Category Archives: Typography

Your Brain on Typography -Ellen Lupton

AIGA of Richmond, Virginia, presented a mind blowing lecture by Ellen Lupton that opened my eyes to thinking about design differently. I expected more information about typography since she is an expert, but I was inspired to incorporate these creative ideas into my designs.

Vision is a process

Ellen explained that vision is a process inside us that triggers our brains to do something. How we perceive words, colors and design can be manipulated through our bodies and senses and evoke an emotion or behavior. For example, most people will tilt their heads up or lean their bodies forward to look up when they hear a topless woman is on the 10th floor. Designers employ design to amaze, delight, and manipulate the eye and mind through images, words and color.

runner-in-purple-colorsAnother example of visual manipulation,  was when Ellen asked us to visualize a guy running in purple tights and asked which way was he running? Most people would see him running left to right because that is the way we  read English. Japanese who read right to left, would see him running to the left.

The most compelling visual Ellen presented was the shower scene from the black and white movie Psycho. You didn’t have to see the color red to know there was blood or that it was a murder scene with the music screeching.  Music and color also communicate to our senses.

Affordance examples

Ellen gave some practical examples of affordance.  An affordance is often taken as a relation between an object or an environment and an organism, that affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action. For example, the sound you hear when you put a file in the trash can on your desktop is an affordance. Ellen explained that the design must be with intent to control a behavior as in user experience in relation to website design. We viewed an example of affordance in design from an episode of  Orange is the New Black. One of the prisoners made a lighter using what she had available out of a battery and aluminum foil.  Simply creative.

Ellen ended her lecture with illustrated  jokes and a fun personal story about a shark girdle.  Now picture that.

Ellen is a curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in

EllenLuptonlogoNew York City and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore.