Thank You, Class of 2015

Thanks to the graphic design students in AVT 498 for the lovely card and the gift card. I am glad that the web site for the Senior Show worked out. You did all the work. I only helped out just a bit. Nevertheless, I appreciate your gift and will put it to good use on books over the holidays. Congratulations on final project. Looking forward to seeing your work at the closing reception.

Last Day of Class

Last night we wrapped the last day for Web Design & Usability. Students presented their portfolio web sites. Some of their codes are still rough, but they have until next Friday to fine tune their site. They seem to have the foundation down. My hope is that they will continue to work on it beyond the class. The only way to learn to is keep working and refining their site. I have been working on my own site for fifteen years and still making changes to it.

Overall, I am pleased with the students’ performance. They put in their share of work. My TA was also great. He helped out by providing good feedback to the students. As for me, this could be my last teaching. I am taking next semester off to spend time with my family, especially the newborn. I am not sure if I will return after that. Regardless, having taught three classes—Introduction to Web Design, Web Design & Usability, and Advanced Web Design—gave me a good experience. I am happy that I did it, especially seeing students improved their design and a bit of coding.

The Show is Over

After ten days, we took down our 4×4 exhibition. My part took the quickest to de-install because it is minimal comparing to my cohorts. Even though the printed books were supposed to be read in the gallery only, eight of my copies had left the building. I am actually glad that visitors found some interest in my book.

I had a chance to read through the guestbook and the following entry made my day:

Love it!
Donny—thanks for touching on an issue a lot of type designers ignore. Keep it up! You’ll change the world.

Great show
Thank you

I couldn’t figure out the guest’s signature, but I am really appreciate the compliment. Thanks to the person who had written it. It means a lot to me.

4×4

4 Books By 4 Designers
George Mason University
M.A. Graphic Design
Final Exhibition
Nov. 30 – Dec. 5

Reception Nov. 30, 6 – 9 pm
School of Art Gallery
4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030

Please join us in the School of Art gallery to celebrate our final thesis exhibition! On display will be four books representing the culmination of our graduate studies:

Refreshments will be served and a short reading will happen around the halfway point.

We hope you can make it!

–Melody, Marianne, Paul & Donny

Praise for Vietnamese Typography

Type designer and professor Phạm Đam Ca:

Việc làm này của anh không chỉ ý nghĩa với type design mà với cả cộng đồng người Việt nữa.

Monotype’s type designer Toshi Omagari:

I just wanted to congratulate you on the release of Vietnamese typography thesis. It was a much needed information on the subject, and will be used as a reference for years to come.

Computational linguist Ngô Thanh Nhàn:

I have not seen such passion for fonts since James Đỗ Bá Phước with his Vtopia.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Vietnamese Typography: Nghệ thuật chữ Việt Nam

I am proud to present my new book titled Vietnamese Typography: Nghệ thuật chữ Việt Nam. It was written not only as a final project to complete my MA in Graphic Design at the George Mason University School of Arts, but also to fulfill my personal goal: to expand and enrich the quality of Vietnamese typography.

As a Vietnamese-American designer with a passion for typography, I often find limited choices for setting type in Vietnamese. Although Vietnamese is based on the Latin alphabet, most typefaces were not designed with Vietnamese subsetting. As a result, I set out to write this book to help type designers understand Vietnamese’s unique typographic features so they can design their typefaces to support the Vietnamese language. Furthermore, I want to help graphic and web designers in using correct Vietnamese typography for a given project. The book is aimed at providing insights into the subtle details and nuances of the Vietnamese writing system, that can be used for reference and transferred into practice.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this book is that I haven’t found any publication that dedicated to Vietnamese typography. When I started my research, I could not find much information on it. I even asked friends and family members in Vietnam if they could get me some books on typography written in Vietnamese, but they could not find anything. I ended up using books written in English on this subject—even though they barely scratched the surface—as well as my own experience in Vietnamese and typography. Through writing this book, I had learned many details about Vietnamese typography that I didn’t pay attention to before.

In an effort to share what I have learned and to reach out to designers around the world, I chose the web as publishing platform. The book is available to read for free at vietnamesetypography.com, but I also designed a print edition. The paperback copy is available for purchase on Blurb.

For the design, I wanted to keep the book consistent in both print and the web. The text face is set in Garamond Premier Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach. The subheads, captions, and UI elements are set in Acumin, also by Slimbach. The website was developed using HTML, SCSS and some PHP. The layout is responsive so that the book could be read on any device. Fonts are served through Typekit. Service Worker was installed for offline reading. The print edition was set in Adobe Illustrator.

This book is near and dear to my heart and I could not have written it without the support from friends, colleagues, and family members. Thanks to professor Jandos Rothstein for his guidance in working with me on this final project to complete my Masters of Arts in Graphic Design. Deep gratitude to Linh Nguyễn for her critical evaluation of the first draft. Based on her invaluable feedback, I rewrote almost everything. Big up to Jim Van Meer for his meticulous proofreading of the early drafts. Props to Trang Nguyễn, Raymond Schwartz, and Chris Silverman for their thorough editing, detailed assessments, and indispensable inputs. Huge appreciation to Phạm Đam Ca for taking his time to explain to me the nuances of Vietnamese type design. Kudos to readers of the beta versions: John Balaban, Tim Brown, Ken Lunde, Ngô Thanh Nhàn, Trung Nguyễn, John Phan, and Christian Schwartz. Finally, mad love to my wife Nguyễn Đức Hải Dung for her support and enlightenment.

I am thrilled to share this book with you. I hope you enjoy it too!

Students’ Redesign Project for Fall 2015

For the second project in Web Design and Usability, students chose a web site to redesign. To read the requirements, refer to last year’s post. Most students had done a good job of improving the existing sites they had selected. Two particular students, however, went above and beyond.

Tina took on the daunting task of redesigning the Periodic Table. When she showed me her early mockups, I suggested that she might want Univers by Adrian Frutiger for her periodic table. She took it and made a striking redesign using just type and colors. The new design is beautiful, clean, and user-friendly.

For Angela, she took on the challenge of redesigning VegWeb. Her first mockup was nowhere near her level of work, based on what she had done in the first project. I asked her to stepped it up and she did. She emailed me five, six of comps at one in the morning on Saturday. Although most of them were good, the editorial layout stood out to me. She was not sure if it was the right direction because she felt restricted to do more traditional layout for the web, but I encouraged her to push more into the editorial approach. Truth be told, web design these days is kind of boring. Most sites looks very similar; therefore, I wanted to see more breaking designs, especially from students. What she delivered I couldn’t be happier even though I knew it would be a huge challenge to turn her mockups into HTML and CSS. She did an amazing job with balancing big type and stunning photos. Her strong grid layout makes the pages look so damn good. She’ll have a great future ahead.

These type of works really make teaching rewarding. I will definitely miss it after this semester.

The Book is Coming

I have been working around the clock on my book, Vietnamese Typography. In addition to the website, which is now in beta, I am working on print materials for a gallery show with three other graduate cohorts. The show will begin on November 30.

Even though the website is the main focus, I am creating a print edition to complement it. I am experimenting with the trade book format and running a test print using both Blurb and Lulu. I wanted to make them at economical as possible so that I could distribute them at a low cost. I am also considering selling them. I need to see how they turn out first.

While waiting impatiently to see the proof copies, I am taking a break from this project to catch some sleep. I has made a living hell for myself working on the site, the book, and the posters. I have not done my physical activities to spend time on this project; therefore, I will be spending time with the boys this weekend to regain some energy.

Student Project: Mobile Web Design

The first project for Web Design & Usability in the Fall of 2015 has been completed. Students were assigned to the design a mobile web site. A few projects have been uploaded to Pinterest.

Schedule for the Fall

The Fall semester will be busy and exciting. I can’t wait to launch the final project for my MA. I will close out my chapter as a student and transform into teaching.

I will be teaching three different classes combined into one. Here’s the break down: 17 undergraduate students for Web Design and Usability (AVT 415), five graduate students for Web Design and Usability (AVT 519), and one graduate student for Advanced Web Design (AVT 619). With 23 students in three different classes seemed overwhelming, but I had figured out how to run the class after months of thinking and preparing for the course. I will have a teaching assistant to help me out so that will be good.

Because I have other things going on at work and in my personal life (more on that when the time comes), I asked to take off teaching in the fall, but they could not find a replacement. I didn’t want to see the class gets cancelled and let the students down; therefore, I decided to move forward with it. It will be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it.