4 Books By 4 Designers
George Mason University
M.A. Graphic Design
Final Exhibition
Nov. 30 – Dec. 5

Reception Nov. 30, 6 – 9 pm
School of Art Gallery
4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030

Please join us in the School of Art gallery to celebrate our final thesis exhibition! On display will be four books representing the culmination of our graduate studies:

  • Not Born To Run, by Melody Cook
  • Sockeye, by Marianne Epstein
  • Hummingbird Down, by Paul L. Petzrick
  • Vietnamese Typography, by Donny Truong

Refreshments will be served and a short reading will happen around the halfway point.

We hope you can make it!

–Melody, Marianne, Paul & Donny

Revamped and Expanded On Designs

My portfolio site, On Designs, gets an update. The major change is the expansion of each selected project. For each case study, I wanted to add more visual designs and incorporate the process that went into the project. Designing each case study is time-consuming and I had avoided in the past, but I believe it is worth the effort.

The new design reflects more of my design thinking. I wanted to experience with online editorial design and move away from the trend of hiding all the navigation items under the hamburger icon, even on the big desktop screens. I also wanted to do away with JavaScript. Except for loading TypeKit and Google Analytics, I use no JavaScript for interaction.

For the typography, I keep Acumin Pro for my logo and the big headers. I added Minion Pro for the text face. Both of these typefaces are designed by Robert Slimbach. Both of these typefaces are beautiful and elegant with subtle humanist qualities.

Finally I wanted to stay true to my philosophy: Omit Needless Designs.

Praise for Vietnamese Typography

Type designer and professor Phạm Đam Ca:

Việc làm này của anh không chỉ ý nghĩa với type design mà với cả cộng đồng người Việt nữa.

Monotype’s type designer Toshi Omagari:

I just wanted to congratulate you on the release of Vietnamese typography thesis. It was a much needed information on the subject, and will be used as a reference for years to come.

Computational linguist Ngô Thanh Nhàn:

I have not seen such passion for fonts since James Đỗ Bá Phước with his Vtopia.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Theodore Rosendorf: The Typographic Desk Reference

Ellen Lupton’s foreword, which explains the purpose of a foreword, is just priceless. As the title suggests, TRR is a concise but comprehensive typographic reference. It even covers all the Vietnamese characters. The book is set in Carol Twombly’s Adobe Caslon with discretionary ligatures and custom glyphs by the author himself. It’s worthy of any designer’s desk.

Vietnamese Typography: Nghệ thuật chữ Việt Nam

I am proud to present my new book titled Vietnamese Typography: Nghệ thuật chữ Việt Nam. It was written not only as a final project to complete my MA in Graphic Design at the George Mason University School of Arts, but also to fulfill my personal goal: to expand and enrich the quality of Vietnamese typography.

As a Vietnamese-American designer with a passion for typography, I often find limited choices for setting type in Vietnamese. Although Vietnamese is based on the Latin alphabet, most typefaces were not designed with Vietnamese subsetting. As a result, I set out to write this book to help type designers understand Vietnamese’s unique typographic features so they can design their typefaces to support the Vietnamese language. Furthermore, I want to help graphic and web designers in using correct Vietnamese typography for a given project. The book is aimed at providing insights into the subtle details and nuances of the Vietnamese writing system, that can be used for reference and transferred into practice.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this book is that I haven’t found any publication that dedicated to Vietnamese typography. When I started my research, I could not find much information on it. I even asked friends and family members in Vietnam if they could get me some books on typography written in Vietnamese, but they could not find anything. I ended up using books written in English on this subject—even though they barely scratched the surface—as well as my own experience in Vietnamese and typography. Through writing this book, I had learned many details about Vietnamese typography that I didn’t pay attention to before.

In an effort to share what I have learned and to reach out to designers around the world, I chose the web as publishing platform. The book is available to read for free at vietnamesetypography.com, but I also designed a print edition. The paperback copy is available for purchase on Blurb.

For the design, I wanted to keep the book consistent in both print and the web. The text face is set in Garamond Premier Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach. The subheads, captions, and UI elements are set in Acumin, also by Slimbach. The website was developed using HTML, SCSS and some PHP. The layout is responsive so that the book could be read on any device. Fonts are served through Typekit. Service Worker was installed for offline reading. The print edition was set in Adobe Illustrator.

This book is near and dear to my heart and I could not have written it without the support from friends, colleagues, and family members. Thanks to professor Jandos Rothstein for his guidance in working with me on this final project to complete my Masters of Arts in Graphic Design. Deep gratitude to Linh Nguyễn for her critical evaluation of the first draft. Based on her invaluable feedback, I rewrote almost everything. Big up to Jim Van Meer for his meticulous proofreading of the early drafts. Props to Trang Nguyễn, Raymond Schwartz, and Chris Silverman for their thorough editing, detailed assessments, and indispensable inputs. Huge appreciation to Phạm Đam Ca for taking his time to explain to me the nuances of Vietnamese type design. Kudos to readers of the beta versions: John Balaban, Tim Brown, Ken Lunde, Ngô Thanh Nhàn, Trung Nguyễn, John Phan, and Christian Schwartz. Finally, mad love to my wife Nguyễn Đức Hải Dung for her support and enlightenment.

I am thrilled to share this book with you. I hope you enjoy it too!

Offline Reading With Service Worker

Over the weekend, I installed Service Worker on Professional Web Typography after reading Jeremy Keith’s post and instructions. I am planning on doing the same with the forthcoming Vietnamese Typography, which will be useful for the upcoming graduate exhibition. I will be displaying my web-based book in the gallery along with the print edition and posters. Come to George Mason School of Arts on November 30 if you’re in the area.

Students’ Redesign Project for Fall 2015

For the second project in Web Design and Usability, students chose a web site to redesign. To read the requirements, refer to last year’s post. Most students had done a good job of improving the existing sites they had selected. Two particular students, however, went above and beyond.

Tina took on the daunting task of redesigning the Periodic Table. When she showed me her early mockups, I suggested that she might want Univers by Adrian Frutiger for her periodic table. She took it and made a striking redesign using just type and colors. The new design is beautiful, clean, and user-friendly.

For Angela, she took on the challenge of redesigning VegWeb. Her first mockup was nowhere near her level of work, based on what she had done in the first project. I asked her to stepped it up and she did. She emailed me five, six of comps at one in the morning on Saturday. Although most of them were good, the editorial layout stood out to me. She was not sure if it was the right direction because she felt restricted to do more traditional layout for the web, but I encouraged her to push more into the editorial approach. Truth be told, web design these days is kind of boring. Most sites looks very similar; therefore, I wanted to see more breaking designs, especially from students. What she delivered I couldn’t be happier even though I knew it would be a huge challenge to turn her mockups into HTML and CSS. She did an amazing job with balancing big type and stunning photos. Her strong grid layout makes the pages look so damn good. She’ll have a great future ahead.

These type of works really make teaching rewarding. I will definitely miss it after this semester.

Con Cưng

Ở chổ làm tôi quen một bà Việt Nam. Gọi là bà vì bà ấy có con bằng tuổi tui. Tuy làm chung một trường nhưng chỉ gặp nhau trong mấy đám tiệc. Hôm nay tôi đi đưa hai thằng nhóc đi dự pinic nhà ông dean. Còn bà xã không chị đi. Nhà ông ấy đất rộng thên thang. Tôi nghỉ ít nhứt cũng phải mấy chục acre.

Khi thấy tôi bà đến chào hỏi thăm, “Anh cho tôi hỏi cái này. Bây giờ anh là con cưng của ông dean rồi anh có được tăng lương không?” Tôi đáp, “Lương thì không tăng còn công việc thì tăng ào ào.” Bà ấy tiếp, “Anh phải lợi dụng cơ hội này để tiếng lên.” Tôi chỉ miển cười không nói gì. Bà ấy hỏi tiếp, “Anh có bị ai ganh ghét chưa.” Tôi trả lời, “Em không biết nhưng chưa thấy ganh ghét cả. Chỉ thấy ai cũng đưa đồ cho em design cả nhưng em cũng không ngại. Có việc thì cứ làm. Chừng nào làm không nổi tính sau.” Bà ta nói tiếp, “Ừ, bận rộn như vậy cũng tốt chứ ngồi không chán lắm.”

Thật sự thì tôi cũng ngại là gì gặp ai ông dean cũng đưa tôi lên cả. Gặp ông president của trường ổng cũng bảo tôi lên giới thiệu. Tôi xã giao rất dỡ (trừ khi lúc nhậu vào) và cũng không thích nịnh bợ cấp trên nên tôi giữ một khoảng cách giữa tôi với ông ấy. Dính dáng đến mấy ông dean phiền lắm. Tôi đã từng trải qua rồi nên chỉ muốn làm dưới tay bà xếp thôi. Công việc của tôi thì tôi làm. Nhưng bà xếp của tôi cũng ít xã giao nên bã cũng cứ đẩy tôi đi những cuộc hợp hay công việc có liên quan đến trang web.

Trông sự nghiệp của tôi đã trải qua bốn người dean. Một điều tôi thấy ông này khác với những người trước là ổng lo lắng cho những người làm dưới tay ổng. He takes care of his people.

Tony Seddon: The Evolution of Type

When I flipped through this book at Barnes & Noble, it looks and feels familiar. It turns out that Tony Seddon has designed the excellent The Anatomy of Type by Stephen Coles. Like Coles’s book, The Evolution of Type is beautiful in illustration and insightful in providing the history of 100 timeless typefaces. The chronological order of the release date of the typefaces gives readers a sense of how typography has evolved in the last 500 years and continued to do so in the future. If you love The Anatomy, you will appreciate The Evolution. They are a perfect complement.

The Adobe Original Silver Anniversary Story

For some reasons I had this book on the shelf since June when I got it for free at the Typographics conference in New York. I took it with me last week to read on my vacation and it turns out be a page-turner. Tamye Riggs has done an excellent job of giving us some insights on the Adobe Type team. I am a huge fan of Robert Slimbach’s and Carol Twombly’s typefaces and this book provides some intriguing details about their works and processes. If you attend a type conference and spot this gem, which sets in beautiful Adobe Garamond, pick it up. Thanks to Adobe for this wonderful gift.