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IXD102- Project 1 – Type Specimen Screen and Class Critique

For our first project in IXD102, we were tasked with creating a type specimen screen based on a font of our choosing from a list of 6. I almost chose Futura for the history behind it and it being the first font to the moon but in the end I chose Helvetica as I love the simplistic feel of the type. There is also something so familiar with this font that drew me towards choosing it but during my research I got an inside perspective as to why it feels like that. Helvetica is everywhere.

I had never heard of a type specimen prior to Kyles class so before making my final decision I researched the different type screen specimens that have come from each font and below are a few of my favourites.

  What are Type Specimens?

A Type Specimen is a design constructed with the different aspects a font possesses, often to discover which is the best choice for a particular project. These specimens should include each variation of the type such as bold, italic, regular, uppercase, lowercase and any other aspect that will highlight its unique characteristics. In 1741, Jacques-Fraçois Rosart, a Belgian type founder, published 12 type specimens  in 1741 and a further 13 from 1746 to 1752.


Google fonts allows access to thousands of fonts and my chosen font Helvetica has a number of typefaces to choose from.

When carrying out research of different examples of type screens, I found that these images below had the same feel as the direction I wanted to take with the design. I love the red white and black colour pallet and the simplistic but bold type standing strong against the background.

I got to work on drawing up some ideas as rough sketches. I had lots of ideas when I was researching other examples of Helvetica type screens but when I opened my book infront of me I wasnt sure what to do.

Once I had drawn up some ideas, I felt that I knew which direction to go and took elements from each of my sketches and refined them onto pages that I was actually happy with how they turned out. I knew that I wanted my colour pallet to be black, white and red and started bringing the ideas to life with a bit of colour.

My next step was bring these ideas to screen and digitise them using Figma. It was here that my ideas really started to grow and I ended up with a lot of variations with just one or two aspects different for the same design. Most of my first designs I kept black and white just so I could focus on the main body of content before adding colour.




The next step in my design- I felt that some of my designs needed more colour and I also wanted to try red backgrounds like some of my research examples. I had a lot of fun with this part, choosing which elements would change colour would also change the whole look of the screen. I really love the combination of numerals and letters on the page but I preferred screens with less content on them as a cleaner, simplistic look is what I wanted to achieve but also had worried if I wasn’t putting enough content on the screen.

One of the main themes I wanted to represent in my specimen screens, which I learned during my research into Helvetica, was the cross from Switzerland’s flag. This can be seen in the examples above which is the letter H for Helvetica but also the symbol + mirrored on a vertical line down the centre of the screen. I think that the last or middle image in the top row are the strongest designs from the group.

I tried to implement the cross in these examples above but just less obviously than my initial examples. I began with just lining up the L and the I but made the I in bold font so it would be the same width as the L above. This was to utilise the Gestalt principle of continuation, so the eye would move from the top object to the bottom. Within the alphabet, which is predominantly black, I picked out each letter from the word Helvetica and coloured it red. This was just to add another element to the design as I felt the black through looked very busy, so this was the alphabet looked a little more broken up and easier to digest visually. The last image from this set of 6, I feel, is the strongest design from the group.

From my research, I liked how the L and I in Helvetica would extend across the page, I felt that it gave the lettering a little more movement and I wanted to replicate that. Based of the same idea of the cross system, I lay down a straight line in the centre, expanding on my last 6 iterations, this time making it meet the top of my page.  I like how the text fills the background in the first image, but as it is grey and very opaque it doesn’t take over the whole page and it also allowed me to show the font as italics.  I feel like this is the strongest design out of the three.

After these screens where completed, I very quickly ran into the issue of having too many screens to chose from and it was a little overwhelming when it came to presenting them for my first class critique of the year. I wanted to follow a grid system in my designs so that it would look uniform and even have some symmetrical elements like this first example.

I made these PSD Mock-ups for an iPad with 12.9″ screen. I was able to find the PSD mock-up file for free on the Graphics Fuel website where I then opened up in Photoshop. I haven’t really had much experience with using Photoshop other than using it to create PSD mock-ups from foundation year but once I got the hang of it again I was able to insert my image into the screen and create these lovey Ipad screens which made them look a little more real.

Final Type Specimen Screen and Group Critique

These were the 5 I chose to present during my class critique. My work was well received with my peers but they were kind as to give me some constructive criticism. I had mentioned to Kyle that I had a hard time choosing as I was getting every little change of idea out onto the screen but he reassured me that it was a good position to be in and this way you could see which designs stood stronger against the rest. In the end, after helpful feed back from the class critique, I decided on this as my final type screen specimen.

Published in IXD102


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