This is the syllabus for the Fall 2022 class of AVT 215: Typography (3 credits). The instructor is Michael McDermott, can be reached by email at mmcderm8 at gmu dot edu, and can be met with at his virtual office hours on Tuesdays from 12–2 and Thursdays from 12–2. Office hours can also be scheduled outside of those times if necessary.

Delivery and Timing

We will meet once a week in person on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 4:10 in room 1020 in the Art and Design Building. The classes are required and during our sessions we will discuss work, complete demos, and further our design knowledge. The class is scheduled to run for 15 weeks and you can expect to work for 6 hours outside of class each week.


AVT 110: Digital Design Studio

Course Description

Introduction to the history and use of type. Projects and exercises develop awareness of type as a linguistic and visual communication tool. Introduces typographic design elements, including color, hierarchy, integration with imagery, structure, and content.


Type is everywhere. The only way to avoid it is to close your eyes and even then you still might see it. During this class we will start by looking at the form and structure of letters and then combine those letters to make words, sentences and paragraphs. We will make type by hand, print type digitally, and set type to be viewed on screen. We will learn that the style, weight, size, and color of the type we choose can say just as much as the words we write with it. We will also have various exercises and demos during class to improve your skills and knowledge of the tools available to you. Finally we will talk about the anatomy of type, the history of type, and the type designers who create the type. By the end of the class you will have a strong basis in the fundamentals of typography to use in your evolving design practice.


Required Materials


We will be using the Adobe Creative Suite in this class, primarily InDesign and Illustrator but will also use some Photoshop. An internet browser will also be necessary as we will submit work through Blackboard and document process on Miro. See the Technology Requirements section for more information.


This class consists of shorter exercises, in-class demos and workshops, and longer projects. The exercises, demos, and workshops are meant to build skills and learn new concepts and the projects are a place to demonstrate your understanding and ability to combine those skills and concepts.

project 1: paper letters

You will work on making letters from black and white paper focusing on expressive and unique letters, not replicating letters that already exist. You will start by making one letter and then use that letter to create more letters making sure the letters belong next to each other. You will then digitize the letters and further refine them. The goal of this project is to begin to closely examine letterforms and start to notice different aspects of typefaces.

project 2: type specimen

Design a single page type specimen for a given typeface. The project will entail a small amount of research to find some specific information about the typeface. That information will be used to inform the design and the final designs will be two colors and printed with a Risograph. You will then get to collect prints from everyone and bind them into a book to keep. The project will focus on principles of typography as well as hierarchy, grids, and craft.

project 3: various

You will have the choice between three different projects—designing a poster, a booklet, or an album. Each project will have unique constraints and guidelines and will be a culmination of the skills and concepts you have learned throughout this course.


This course has an engagement policy instead of an attendance policy. Your engagement will affect your final grade (and, by extension, the quality of your work) for this course. You are expected to actively and passionately take part in this course in the following ways.


Grades will be based on quizzes (10%), engagement (25%), exercises (25%), and projects (40%).

quizzes (10%)

There will be short, weekly quizzes to assess your knowledge of typographic terms, concepts, and history that will account for 10% of your grade.

engagement (25%)

This percentage will be based on your engagement in the class which is explained on above. Be engaged in this course and its content throughout the semester and this should be an easy 25%.

exercises (25%)

The exercises are meant to be quicker, skill building tasks that improve your projects and design knowledge. They are graded using a basic rubric show on the last page.

projects (40%)

Each project will generate two different grades. One grade will be based on your week to week process and the second grade will be based on the final submission. At the end of the semester you will have 6 total project grades that are all weighted equally for this 40%.


Rubrics are used to grade exercises, projects, and checkpoints. The rubrics are in the PDF syllabus and tied to each submission on Blackboard. The rubrics are here to allow you to understand how work is graded and to reference while working to self-evaluate.


Your ability to communicate with me is of prime importance in this course. If you are going to be absent, late, or not have your work, it will be your best interest in communicating those things to me in advance. I do not need to know your reasons for being absent, late, or not having your work but I do need to know. A simple, short email will be fine.

The same goes for if you are struggling in this class or having other issues that are hindering your ability to complete work in this class. The more you keep me in the loop the more I can help you and adjust as needed.

Weekly Schedule

Class is on Tuesdays from 1:30–4:10. Most days we will meet for the entire time but some weeks we will have individual meetings or end early. Unless otherwise specified, all work is due at the beginning of class.

A note—Time management is an important skill to master and should be worked on all your classes. Staying up all night working is not a badge of honor, it typically means you didn’t budget your time correctly. Staying up all night isn’t healthy and making sure you are keeping yourself healthy is your first priority.

Semester Schedule

The schedule on this site is an outline of what we will be covering this fall. It is subject to additions and subtractions.

Discussion of Work

You will need to take an active role in both the presentation and discussion of your work. We will review projects in a variety of ways and you are expected to be able to talk and write about your own work and give feedback to your peers about their work. The ability to discuss your work and other student’s work is a very important part of your education at Mason. Use this class to improve on those skills.

Open Studio

New this semester! The design faculty will be hosting open studio hours in room 1023. When the open studio is open, you will have access to computers, a space to work, or get feedback and help from the faculty member in the room. The schedule will be posted on the door of 1023.

School of Art Social Media Accounts

IG: gmusoa / FB: gmu.soa / TW: gmusoa

Visual Voices Lecture Series

Visual Voices is a year-long series of lectures by artists, art historians and others about contemporary art and art practice. Visual Voices lectures are held on four Thursday evenings from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

For Fall 2022, this lecture series will be held online.

Writing Center and Library Resources

Students who are in need of intensive help with grammar, structure or mechanics in their writing should make use of the services of Writing Center. For Fall 2022, the Writing Center is holding all sessions online, with writers choosing between meeting their tutor in real time on Zoom or uploading a draft for their tutor’s written feedback. Please send your questions to

Provisions Research Center for Art & Social Change is located in Room L001 of the Art & Design Building. This student resource assists students in exploring and engaging new models for artmaking that lead to a more inclusive, equitable, and connected society. Provisions is also a hub for developing art projects through Mason Exhibitions, the Mural Brigade, and art partners throughout the metropolitan area, and beyond. Contact Don Russell for more information:

Art and Art History Librarian, Stephanie Grimm, will offer appointments and virtual office hours for the Fall 2022 semester:

Official Communications via Mason E-mail

Students are responsible for the content of university communications sent to their George Mason University e-mail account and are required to activate their account and check it regularly. All communication from the university, college, school, and program will be sent to students solely through their Mason e-mail account.

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences

Students with disabilities who seek accommodations in a course must be registered with the George Mason University Office of Disability Services (ODS) and inform their instructor, in writing, at the beginning of the semester

Attendance Policies

Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class (including sections that meet online) participation is important not only to the individual student, but also to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation. Students who miss an exam with an acceptable excuse may be penalized according to the individual instructor’s grading policy, as stated in the course syllabus.

Honor Code

To promote a stronger sense of mutual responsibility, respect, trust, and fairness among all members of the George Mason University Community and with the desire for greater academic and personal achievement, we, the student members of the university community, have set forth this Honor Code: Student Members of the George Mason University community pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work.

Responsible Employee Disclosure

As a faculty member, I am designated as a “Responsible Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy 1202. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of Mason’s confidential resources, such as Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) at 703-380-1434 or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 703-993-2380. You may also seek assistance from Mason’s Title IX Coordinator by calling 703-993-8730, or emailing

Commitment to Diversity

This class will be conducted as an intentionally inclusive community that celebrates diversity and welcomes the participation in the life of the university of faculty, staff and students who reflect the diversity of our plural society. All may feel free to speak and to be heard without fear that the content of the opinions they express will bias the evaluation of their academic performance or hinder their opportunities for participation in class activities. In turn, all are expected to be respectful of each other without regard to race, class, linguistic background, religion, political beliefs, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, veteran’s status, or physical ability.

Statement on Ethics in Teaching and Practicing Art and Design

As professionals responsible for the education of undergraduate and graduate art and design students, the faculty of the School of Art adheres to the ethical standards and practices incorporated in the professional Code of Ethics of our national accreditation organization, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Covid Protocols and Face Coverings

For all vaccinated or unvaccinated students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors, face coverings are optional in all indoor University Facilities (i.e. indoor or enclosed spaces including buildings and vehicles) and traveling to/from sites off University Property for work or study if in a vehicle with other individuals.

For all vaccinated or unvaccinated students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors, face coverings are mandatory:

For more information, please visit:

CAPS at Mason is Here for You

Counseling & Psychological Services provides a wide range of free services to students. CAPS offers crisis, counseling, and psychiatric services virtually, and limited services in person. Services are provided by a staff of licensed clinical psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, doctoral-level trainees, and a board-certified psychiatrist. Our individual and group counseling, workshops, and community education programs are designed to enhance students’ personal experience and academic performance. For distance learners, please see our Resources for Distance Learning page. We also provide consultation to faculty and staff who have concerns about a student

CAPS provides short-term mental health services for enrolled students. When a student’s needs require a different level of care, CAPS works with students to transition care to community providers. If a student is currently seeing a professional in the community for therapy and can continue to work with them, we encourage the student to continue care with their current provider.

In order to begin services with CAPS, please call us at 703-993-2380 during our business hours. Due to the rise in COVID cases, we are only offering services via telehealth during this time.

If you are experiencing a crisis after our business hours or on weekends or holidays, please call us at 703-993-2380. Please select option 1 in our phone system to be connected to an after-hours crisis counselor.

If you are interested in connecting with a provider in the community for long term counseling, please visit our Find a Community Provider page for our database of community provider options and other options for connecting with a therapist. If you have student health insurance through Aetna, you may also choose to access services through TelaDoc.

Anti-Racism Statement

The School of Art plays an integral role in building an educational environment that is committed to anti-racism and inclusive excellence. An anti-racist approach to higher education acknowledges the ways that individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural manifestations of racism against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color contribute to inequality and injustice in our classrooms, on our campuses, and in our communities. It strives to provide our community members with resources to interrupt cycles of racism so as to cultivate a more equitable, inclusive, and just environment for all of our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends, regardless of racial background. An anti-racism approach is an active and ongoing, long-term process. In all our efforts, we uphold a commitment to creating honest, respectful, supportive, and healing spaces where members of our community can meaningfully dialogue and learn from each other’s lived experiences for the betterment of our entire community.

Land Acknowledgment

At the place George Mason University occupies, we give greetings and thanksgivings to these Potomac River life sources, the Doeg ancestors, who Virginia annihilated in violent campaigns while ripping their lands apart with the brutal system of African American enslavement, to the recognized Virginia tribes who have lovingly stewarded these lands for millennia including the Rappahannock, Pamunkey, Upper Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Nansemond, Monacan, Mattaponi, Patawomeck, and Nottaway, past, present, and future, and to the Piscataway tribes, who have lived on both sides of the river from time immemorial.

Mason Gen Ed/Mason

This course satisfies a Mason Core Integration Requirement for Synthesis and Capstone. The purpose of the synthesis course is to provide students with the opportunity to synthesize the knowledge, skills and values gained from the general education curriculum. Synthesis courses strive to expand students’ ability to master new content, think critically, and develop life-long learning skills across the disciplines. While it is not feasible to design courses that cover “all” areas of general education, synthesis courses should function as a careful alignment of disciplinary goals with a range of general education learning outcomes.

Technology Requirements

Note that this course requires/strongly recommends the use of Adobe Creative Cloud applications. If you do not already have an Adobe license and are interested in purchasing one or have an Adobe license and need to renew it, please visit Please note that the Adobe license agreement is on an annual basis.

The Collaborative Learning Hub Located in Johnson Center 311 (703-993-3141), the lab offers in-person one-on-one support for the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, Blackboard, and a variety of other software. Dual monitor PCs make the lab ideal for collaborating on group projects, Macs are also available; as well as a digital recording space, collaborative tables, and a SMART Board. Reservations are strongly encouraged due to COVID-19 precautions and limited amounts of resources, but walk-ins will still be accepted so long as the occupancy of the lab does not exceed the maximum of 16 people

Important Deadlines

Once the add and drop deadlines have passed, instructors do not have the authority to approve requests from students to add or drop/withdraw late. Requests for late adds (up until the last day of classes) must be made by the student in the School of Art office (or the office of the department offering the course), and generally are only approved in the case of a documented university error (such as a problem with financial aid being processed), LATE ADD fee will apply. Requests for non-selective withdrawals and retroactive adds (adds after the last day of classes) must be approved by the academic dean of the college in which the student’s major is located. For AVT majors, that is the CVPA Office of Academic Affairs in College Hall.