Project 1: The Comic | 'Lost in Translation'

The Brief

For our first two week project we worked as a team to create a book of experimental typography consisting of lines of text we were each given to work with to create our own individual pages. The final book is to be commercially printed and sold at the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival.

A comic is most commonly described as being made up of a series of panels containing images used to express ideas. These are usually combined with text or other visual information (research from here). As graphic designers, our aim was to use type and typography to interpret and create an abstract response to the text we were given. The compositions had to be entirely typographic and created using analogue techniques and in addition to this, we were restricted to using only black and one other colour of our choosing. The aim of this project was experimentation and exploration, rather than design problem solving.


To start me off on the right track I began with researching experimental typography to gain some inspiration. Experimental typography can include altering and manipulating the shapes of letters, playing with letter spacing (white/black space), font size, texture, and layout to create new unique designs (research from here and here).

One of the graphic designers I looked into was the Swiss typography work of Wolfgang Weingart, who is known for breaking the rules of typesetting. I was particularly interested in his technique of distorting type by spacing out letters, curving lines, collaging and reorganising type to create new compositions. Furthermore, another designer I liked was Chris Ashworth, who similarly to Weingart, was inspired by Swiss design, known for using barcodes, horizontal lines and multiple transparent layers (research from here)


In order to get us started with experimenting ourselves, a workshop was held from which we were encouraged to explore different techniques and approaches. These involved taking typefaces of various sizes and styles; slicing letterforms into multiple parallel strips and sliding them against each other, mashing up two contrasting typefaces, interweaving two differing typefaces of the same letterform. Other techniques included cutting out a viewfinder to crop portions of letterforms and rearranging the squares, tearing to create an illusion of the letters disintegrating, and using tracing paper to overlap multiple layers of type. Below you can see these techniques in play through my own experimentation.

I then continued to experiment further with different materials and mediums. In another workshop we were encouraged to create our own print block of a large letterform from a piece of polystyrene, and print with one/two colours, messing around with misalignment and overprint effects, using acrylic paint, crayon and coloured pens.

In addition to this, I chose to distress some of the prints I made; blowing ink to create a dripping effect, sponging paint onto the stencil, overlaying wax crayon with ink and smudging charcoal. I then went on to experiment with collage techniques, trying to think about positive and negative space and the differing scales of the shapes.


After all that experimentation it was time to start combining it with the line I was given for the comic to make my page. My line was: ‘I woke up in the morning now I go to bed waiting’.

To begin, I decided to use one of the techniques by printing out two pages of the line repeated in differing fonts and sizes and interweaving them to create an abstract effect.I then decided to distress it further using an effect on Procreate to fade certain areas to make it look more worn away.

I then decided to have a play on Procreate, using some of the collage techniques I learnt previously through the workshops to distort the text. I tried to think about the use of black and white space, adding small pops of colour to add more interest. The only thing I don’t like about these quick compositions is I felt it looked a little too busy, and because I did it digitally I wasn’t happy with the lack of texture that you would get if it was purely analogue.

After this, I then went on to think more about the layout of the pages; how I wanted the lines to be lined up on the page and which words I wanted to put particular interest on. One idea involved setting up the page so the line ‘I woke up’ started off small and gradually got bigger to put emphasise on ‘up’. However, I decided against this as I thought that word wasn’t as important as some of the others. Another idea involved abstracting the word ‘waiting’ to look like an hourglass.

In addition, I tried to think about way I could manipulate the text to create images representing the words, for example, taking away part of the ‘O’ in ‘woke’ to look like an eye and ‘morning’ to make it look like a rising sun.

I also thought about how I could represent the meaning of the words through different typefaces, for example, thin, clean, spaced out letters for ‘woke’.

Next I decided to play around a little more in Procreate to create a pleasing composition using some of my ideas. I was happy with the outcome but for further development I attempted to create an analogue version using the techniques from experimenting.

I made stencils of some of the words and used a sponge to print the letters on the page, creating a more old-fashioned printed texture, and took the interwoven piece I did previously, adding rips and making it look faded into the background. However, I struggled with not making it look too overworked and as a result chose to go with a different approach.

Here I experimented with different layouts: the first containing horizontal lines connecting the words as a way of representing rays of sun light. I also thought about repeating some of the words to add more emphasis.

Once I was happy with the overall layout of the main text, I added some colour, keeping it towards the top of the page to link to the time of day, and also playing around with how I could add the interwoven text to the background to keep the page balanced. I also decided to try adding some of the faded text to the ‘O’ in ‘morning’, whilst still having the yellow shine through.

Final Piece

Once I was happy with the layout of the design and had a good idea of what I wanted it to look like I began to cut out the letters in the font I chose to arrange on the page. I purposely printed out the letters to look sort of worn and faded in areas to give the impression it was cut from a newspaper. I then cut out stencils of the words 'woke’ and 'waiting’ to print them onto the page using black acrylic paint and a sponge to add texture. I also decided I wanted the text for 'woke’ to be in white to keep the pages lights and darks more balanced, and I chose to not use the eye shape; I preferred it just filled in white as it looked more open. After this I scanned my work onto the computer and used Photoshop to add a section of the interwoven text I created earlier to the bottom of the page and also faded over the sun shape in the word ‘morning’, making sure the entire piece lined up to the template we were provided. The finished piece is pictured below.

Overall, I am happy with the outcome of my piece and feel it fits the brief due to it being an entirely typographic way of interpreting the text. I experimented with a wide range of techniques and mediums and have shown good development in my work through exploring differing layouts and compositions, giving myself multiple designs to work from.

The only thing I’m not so happy with is that I think the piece needed more texture and less white space to look more experimental and more like a collage.

In conclusion, although improvements could be made I am proud of what I’ve achieved and know I will have plenty of opportunities to improve my technical and design skills throughout the rest of the course.