Capturing the Graphic Character of Cities
Capturing the Graphic Character of Cities

A trip to the Basque country in southwestern France to study and document the unique letterforms of the region and how those inform and reflect broader influences in the culture, as well as link and translate the past to today.

Student researcher: Anna Shcherbakova, junior graphic design major with a minor in media studies

Faculty mentor: Jamie Mahoney, assistant professor, Department of Graphic Design

FONT OF WISDOM: LETTERS FROM THE BASQUE COUNTRY

ANNA SHCHERBAKOVA: The practice of recording the graphic character of our cities and studying letterforms to get a sense of a place from the visual cues has always interested me. Curious as to how those cues evolve and take on the identity of a city or region, I traveled to France expecting ornate scripts and was instead introduced to traditional Basque letters. Putting together the proposal for the Dean’s International Travel Grant alone was a hard task that made me realistically think how I could accomplish what I wanted to do and made me a better communicator in expressing my ideas and coming up with precedents.

JAMIE MAHONEY: Anna found a topic that fascinated her and one that had not been studied extensively. The latter proved to be a challenge to her investigation, but as a result, Anna’s project is now a valuable source of knowledge in the history of typography and graphic design. Her passion for the topic fueled her curiosity, which in turn led to a wealth of research material through focused inquiry, interviews with primary sources and extensive visual documentation.

THE RESULTS: From the very beginning, my project helped me identify what I was interested in outside the classroom. As a student, I am now more open to drawing inspiration for projects in unconventional ways and justifying the decisions I make with research. After coming back, I put together a presentation for the graphic design department that gave me a unique chance to present to my faculty and peers. Conducting a semester-long independent project made me stronger in establishing deadlines, curating an exhibition and visually communicating my experience in a unique way. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but one that I hope I can duplicate in some way.