Logotype: Modular Typography

Definition of Modularity (From the Cambridge dictionary)

the quality of consisting of separate parts that, when combined, form a complete whole.

In terms of design, modularity is a principle that helps manage content- it’s repeatable because its made from 1 module.

In the modular & matrix writing workshops of module 5002, I learnt to work with the restrictions of using a limited selection of shapes to compose letterforms. It was more challenging than I thought it would be. I found myself accidently breaking the rules. Because I was using paper, scissors and glue, it was possible to break rules. In today’s digital workshop, this wasn’t possible.

Other posts where I explore modularity:

Project #4 Drawing with a Grid

Grid Systems

Examples of modules

In today’s lecture we began by looking at examples of modules we are used to seeing in the world around us.

  • In pixellated photos, every cell is a module.
  • Graph paper consists of equally spaced lines, therefore squares.
  • In book design, the use of the grid makes an editorial layout an examples of modules.
  • Quilting Bees- popular in mid-late 19th century, mainly women, building a quilt together, creating a sense of community. Everyone expressing themselves via these individual squares. The pathwork designs are modular.

Modular Typography

Using a modular structure helps with decision making, as it gives some guidance to the designer, by providing limitations. Grids can start the creative process of the work, then you can focus on shapes, colour etc afterwards. It is 1 useful approach for designing logotype.

Arim Hofmann

Swiss designer, Arim Hofmann wrote a book about graphic design guidelines, called Graphic Design Manual, Principles and Practice. It was published in 1965 and outlined rules such as structure, form and line.

In his work, he demonstrated how many variations could be created with the single same modular, just changing positions.

The examples below are of typography that used a modular grid to compose. This is seen in the way the letterforms ‘fit’ together in the (left) example. The letterforms on the right combine wider horizontal strokes and thinner vertical strokes. This would indicate a grid that has narrow vertical columns and wider horizontal grid lines.

Karl Nawrot

Nawrot’s type design took inspiration from architecture, including in the way he worked on the designs. This was to use physical materials to build a structure, which he then drew letterforms (below, left).

Another method of his experimental typography was to create 150 different stamps and apply these to the same grid.

Nawrot names four of his typefaces on members of the Bauhaus school (below, right) : Josa (Josef Albers), Breu (Marcel Breuer), Mon (Lazlo Moholy-Nagy) and Pauk (Paul Klee).

Item Magazin Issue #4 ‘Strip’ Emilia Moro, Dylan Demtröder

In this issue of the student magazine, Item, the students were working with the theme of ‘strip’. Here, Moro and Demtroder have used Nawrot’s typeface Lÿno (co-designed with Radim Pesko.)

Item Magazin Issue #4 ‘Strip’ Emilia Moro, Dylan Demtröder

An example of a ‘stencil wheel’. Nawrot used these stencils to design letterforms, adding to them during the design process.

Albrecht Durer

In the 16th century, Durer designed modular type based on human proportions.

Fregio Mecano

This typeface was designed by an unknown designer in the 1930’s. It was made using the 20 components shown below, right.

These 20 pieces were found in the Nebiolo specimen from 1939.

Nebiolo Mecano 1940s
Jean-Claude Chianale

Design for a ballet identity system. Chianale has used an interesting grid when composing the letterforms:

The type applied to the poster design:

Jurriaan Schrofer

Dutch graphic designer, Schrofer’s dot matrices and sqaure grid system were progressive at the time and influence the way we approach type deisgn today.

Juriaan Schrofer (1926-90) The book, designed by Spin brings together a series of commercial and experimental projects from Schrofer

‘Writer Frederike Huygen, who provides an essay for the new book, describes Schrofer as ‘a computer-designer before the computer’.

Schrofer designed the book covers for Les Textes Sociologiques in 1970. Typeforms are used in an illustrative way. The underlying grid creates a gradient pattern across the type.

Wim Crouwel

Crouwel’s typeface New Alphabet was used by Peter Saville for Joy Division’s album cover:

When New Alphabet was first used, it was found illegible/ inaccessible for people. This modular typeface was adapting to the first digital screens, giving it its geomtric appearance.

Architype Stedelijk was the typeface he used in his well-known poster for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Interestingly, he kept the grid visible in the poster:

I like the Architype Stedelijk ‘a’.

Crouwel’s sketches, using grid paper to plan his letterforms.

The title for this poster has a uniform appearance, from its use of an underlying modular grid. There is a satisfaction to the neatness and logic of it.

Mario Eskercezi Studio

Typeface/ identity for the Victoria Brewery in Malaga. Since there a lot of tiles in the city, the designer took the environment as inspiration when designing the modular typeface for the beer advertisement. The grid pattern is also used in the background of the poster which provides a ground for the type to sit on.

The type could then be used within the environmental design, since it could be easily made up of equally sized tiles.

By designing our own grid, this will determine the design of a unique type. A possibility is to make our own grid- rounded. However, for today’s workshop, we were provided with a grid designed by our tutor. Below is the grid I was working with. The designs in the square were worked on by my tutor, I kept these for a reference to look at.

Illustrator Workshop

I ensured snap to point and smart guides were on. This helped when working with the grid. But even so, I still found that the shapes didn’t always fit exactly into the grid squares.

Effect> distort and transform makes shape imperfect to use in modular. (I didn’t use this effect today but I would like to try it in future practice).

Results from this workshop:

Using 3 different shapes.

Using 1 shape to create a curvy, twisted letterform.

3 different shapes.

The 3 shapes I used to design the letterforms below:

Professional Practice Week 2

We began the week by discussing with our tutors, what we hope for our future careers. This took the form of an informal presentation, where classmates were encouraged to get involved and think about specific design industries and studios.

This is an exciting time in the course. Suddenly the real world is on the horizon!


I was happy to share my ideas with the group, however, what I realised is:

  • I don’t really have a clear idea yet.
  • I might know what I admire in other’s work, but I hope my path will become clearer as I continue to work on briefs and keep my eye open to new ideas.
  • I don’t have much confidence in my work. For example, I can look at a beautiful editoral layout that uses experimental elements, but to believe that I am capable of anything nearly as inspiring?
  • I know at least one thing. That the morals and ethics are number 1 for me. That art, healthcare and education are the topics I am most passionate about if I had to narrow it down.
  • The group was smaller in size today. I enjoyed this experience much more because I got to hear from every individual. I felt more involved and enjoyed participating in discussions. I like being able to offer advice to others and be supportive.
  • Researching studios could really be an endless task! I’m sure if I continued to research it would influence me further.

Below is a PDF of my presentation slides:

I realised afterwards that I never mentioned printmaking, but printmaking is normally used as part of an illustrators process, rather than a discipline in itself.

We discussed that what I may be more interested in is the concept itself, as in creative direction.

Sketchbook Logotype Experimentation

This week, I continued to experiment with monograms in my sketchbook. I used a felt tip pen to sketch these ideas. I then took 4 of these ideas forward and drew them using a paintbrush and purple ink. (The purple had no significance, I used it because I wanted a dark colour for contrast and couldn’t find the black ink at home.)

(below) I then used collage pieces to create the letterforms from paper, using scissors. I layered these on the page, considering the composition and negative space.

(Below, right) I wanted to see the effect water would have with the ink. I wet the page with water then drew the ‘DB’ with ink and the end of the paintbrush. Below this, I drew the Db with diluted ink. I like the softness of this.

Digital Iterations

I scanned these experimentations and placed them into Adobe Illustrator.

I Image-traced them. For example, the grey monograms above were made by selecting ‘shades of grey’ and the darker monograms beneath were from selecting ‘silhouette’. I then played with Effect > Stylize > Scribble. This gave the letterforms a rougher appearance.

On one monogram, I used a box to place the initials in and crop the edges off. I chose a square because I feel I have the square characteristics (from last week’s workshop).

Sketchbook Logo shapes

Further experimentation with squares and circles.

Contextual References

I looked at how designers have used shapes within their logo designs.

Fedoriv’s identity for Rezult

‘Korosten MDF Plant in Ukraine is an environmentally friendly factory producing laminate flooring and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) panels.‘ In this example, Fedoriv have formed the ‘R’ using a rectangle as a separate shape to the rest of the letterform. It looks as though it is holding up the rest of the ‘R’. This gives the impression of stability, reflecting the theme of construction.

Development of dovetail joint symbol, logo, and signage. Jack Renwick Studio, Carpenters Wharf

(Above) The squares are rotated and divided by a wood joint line. The texture of wood is key in the identity and is used within the square shape.

The square pattern looks like a kind of rectangular puzzle grid and is placed within the letterforms.

ico Design, Burst

For the identity for this oral care brand, ico Design have constructed the letterforms from a repetition of circles.

From Letterhead Logo Design II (Rockport) by Design Army:

‘We believe in simplicity. In fact, you could say that it’s part of our identity. Our logo is a star. Our colors are red, brown, and mint green We use one typeface. It’s simple, consistent, effective—all the things you’d expect from a powerful brand. Simplicity is perfection…Along the way, we confirmed what we already knew: It’s the little thoughts that have the biggest impact.’

Visual identity for Design Army
Default’s design for Merge Architectur
Blok Design’s identity for Taller De Empresa
Asli Kuris Design, for the client Ayse Ebru Tuner

This receipt was from the cafe I ate at this week. I like the way the ‘c’ and ‘o’ have been entwined.

Below: The author’s initials are combined to create this geometric monogram. The monogram is appropriate for the theme, since Douglas Adams is a science fiction writer.