University of Technology Sydney

87117 VC Technology: Visible Language

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2022 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Design
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


The subject introduces the historical and contemporary design, production and application of typographic forms as the visual extension and expression of the spoken word and written text. The design and production of letterforms and typefaces is examined in the context of typography, a keystone language of visual communication.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION originate imaginative and innovative visuals which effectively structure a visual organisation, typographic hierarchies, and at the same time extend creative boundaries in the typographic field challenge design conventions within a developed understanding of current and historical practices, rules and conventions
2. COMMUNICATION develop visual presentations that successfully communicate concepts, content and ideas within a framework of understanding impact, clarity and engagement
3. ATTITUDES AND VALUES engage in critical reflection and develop self-awareness of your design practices, skills and approaches
4. PRACTICAL AND PROFESSIONAL SKILLS develop appropriate design and computer skills to produce hand and technologically generated visuals through critical reflection and progressive refinement produce visuals which demonstrate thought, care, technical expertise, sensitivity to typographic detailing and media selection, an understanding of practical constraints as well as application of the theories underpinning visual syntax
5. RESEARCH understand the origins and development of letterforms, typefaces and symbols learn to critically analyse and evaluate existing typographic practices through the ability of developing arguments and rationales

Teaching and learning strategies

Semester long with weekly sessions - Lectures, Studio Tutorials and Computing Workshop.

Students are encouraged to integrate theory and practice and aciveve a progressively higer level of visual acuity and literacy through a process of experiential learning. Theoretical issues are presented and critically analysed in lectures then personally researched through practical investigation and application in design studios, and laboratories. Peer learning is actively encouraged as is also the use of portfolios presenting personal reflections on boththe design and learning process.

Content (topics)

The subject introduces the historical and contemporary design, production and application of typographic forms as the visual extension and expression of the spoken word and written text. The design and production of letterforms and typefaces is examined in the context of typography, a keystone language of visual communication. At this introductory stage the lecture series presents the micro focus of intricate typographic detailing in the macro context of technological developments and social change. Theoretical understanding is gained experientially through studio practice which initiates the exploration of letterforms and the visualisation of the spoken word and written text in basic two dimensional spatial and hierarchical structures. Studio practice emphasises hand-generated processes which are then translated in the computer laboratory where software programs (Illustrator and Photoshop) are introduced for the further development and digital processing of typographic forms and applications.


Assessment task 1: Letterwork


An exploration of typographic characters and the compositional principles of similiarity and contrast.

Weight: 20%

Assessment task 2: Logotype and Stationery


Generate a logotype and apply your creation on a business card and letterhead.

Weight: 40%

Assessment task 3: Type Talks


Introduction of different intents in typographic work.

Weight: 40%

Required texts

There is compulsory reading set for this subject that we suggest you get before the semester starts. The textbook contains information on typographic terminology, history, classification, detailed information on design and compositional principles. This typographic reference will be useful throughout the course of your study and is connected to content taught in upcoming semesters as well. Please organise access to a copy before the first class of the semester - it's worth getting AND reading:

Pohlen Joep (2011) Letter Fountain - The anatomy of type. Köln/GER: Taschen GmbH

Recommended texts

All of the books in the following list are suited to help you with the subject area of 'Typography'. It is not compulsory to own these - you can get access to most of them via the library (either borrow it or access it in closed reserve) though be advised that numbers are limited. Each of them has a different style and varies in content though the most important areas are well covered in those writings and can be seen as useful first additions to your hopefully soon growing library of typographic writings. Here is the list in alphabetical order

Kane John (2002) A Type Primer. London/UK: Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Ambrose, Gavin & Harris, Paul (2006) The Fundamentals of Typography. Lausanne/Switzerland, AVA Academia

Bringhurst, Robert (2002) (3.ed.), The Elements of Typographic Style. Vancouver/Canada, Hartley & Marks Publisher

Lupton, Ellen (2004) Thinking with Type - a critical guide for designers, writers, editors &students. New York/USA, Princeton Architectural Press

McLean Ruari (1980) The Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography, London/UK,Thames and Hudson

Perfect Christopher & Austen, Jeremy (1992) The Complete Typographer: A Manual for Designing with Type. Time Warner Books, London/UK

Spiekermann, Erik & Ginger, E. M. (2003) (2.ed) Stop Stealing Sheep & nd out how type works, Berkeley/USA, Adobe Press

Spiekermann, Erik (1987) Rhyme and Reason: a Typographic Novel. Berlin: Berthold

White, Alex W. (2005) Thinking in Type: The Practical Philosophy of Typography, New York, Allworth Press

Other resources

As many other subjects in Visual Communications, Typography has an enormous amount of literature to support the field and to showcase developments, from different perspectives. Enclosed you will find a lot of publications that have made it to the educational staff’s bookcase. This list is by far not comprehensive but represents a good mix for those interested in Typography:


Aicher ,O. & Rommen, J. (1988) Typographie (G/E), Berlin/GER, Ernst & Sohn Verlag für Architektur und technische Wissenschaften

Baines, P. & Haslam, A. (2002) Type & Typography. London: Lawrence King /CSM

Blackwell, L. (2004) 20th-Century Type, London/UK, Laurence King Publishing

Blackwell, L. & Carson, D. (1995) The End of Print - The Grak Design of David Carson, San Francisco/USA, Chronicle Books

Carey, J., van Leeuwen, T., Scollon R. & Triggs T. (2005) Special Issue: The New Typography, Visual Communication, Vol.4 No.2, June 2005, London/UK, Sage Publications

Carter, R., Day, B. & Meggs, P. B. (1993) Typographic Design: form and communication. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Dair, C. (1967) Design with Type. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Drucker, J. (1995) The Alphabetic Labyrinth - The Letters in History and Imagination, London/UK, Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Elam, K. (1990) Expressive Typography: The Word as Image. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Felici, J. (2003) The Complete Manual of Typography. Berkeley/CA: Peachpit Press.

Fishel, C. M. (2002) The power of paper in graphic design. Gloucester/MA: RotoVision

Fletcher, A. (2001) The Art of Looking Sideways. London: Phaidon

Flusser, V. (1992) (4. ed), Die Schrift - Hat Schreiben Zukunft? (G), Göttingen/GER, Edition Immatrix Verlag European Photography

Frutiger, A. (1999) (2. ed), Formen und Gegenformen (G), Sulgen/CH, Niggli AG

Frutiger, A. (1989) Signs and symbols : their design and meaning. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Genzmer, F. & Grossmann, W. (1961) Das Buch des Setzers: Kurzes Lehr- und Handbuch für Schriftsetzer, Frankfurt am Main/Berlin

Gerstner, K. (1964) Designing Programmes, New York/NY/USA, Hastings House Publishers Inc

Günder, G. (ed) (2005) TypoPage Sonderausgabe 'Schriften, Fonthandling, Type Design, Typography', TypoPage 02.2005 (Mai 2005), München/GER, Redtec Publishing

Hall, P. (2001) Sagmeister - Made you look, London/UK, Booth-Clibborn Editions

Heller, S. (ed) & Meggs P. B, (ed), 2001, Texts on Type - Critical Writings on Typography, New York/USA, Allworth Press

Heller, S. (ed), 2004, The Education of a Typographer, New York/USA, Allworth Press

Hochuli, J. (1987) Das Detail in der Typograe (G), Wilmington/Mass./US , Agfa Press

Hochuli J. (1989) Bücher machen (G), Wilmington/Mass./US , Agfa Press

Klanten, R., Mischler, M. & Thoenen, N. (2004) Type One - Discipline and Progress in Typography, Berlin/GER, Die Gestalten Verlag

Koffka, K. (1935) Principles of Gestalt Psychology, New York/USA, Harcourt, Brace and World

Lawson, A. (1990) Anatomy of a Typeface. Boston: David R. Godine

Lidwell, W. , Holden, K. & Butler, J. (2003) Universal Principles of Design, Gloucester/MA/USA, Rockport Publishers Inc.

Lommen, M. (2003) Letterontwerper & Typograaf - Bram de Does - Typographer & Type Designer (NL/E), Amsterdam/NL, Uitgeverij De Buitenkant Publishers

Lupton, E. & Miller, A. (1996) Design Writing Research - Writing on Graphic Design, London/UK, Phaidon Press Ltd (1999)

Manguel, A. (1996) A History of Reading, Ottawa/Canada, Alfred A. Knopf Publisher

McAlhone, B. & Stuart, D. (1996) A smile in the mind : witty thinking in graphic design. London: Phaidon Press.

Meggs, P. B. & McKelvey, R. (Eds.) (2000) Revival of the Fittest: digital versions of classic typefaces. New York: RC Publications.

Meggs, P. B. & Carson, D. (1999) Fotograks. London: Laurence King

Meggs, P. B. (1989) Type & Image: the language of graphic design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Meggs, P. B. (1983) A History of Graphic Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold

Middendorp, J. (2004) Dutch Type, Rotterdam/NL, 010 publishers

Mills, H. (2000) 'Artful Persuasion: how to command attention, change minds, and influence people'. New York: AMACOM. pp. 115–125.

Morris, W. (1982) The ideal book - essays and lectures on the arts of the book, Berkeley/CA/USA, University of California Press

Müller, L. (2004) Helvetica - Homage to a Typeface, Baden/CH, Lars Müller Publishers

Neurath, O. (1936) International Picture Language - Internationale Bildersprache (E/G), Reading/UK, Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading (1980 facsimile reprint)

Ogawa, Y. (2004) »Type Design Today¼, Idea Vol.52, No.305, July 2004, Tokyo/JAP, Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing Co. Ltd.

Poyner, R. (Ed.) (1996) Typography Now 2: Implosion, London: Booth-Clibborn

Poyner, R. (Ed.) (1994) Typography Now: The Next Wave, London: Booth-Clibborn

Rothenstein, J. & Gooding M. (Eds.) (2003) ABZ: More alphabets and others Signs. London: Redstone.

Schmidt, H. & Ogawa, Y. (1980) »Typography Today¼, Idea Mag Special Edition, Tokyo/JAP, Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing Co. Ltd. (2003)

Small, D. L. (1999) Rethinking the Book, PhD Thesis Program in Media Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge/MA

Tinker, M. A. (1963) Legibility of Print. Ames, Iowa State University Press.

Tomato (1999) Bareback: A Tomato Project, London: Laurence King

Triggs, T. (2003) The Typographic Experiment - Radical Innovation in Contemporary Type Design, London/UK, Thames & Hudson

Tschichold, J. (1998) (1. ed. 1928), The New Typography - A Handbook for Modern Designers, Berkeley/CA, University of California Press

Tschichold, J. (1991a) Schriften 1925 - 1974, Band 1 (G), Berlin/GER, Brinkmann & Bose

Tschichold, J. (1991b) Schriften 1925 - 1974, Band 2 (G), Berlin/GER, Brinkmann & Bose

Tschichold, J. (1991c) The Form of the Book, Washington/USA, Hartley&Marks

Tschichold, J. (1965) Meisterbuch der Schrift, (G), Ravensburg/GER, Otto Maier Verlag

Tufte, E. R. (1990) Envisioning Information, Cheshire/USA, Graphics Press

Tufte, E. R. (19970 Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, Cheshire/USA, Graphics Press

Tufte, E. R. (2001) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Cheshire/USA, Graphics Press

VanderLans R. & Licko Z. (1993) Emigre: Graphic Design into the Digital Realm, New York/USA, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Venezky, R. (2005) It is beautiful ... then gone, New York/USA, Princeton Architectural Press

Walker, S. (2000) Typography and Language in Everyday Life, in Prescriptions and Practices, London/UK, Longman

Wallschlaeger C. & Busic-Snyder C. (1992) Basic Visual Concepts and Principles for Artists, Architects, and Designers, Boston/USA, McGrawHill Publishers

Warwicker, J. & Hyde K. (1996) Process : A Tomato Project. London: Thames & Hudson.

Weidemann K. (1994) Wo der Buchstabe das Wort führt: Ansichten über Schrift und Typographie (G), Ostldern/GER, Cantz Verlag

Wertheimer M. (1923) Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt (G), Psychologische Forschung, Vol. 4, pp301-350

Wilde, J. & Wilde R. (1991) Visual Literacy: a conceptual approach to graphic problem solving. New York: Watson-Guptill

Willberg H. P. & Forssman F. (1997) Lesetypographie (G), Mainz/GER, Verlag Hermann Schmidt

Woolman, M. (2005) Type in Motion 2, London/UK, Thames&Hudson

Woolman, M. (2003) Type in Motion 1, London/UK, Thames&Hudson

Woolman, M. (2000) The ABC of Type. Crans, Switzerland: RotoVision

Woolman, M. (1997) Type: detective story: episode one: the crime scene. Crans Switzerland: RotoVision

Zimmermann V. (1962) Praktische Winke für den Umgang mit Satz und Schrift (G), 4.ed., D. Stempel AG, Frankfurt am Main/GER



Visible Language (Cleveland/Ohio)

Eye (London/UK)

Emigre (Berkeley/CA: Emigre Graphics)

U & lc (New York: International Typeface Corp.)

Baseline (international typographic magazine. London: Letraset)

Creative Review (UK)



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