Playing With Words

This exercise was about creating typographical representations for a list of words that represent both the word and a suggestion of its meaning. This was to be done in both hard copy with the words set in Helvetica Bold 48pt and digitally using software.

I initially thought I might struggle with the first part of the exercise – the fixed typeface and size seemed very limiting but once I had got started I realised that actually it was down to the individual words themselves and their meaning which defined how creative I could be with representing them visually in this manner. My first interpretation of this exercise was to represent each word individually on a sheet of A5 paper and to include the scope for cutting each word into individual letters or groups of letters.


I tried to represent the idea of a downturned mouth for the word sad and for the word safe tried two different examples of grouping the letters closely together – the first as if being cupped by a hand and the second huddled up. I placed each character of the word silly at a slightly wonky angle and offset from one another to create the impression of dancing around and being playful. Sleek was trickier and I’m not sure I really achieved the best representation but I was going for a smooth look. Sinking was much easier and I used descending letters in both examples. I placed the letters of Soothing in an offset configuration to represent the up and down motion of a melody. My first attempt at Snowy used each letter to represent a snowflake and I used the whole page to create the impression of them falling across a distance and my second was a rather unsuccessful attempt to create the shape of a snowman out of the letters. I split the word Skimpy down the middle to try and represent the concept of reduction. I angled the letters in Speed to create the idea of movement and separated them at increasingly wide distances to represent acceleration. Stodgy and Squeeze were harder to represent without manipulating the shape of the letters and I decided these would be much easier to represent digitally. Scholarly was placed at the top of the page as if the title of an important document. After a few minutes of not having any ideas for Sodden I poured water on the paper and scrunched it up. Stiff seemed to work quite well in an upright position. Several of the words were really difficult with the restriction to using Helvetica. I had several ideas of how I could represent the concepts of sweet, saucy, serious, sordid and sophisticated with different typefaces but they were more difficult here. I put the letter of Shy bunched up in the bottom corner, using the white space to give the suggestion that the word was hiding.

After I’d finished all the words I re-read the instructions for the task and realised that maybe I had misinterpreted what I was meant to be doing. It referred to a single sheet of paper and I then wondered if I should try arranging all the words in relation to each other. I had another go under these new parameters – which I extended to mean not chopping the words into segments as well.


I set the words Scholarly and Serious centrally at the top of the page to give them importance and then juxtaposed the word Silly at a funny angle. Sad and Shy were in opposite corners on their own to give them impression of loneliness. I felt that Sleek, Style and Swagger could all be used as words to represent the concept of Sophistication and so placed them extending out of the word. Snowy is falling onto Sodden making it wet which in turn then drops onto Sinking. I capitalised Stodgy to give it a heavier feeling and sat it on top of Squat to give the impression it was being pressed down. Supine and Stoned are leaning into one another at tilted angles to denote a lying-down/spacey concept and Speed is running away from them leaving a Shadow. I used the positive words Sweet, Smart, Soothing and Saucy to enclose Safe and Squeeze as if in a hug and placed Sordid and Sardonic outside of that circle to suggest more negative connotations. Shattered and Skimpy run off either side of the paper to represent an incompleteness and reduction.

Digital Typographical Representations

I used the websites and to research and download typefaces for this section of the exercise.


Sad – The Sadannes has a slightly downtrodden feel about it and I typed the word on a path to represent a downturn mouth. I chose a dark blue to represent melancholy.

Safe – I wanted a cursive typeface for this word as I was trying to represent the concept of being safe by giving the impression that the letters of the word are holding hands with one another. I chose Handycheera as it was the most readable of the cursive fonts I looked at.

Sardonic – I found this to be the hardest word to represent visually… I selected a typeface from the internet called HeckaGrunge which looked similar to those used for other typographical representations of the word but I’m not convinced it’s particularly successful. The meaning of the word doesn’t really lend itself to this type of representation.

Saucy – The typeface Delicious Ketchup gave me a simple solution to a word that I had struggled to represent visually in the first half of the exercise. The contrast between the thick and thin strokes looks like sauce that has been dribbled out of a bottle and the colour is synonymous with a famous household sauce.

Scholarly – I chose Luminari for the word Scholarly as it looks old fashioned and similar to typefaces used in old historical books.

Serious – I chose District Pro Thin for this word. There is a clear uniformity to the shape of the characters and the lack of serifs makes it seem strong. I think it looks like a geometric font which are useful for objective and universal messages which connects well with seriousness.

Shadow – BowersShadow represented the concept well with a strong contrast between the inside of the letters and the black shadow.

Shattered – The typeface Star Jedi seemed appropriate for this word as it is associated with a universe at war between different factions. For those not familiar with the Star Wars movie franchise I converted the type to outlines in illustrator and used the Pathfinder Divide Tool to separate two sections of the word to represent something shattered.

Shy – I used the box to create the impression of the word Shy as peeking around the corner and hiding.

Short – I picked the typeface Short for this word which features characters with a condensed height. It uses all capital letters to give the word its shortened appearance.

Silly – For the word Silly I chose a typeface with a handwritten quality. AmysHandwriting looks quite childish and playful and I chose a different colour for each character as it reminded me of a clown.

Sinking – Sinking is in Peaxhandwritinglight but I created the representation of it meaning by using the envelope distort function in illustrator.

Skimpy – For Skimpy I chose the condensed font Avenir Next Condensed and placed it in the middle of the box to use the white space surrounding it to emphasise a reduction of smaller amount.

Sleek – I chose ElegantAgege for the own sleek as it is similar to the typefaces used on the front of fashion magazines. I chose a golden colour to emphasise a meaning of glossiness and luxury.

Snowy – The typeface for Snowy is CF SnowBall Regular and I chose an ice blue colour to represent snow.

Sodden – The typeface is WetSpring to give the impression of being waterlogged and I have used the colour blue to emphasise the idea of being sodden. I think this concept could be better represented by the text dripping off the bottom but I didn’t have time to draw it.

Soothing – The typeface BabyDoll has a childlike quality and I used the Type on a path tool to make the word look like it is rhythmic like a lullaby. The neutral, pastel colours are also thought to be soothing.

Sordid – The typeface MetalCrime seems appropriate for the word Sordid as it features broken lines in the letters which creates a dark feeling of the underworld. I emphasised this with black., grey and red lettering.

Sophisticated – The typeface Raconteur NF is associated with designs and typography of the Art Deco movement and elegant sophistication.

Speed – Barbatrick-Regular gave the impression of forwards movement that I wanted to represent speed and I chose Orange as a strong, fiery colour associated with movement.

Squat – The commonly used Verdana is a modern, clear Sans serif typeface which was perfect for what I intended to do to the word which was squash the height of the letters using the transform tool.

Squeeze – Using TightScript gave me a typeface that set the characters very close together and I then emphasised the impression of being squeezed by using the transform tool to move and rotate the letters of the word so they looked like they had been pushed together from either side.

Stiff – I selected a typeface called Taller and then used the transform tool to distort the height of the letters so the word hit the top and bottom and the box, giving the impression of being wedged tight and stiff.

Stodgy – I used the warp effect ‘Bulge’ to make the word Stodgy look distended and then the envelope distort mesh to manipulate the individual letters to make them look wider and more bloated.

Stoned – For the word Stoned I used the radial blur and envelope distort mesh to create the feeling of blurred spaciness associated with taking cannabis.

Style – Lust Script is an elegant typeface with high contrast between thick and thin strokes.

Supine –  I used the transform tool to rotate the letters so they looked like they were lying down and leaning on each other.

Swagger – I struggled with visually representing the meaning of swagger and settled for running a search on the internet. The font SwaggerBold (which reminded me a little of comic book lettering) was slightly wonky and depicted movement.

Sweet – I chose CANDY INC for the word sweet as it is similar to the typefaces used for confectionary wrappers and shops. I chose a pale pink as it is the colour of candy floss which was one of the sweetest things I could think of.


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