This was a project for my graduate class ‘Typographic Voice and Visual Narrative’. The brief was to choose a persona, real or fictional, and make typography related to it. The typography acted less as a means of delivering a message and more as an illustrative storytelling element. We conducted a series of typographic experiments relating to the themes of the characters and compiled our final pieces in a newspaper.
I chose to work with Walter White from Breaking Bad, the TV series. Walter White was a mild mannered high school chemistry teacher who transforms into a ruthless drug kingpin as the story progresses. I have always found this transformation fascinating with its themes of power, masculinity, love and family. Following this thread of fascination, I researched the character extensively and brainstormed numerous ideas for typographic exploration.
Each part of this project was a unique experiment based on themes of Walter White’s persona. The key here was play. I played with a variety of ideas and used the themes surrounding this character as part of my process rather than just stating them. For instance, I built typography using chemistry rather than talking about chemistry, a major theme in the TV show. Admittedly, it is a bit difficult to explain. So let me just show you...
Walter White starts his story as a mild mannered school teacher and end it as a ruthless villain. This piece was about his decay, descent, and transformation.
This explores how Walter regrets his actions. His transformation had been triggered by his cancer diagnosis. He resorted to manufacturing meth to provide for his family after his demise. However, his cancer went into remission and he lived on to see himself destroy everything he loved.
This piece is about choice and consequence. Although Walter was faced with some difficult situations, it was his choices that brought about death and destruction around him. On some level, he was aware of that. The desert represents the consequence of isolation that his choices brought about.
This piece was inspired by one particular episode in which a housefly infiltrates Walter’s lab. He obsesses over trying to catch the fly and ends up destroying much of his lab in the process. Many argue that it serves as a metaphor for his whole story.
A major theme in this show is Walter going through hell to provide for his family, even destroying his family in the process. This piece alludes to how men suffer from these outdated ideas of masculinity, of toiling in isolation with little to no emotional expression or relying on their loved ones for support.
Tread Lightly is a piece inspired by Walter dissolving a dead body in acid in one particularly horrifying episode. The words, ‘Tread Lightly’ were said by Walter to his wife. Another moment where Walter’s descent into violence becomes apparent.
A lot of fun and a lot of work went into using ‘play’ in my design process. I discovered that leaving the computer once in a while and pushing myself just a little further could do wonders for my design process.
Once we had all of these projects done, the last step was to compile them into a newspaper containing articles about our chosen persona. This was an exercise in understanding basic typography and grid rules, and breaking them as much as we could.