Attendance/Participation/Attitude
20% Craftsmanship/Finish
20% Risk-Taking/Depth of Investigation/Originality
30% Timely completion of work
10% Technical competency

Grades from A to F will be given at the end of the semester with the above criteria. This course is a required course that is seeking a certain level of competency with typography. The criteria above is meant to assess as objectively as possible a student’s proficiency in typography. Grades from A to F will be given at the end of the semester with the above criteria. This course is a required course that is seeking a certain level of competency with typography. The criteria above is meant to assess as objectively as possible a student’s proficiency in typography.

Diversity / Civility / Citizenship

No learning can truly occur without accepting each other’s differences — those that we inherit and those that we choose. This course, this Department and this College thrive on self-expression. Students and faculty should feel comfortable using art and design as a means to understand themselves and their work. It is everyone’s responsibility to create an atmosphere of civility.

Additionally, juniors are expected to work in Design Center. Contributing to studio culture is an important part of being part of a community. Figure out ways to show your work to your peers between classes, whether informally or at certain points. You will learn as much from each other as you will from your teachers — there are 15 of you after all!

Collaboration / Plagiarism / Appropriation

All work is built upon other work; whether explicitly or not. In this course, there will be opportunities to work with your classmates to build something that is shared. Particularly with many deadlines and when learning a new skill, other people’s work may offer a pathway forward. What you do with what you see is important and can be the difference between riffing, appropriating, copying and stealing. As a general rule of thumb, if you see something you are excited about (in class or outside), understand the context in which it was made. What was the design responding to, communicating, and to whom. A deeper understanding of other people’s work generally produces additional ideas, realizations and starts to “fork” the idea (thank you, Github). It’s rare that your design problem is exactly like someone else’s. It is rare that you share the same values, interests, skills, as someone else. Referencing another person’s work can make sense (logo parodies, etc) if that fits your concept. In a school environment it’s best to check in with your teacher to see how to best make your own work truly your own.

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.