Majoring in Web Design

A friend’s daughter is thinking of pursuing a degree in web design. She reached out to me for my advice. Here’s what I wrote to her.

Dear M,

Web design is an exciting field. I guarantee that you won’t have a hard time finding jobs, especially in the Metro area. Although you can get a two-year degree in web design, I highly recommend getting an BA at a four-year college. With that said, I am not sure if there are specific majors in web design at universities.

George Mason University School of Art offers major in graphic design and minor in web design. Since you’re in Maryland, you might want to check out MICA and its graphic design program.

I have been doing web design for almost twenty years. I studied digital art and multimedia design at La Salle University. I completed my master in graphic design two years ago from George Mason University School of Art. I am currently director of design and web services at George Mason University Scalia Law School. I also take on some freelance projects once in a while. You can see some of my works at donnytruong.com.

Something for you to think about when considering web design. Web technologies changes all the time; therefore, you will have to constantly keep yourself up to date. The good thing is that HTML & CSS will always be the foundation of web design. You will need to master those two; therefore, learn them as soon as you can. You will need to know graphic tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch. Programming languages such as JavaScript and PHP & MySQL are an important part of the web, but they are more on the development side. You can learn them later.

I hope I have provided enough information to help you make your decision. Please do not hesitate to ask me any question.

Wish your all the best,

Georgetown or Northeastern?

A family member had been accepted to the biotechnology graduate program at Georgetown and Northeastern. He asked for my opinion for what school should he attend and here’s my response

N, congratulations!

It looks like you have two tough choices to make, but they both are good. I am sure you’ll do well at either institution; therefore, it is coming down to what you want to do with your degree.

If you want to be in the clinical or industrial environment, Northeastern might be a better choice. If you want to be in government, however, Georgetown is obviously better. You will be at the center of all the federal agencies including NIST, NIH, FDA/, and USDA.

Personally I would recommend Georgetown. We need young and smart thinkers like yourself to make stronger, better policies in biotechnology for the U.S.

Also think about the tuition. You can complete your program in one year at Georgetown whereas you’ll need two to three at Northeastern.

Keep us updated with your decision.

Congrats once again and wishing you all the best.

Bùi Quang Tiến: Nghệ thuật chữ trong thiết kế bìa sách giai đoạn 2005–2015 ở Việt Nam

Tình cờ google ra những bài tranh cãi về luận án tiến sĩ của nghiên cứu sinh Bùi Quang Tiến. Nhiều người cho rằng đề tài “Nghệ thuật chữ trong thiết kế bìa sách giai đoạn 2005–2015 ở Việt Nam” chưa “xứng đáng” với một luận án tiến sĩ. Thậm chí có người cho rằng nó còn tầm phào và không ứng dụng thực tế. Sau khi đọc xong luận án này, tôi hoàn toàn ủng hộ đề tài này của Bùi Quang Tiến.

Trong nước nghệ thuật chữ vẫn chưa được đánh giá cao nhưng ngoài nước đây là một đề tài nghiêm nghị đã được nghiên cứu từ 500 năm trước cho đến nay. Bùi Quang Tiến nhận ra đều này:

Ở Việt Nam, vai trò của NTC [Nghệ thuật chữ] chưa được văn bản chính thức nào ghi nhận vì vậy nó chưa xác lập được vị trí cho mình như các bộ môn nghệ thuật khác. Tuy nhiên trên thực tế, NTC đã xuất hiện từ khá sớm trong tiến trình lịch sử mỹ thuật của dân tộc. Cho đến nay nó vẫn đóng vai trò như một yếu tố không thể tách rời đối với một số lĩnh vực nghệ thuật đặc thù gắn liền với các công trình kiến trúc, nội thất (chữ trên các hoành phi, câu đối, trên cổng chùa, đình làng, cổng chào, lăng tẩm, văn bia, cột trụ…), thậm chí các kiểu dáng chữ Đinh, chữ Công hay nội Công ngoại Quốc đã được lấy làm cảm hứng cho kiến trúc mặt bằng của một số ngôi chùa xây trong thời kỳ phong kiến.

Phần mở đầu và chương một của luận án có nhiều nghiên cứu về lịch sữ Nghệ thuật chữ bổ ích nhất là cho những ai học về ngành thiết kế đồ hoạ, trang web, hoặc chữ. (Chúng ta cần nhiều nhân tài về ngành thiết kế chữ.) Phải chi tôi đọc được bài luận án này khi làm bài luận án của tôi về Vietnamese Typography: Nghệ thuật chữ Quốc Ngữ để được tham khảo những nghiên cứu ở trong nước. Nhưng tôi sẽ tìm đọc những quyển sách mà Bùi Quang Tiến đã đề cập đến trong chương một:

  • Tìm hiểu dáng chữ in gốc La-tinh: Chữ nét trơn (Tập 1, 1970) Nguyễn Viết Châu
  • Tìm hiểu dáng chữ in gốc La-tinh: Chữ có nét chân (Tập 2, 1974) Nguyễn Viết Châu
  • Nghệ thuật chữ trang trí và quảng cáo (1992) Hồ Xuân Hạnh
  • Kỹ thuật chữ (1996) Nguyễn Ngọc Sơn
  • Đại cương về kỹ thuật in (2008) Huỳnh Trà Ngộ
  • Văn minh vật chất của người Việt (2011) Phan Cẩm Thượng
  • Thiết kế logo, nhãn hiệu, bảng hiệu theo tập quán Việt Nam và phương Đông (1998) Tố Nguyên
  • Nghệ thuật Đồ họa bao bì (2016) Nguyễn Thị Hợp

Trong chương hai, Bùi Quang Tiến chia sẽ phần nhận diện của nghệ thuật chữ trong thiết kế bìa sách giai đoạn 2005-2015. Bùi Quang Tiến viết:

Trong lĩnh vực thiết kế chữ, nét được chia làm hai loại. Nét chính và nét phụ. Nét chính là nét quan trọng làm nên hình dạng của ký tự. Nét phụ là nét viết thêm vào nét chính hoặc nối liền nét chính với nhau để chữ có được sự hài hòa, cân đối về tạo hình thị giác. Người ta thường biến nét phụ trở thành các nét có tính trang trí để làm cho chữ đẹp hơn.

Những ví dụ Bùi Quang Tiến đưa ra và luôn cả những quyển sách Việt tôi đã từng thấy, đa số là thiết kế bởi những hoạ sĩ. Cách trình bày đó vẫn đẹp và sang trọng nhưng nó thuột về vẽ chữ (lettering) chứ không hẳn là Nghệ thuật chữ (typography). Tôi không phủ nhận sự việc quang trọng của bìa sách nhưng nó chỉ là một phần nhỏ trong công trình thiết kế sách. Phải chi Bùi Quang Tiến nghiên cứu sâu thêm về phần thiết kế của sách. Theo tôi, chữ ở trong sách của tác giả mới quang trọng nhất. Người đọc sẽ bỏ ra rất nhiều thời gian với quyển sách cho nên người thiết kế cần phải tôn trọng người đọc. Người thiết kế phải dùng mẫu chữ nào và biết những chi tiết cặn kẽ của từng nét chữ để giúp người đọc dễ dàng và thoải mái. Dạo này tôi thường đọc sách tiếng Việt và đã nhận ra một vài chi tiết trình bài không đúng lắm. Tuy nhiên bài luận án này nên được tôn trọng và chúng ta cần nhiều bài luận án khác trong tương lai để Nghệ thuật chữ Việt Nam ngày càng phát triển hơn.

An Invitation from Thinkful

I rarely read spamming emails, but this one caught my attention:

Hi Donny,

Thinkful Web Development Mentors play a critical role in helping aspiring devs launch their careers.

Based on your experience as a Director of Design & Web Services with George Mason University Law School, I get the sense that you could make a big impact on our students by sharing your first-hand experience and expertise. Our mentors:

Work remotely and set their own hours
Gain valuable leadership experience by mentoring junior talent
Build in-depth relationships with their students through hour-long sessions, 3 times a week

If you’re open to potentially mentoring a student, apply here and schedule a call to learn more.

Warmly,
FL

I am flattered, but my schedule doesn’t allow me to be a mentor at this time.

Mason Law School seeks rebranding from SoA alumnus

This article was written by Natasha Boddie for George Mason School of Art website.

In April 2016, George Mason University renamed the law school after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The decision came after an anonymous $30 million donation. Shortly after the announcement, the Antonin Scalia Law School drew attention to a new project. School of Art alumnus Donny Truong was tasked with that next big project—rebranding. According to Truong, the rebranding gave Scalia Law the opportunity to step-up its game.

Being almost six years since Truong was hired by Scalia Law to handle web design and development, his career’s pivotal point arrived when Dean Henry N. Butler and Senior Associate Rher, who was responsible for the school’s marketing strategy, approached him about the rebranding project. It later led to a promotion for Truong to becoming the Director of Design and Web Services for Scalia Law.

Having completed his MA in Graphic Design in December 2015, Truong was able to further explore his new-found passion for typography and continue to work on print design. Being in classes with professors who work in the design industry, designing branding guidelines, and developing a brand for a class project prepared Truong with the skills he needed to take on the Scalia Law rebranding project. In addition, an elective course permitted Truong to further enhance his passion for typography. After extensive research, Truong wrote and designed a book on Professional Web Typography and led him to his final thesis on Vietnamese Typography.

One of the challenges of the Scalia Law rebranding projects was restriction. Compliance with Mason’s branding guidelines was a must. The limitations, however, didn’t concern Truong. His first objective led him to interview the Deans to learn more about their vision for Scalia Law. His strong passion for typography was a coherent starting point. Being a collaborative project, it was agreed upon by all that the new brand would have to be simple, modern, and flexible. Myriad Pro, a contemporary sans serif typeface with an extensive family that can be used in any circumstance, was the perfect choice.

According to Truong, the previous logo was designed specifically for the web; therefore, it was not scalable for other media. With this in mind, he proceeded to eliminate “unnecessary details” including the shield, the bevels, and the drop shadows. In doing so, it would allow the new logo to be used in a variety of ways.

Continuing to lead the team through a successful rebranding process, he further strengthened the new brand by incorporating larger typography, richer colors, and bolder visual elements.

Scalia Law’s tagline was also developed in concurrent with the rebranding project. During the initial development phase, Truong applied the skills learned while enrolled in the MA program to bring the slogan to fruition.

“This simple catch phrase has been used on promotional items ranging from the website to t-shirts, postcards, social media accounts, newsletters, name badges, and even the elevators in the law school building,” says Associate Dean Keene. Truong gave this simple slogan new life using bright bold colors to radiate energy and communicate success, achievement, and triumph.

“He’s repeated this thoughtful approach to his other designs, but this one really stands out in a way that is unique among law schools,” Keene concludes.

The law community immediately accepted the new brand. Senior Associate Dean Alison Price who was one of few on the team has this to say about Truong’s work, “I have enjoyed working with Donny Truong in rebranding the law school. Without fail, when I articulate a concept, Donny has demonstrated the ability to turn it into something visually appealing and on message. I also admire his ability to suggest changes that will lead to a more polished product.”

To view the Antonin Scalia Law Schools simple branding guidelines, click here.

To learn more about Donny Truong and other projects, click here.

The Case for Hybrid App

Our paper, “Hybrid App Approach: Could It Mark the End of Native App Domination?,” has been published. Dr. Minh Q. Huỳnh and I will be presenting it at the InSITE 2017 conference in Vietnam. Mad props to Dr. Huỳnh and Prashant Ghimire for their research and hard work. I only contributed a small portion, but managed to include responsive screenshots of the Scalia Law website. I am looking forward to attending the conference and revisiting my birthplace.

Resources for Web Design Students

Select Graduate Projects

Some projects I had worked on during my study for my MA in Graphic Design at the George Mason School of Art.

Vietnamese Typography: Nghệ thuật chữ Việt Nam
Wrote, designed, and published a web-based book on Vietnamese typography as a final project (AVT 794) to complete my MA in Graphic Design. Read more.

Professional Web Typography
Wrote, designed, and published a web-based book on web typography in Practices in Graphic Design (AVT 519). Read more.

Post Binding
Handcrafted a book for the final project in Experiential History of Graphic Design (AVT 613). Read more.

Web Typography: A Brief History
Wrote a research paper on the history of web typography in Experiential History of Graphic Design (AVT 613).

Nas’s Quote
Created my first calligraphy using pen, ink, and paper in Experiential History of Graphic Design (AVT 613). Learn more.

Mobile App Prototype for Sketches of Miles
Designed an app prototype for a do-over project in Professional Design Practices (AVT 599). Read more.

Video Résumé
Created a short typographic animation in Professional Design Practices (AVT 599) to show why I love the web. Read more.

Four Words
Created four words (“fire, water, earth, and air”) using analog typography in Graduate Design Seminar (AVT 596). Read more.

Magazine Ads for Simplexpression
Created an integrative design of handcrafted types and digital components in Graduate Design Seminar (AVT 596). Read more.

The Jazz Board Game
Created the concept and designed a jazz board game in Graduate Design Seminar (AVT 611). Read more.

The Vietjazz Branding Guide
Designed a branding guide web site for Vietjazz Records in Brand Identity Design (AVT 614). Read more.

Unitea
A fictitious tea company developed in Graduate Design Seminar (AVT 611). Read more.

Focusing on the Web Only

As of today the paperback and PDF version of Vietnamese Typography are discontinued and no longer sold on the web site. Making updates to all three versions had taken up too much time and effort. The print edition, in particular, had been a hassle to update. Every time I found a typo, I had to resubmit the entire book to Blurb, delete the old version, change the new link, and buy at least one copy of the new version for myself in order for the book to stay in the Blurb’s bookstore. The entire experience wore me out. Maybe Blurb is not the right choice for publishing my book.

On the other hand, if an error is found on the web site, I can make the change instantly without any cost. As a result, I am focusing my attention only on the web site. I can create and edit any part of the site without much effort. Yesterday, I added a new literary example, which is a request from a type designer. He asked for a long-form example so he can analyze how the diacritical marks are set in long paragraphs.

To make the example not just useful for examining typography but also learning about Vietnamese history, I decided to including the intriguing mystical legend of the origin of the Vietnamese people. After days of research, I borrowed an excerpt from an essay that talks about the fascinating myth.

Since the site is no longer selling the paperback and the PDF edition, I switch to the support system. I hope readers will contribute to the project if they find the resource useful.

Vietnamese Typography: An Interview with Donny Truong

The market for type is growing. But there’s a lot we need to learn about supporting languages outside North America and Europe. TypeThursday with typographer Donny Truong on the lack of support for Vietnamese in typefaces and how we can improve the situation.

TypeThursday: The precision and clarify of your points are really visible on Vietnamese Typography. I get the impression you ran into frustrations in your life that would novitiate you to make such a resource.

Is that a fair assessment?

Donny Truong: Yes, that is a fair assessment. As a designer with a passion for typography and a love for my native language, I am frustrated with the lack of type choices for setting text in Vietnamese. As you already know, Vietnamese is based on the Latin alphabet. I am not 100% certain, but as far as I can tell, Vietnamese probably the only Eastern language that is not written in ideographs. So Vietnamese has been Romanized and most of its letters are the same as the Latin, how come most typefaces do not support its characters? That’s the question that motivated me to make the resource for Vietnamese Typography.

TT: What sparked this interest in typography? Was there a particular moment that you remember?

DT: Wow, your question gives me nostalgia. You know, I started building websites for a living in the early 2000s. At the time, I either set the text in Helvetica or Georgia and then moved to other things like web standards, images, colors, and user interactions. But because I was working at Vassar College at the time, I was fortunate to be surrounded by typographic experts, particularly Tim Brown who is now working at Typekit. Tim used to raved about The Elements of Typographic Style, but the book was way over my head. I was always interested in typography, but I did not delve deep into it until about three years ago when I started my job at the George Mason University School of Law.

I still remember a particular moment when I stood in front of the vast collection of typographic books in the Mason library. It felt like I founded a treasure. I started to read as much as I could and soaked up as I possibly could. Although most of the books I read were for print, I applied many of the principles for the web and they served me well. As for the The Elements of Typographic Style, I think I read it six or seven times now and I always find something intriguing every time I read it.

TT: A lot of people have a hard time with Elements of Typographic Style! Especially at the beginning of their interest in typography. What changed in your typographic knowledge between taking the course with Tim Brown and being at George Mason University?

DT: To clarify: I worked with Tim, but never took a course with him. I wish I did. Reading the rich history of type and its vibrant transformation in the last 500 years completely changed my typographic knowledge. In addition to Robert Bringhurst, I owe my knowledge to writers like Alexander Lawson for his classic Anatomy of a Typeface, Erik Spiekermann for his enlightening Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works, Sofie Beier whose book Reading Letters taught me about legibility and readability, Karen Chang for her amazing details in Designing Type, Jost Hochuli for his concise yet rich Detail in Typography. I could go on and on, but if anyone is interested in typographic books, I have a long list on my web site. Come check them out.

TT: What is the most common mistake made by typeface designers in developing support for vietnamese?

DT: One of the common mistakes I had seen so far is not making diacritical marks part of the font family. What I mean is that the marks are often way smaller than the base letters, especially the ones with the combined diacritics. For example, when a modified letter is combined with a tone mark, an acute, a grave, or a hook above gets so small that it becomes illegible at small size. The angle of the accents, especially on uppercase letters, get lower to avoid leading issues, but also ended up affecting legibility. There are some design challenges when adding Vietnamese support, but they can be resolved.

I have tremendous respect for Robert Slimbach and the Adobe Type Team for always making Vietnamese support part of their priorities. Most of the typefaces from Adobe are equipped with Vietnamese right from the start.

TT: Unicode support of Vietnamese has existed since 2001. Now in 2015, you’ve written in Vietnamese Typography, a dearth of typefaces that cover the needed character sets. Why the delay? Do you hope your site will help advocate more support for Vietnamese?

DT: I had this project in my mind for a while, but I thought that there has to be some kind of resources out there on Vietnamese typography. To my dismay, I could not find anything. So when it was time to do research for my thesis for my MA in Graphic Design at George Mason University School of Art, I knew I had to tackle this challenge.

For the second part of your question, it is my goal to help advocate more support for Vietnamese. If you look at Typekit, there’s only about 20 out of thousands of typefaces have support for Vietnamese. Google Fonts has only a handful out of hundreds. Last year I attended the Typographics conference in New York and asked Jonathan Hoefler if any of his typefaces support Vietnamese and his answer was none.

Since the day I launched vietnamesetypography.com, a few type designers had reached to me and they had shown interest in making Vietnamese support for their existing typefaces. I am more than happy to help out or review their fonts.

TT: Would it be fair to summarize your dismay about the lack of support of Vietnamese is because of the limited range of typographic expression currently possible?

DT: Yes, that is correct. If you look at online publications written in Vietnamese, most of the texts are still set in default system fonts. Last year, I noticed some Vietnamese articles posted on Medium. At that time, Medium didn’t even have support for Vietnamese characters; therefore, the text looked pretty funky. Their custom typefaces didn’t have the proper Vietnamese subsetting. As a result, the browsers just picked up whatever system fonts that have diacritical marks and combined the two. Imagine the base letters set in Goudy, but all the critical marks set in Georgia or Times New Roman.

As far as the limited range of typographic expression in Vietnamese, it also has to do with the lack of awareness from the Vietnamese people. I don’t think they pay much attention to typography. As long as they can read the text, they are not concerned if the type is good or the diacritics are legible. In my research, I found inconsistencies in the position of the tone marks when combined with the modified letters, but they don’t seem to bother Vietnamese readers. Furthermore, it might be a cultural thing. You can find tons of Vietnamese doctors and engineers, but not much in the creative profession. I could only track down one type designer for my book. So, in addition to reach out to type designers with my project, I want to raise awareness of typography in the Vietnamese community. On one hand, I want to help type designers make typefaces with Vietnamese support. On the other hand, I hope to get the conversation started on Vietnamese typography.

TT: That’s an ambitious mission! I love it. How can TypeThursday readers help you with Vietnamese Typography’s mission?

DT: Yes, it is an ambitious mission, and this is just the beginning. I have been receiving valuable feedback from type designers; therefore, I am planning on expanding it in the future. My goal is to get it out there and see if people are interested in it. They have responded.

TypeThursday readers can help me out by reading it, sending me their thoughts on how I can improve it, and sharing it to type designers. And thank you, Thomas, for giving me the opportunity to talk about Vietnamese Typography. It will definitely help getting the word out.

Want to help Vietnamese Typography’s mission? Check out the site and share it on social media.

This interview is originally posted on Medium.