Visual Communication, the SELFIE Letter Portrait

Typography Portrait, The LETTER PORTRAIT: (from “Design for Communication” by Elizabeth Resnick)

Before you get started: This will be completed on Adobe Illustrator 2020 on the Aims Virtual Computer Lab. Create a "letter_portrait" folder in your GRAPHIC FOLDER ON YOUR SHARED GOOGLE DRIVE. Save all of the work that you complete for this project into that folder. For this project, you will also need a SELFIE! Grab your smartphone and either send yourself your favorite selfie or take a photo in class to use for this project.

Assignment Brief: Your assignment is to create a “Typography Portrait” using Adobe Illustrator. A Typography Portrait is a portrait that uses only typographic characters for its pallette.

Use letters (which might be thought to represent sounds) to illustrate your face, thinking about how your design reflects you as a designer and as a person. Think about identity and study your face and its characteristics. Examine the different letters to determine what will represent you best.

Professional and Highland Graphic Design Student Samples for Inspiration: Click on this link to see some samples that might inspire you!

Objectives: Create an awareness of the design possibilities of typography.

Learning and Practice:

Before working on this project, students should have completed the videos from the ADD TEXT TO YOUR DESIGN page from

Adobe Illustrator Typography Practice: We start with the image above. You will receive credit for completing the practice portrait. Using Adobe Illustrator, recreate the above image, imitating all of the letters and placement to create a figure that looks just like "Comma Head Guy." The "hair" is a large comma, find one that works. Completing COMMA HEAD GUY is worth 25 points, so make sure you save it to your folder!

The Process for completing the Typography Portrait:

  • SELFIE CANVAS: Locate or take a "SELFIE." Forward it to your school email. Then, FILE>PLACE your selfie into Illustrator. Resize the image as needed to fit onto your canvas. If excess parts of your photograph go over the edge of the canvas, don't worry, they will not be seen on the final JPEG.
  • RENAME your picture layer as ORIGINAL PHOTO.
  • Create a New Layer and call it "Typography".
  • On this new layer, use the TEXT TOOL to create letters, numbers and symbols, as needed, to create the typographical elements needed to create your portrait.
  • You may use any font that you wish, but please only use ONE font for this project.
  • Use the EYEBALL icon to TURN OFF the ORIGINAL PHOTO layer, as needed. You will be turning on and off this Layer as you go to see the progress of your typography portrait.
  • Using the letters, numbers or symbols you have just typed, you will be creating your typography portrait. Here are the RULES for the project:
    • DO NOT use rows and rows of "l"s to outline your face! BORING! This should be an exercise in creating areas of color and shade that match your portrait, DO NOT OUTLINE!
    • You can ROTATE or RESIZE your letters as much as you wish, but...
    • PLEASE RETAIN THE ORIGINAL SHAPE OF YOUR LETTERS (by holding down SHIFT when resizing)
    • If you wish to use COLOR for your letters, etc., you can!
    • Freel free use include words and phrases into your work, but this is primarily a LETTER TYPOGRAPHY exercise.
    • Do your best to create a typographic portrait that looks like you and is true to the original photograph!
  • If you need to save your TYPOGRAPHY portrait before it is completed, make sure that you FILE>SAVE AS an .AI FILE! This will preserve all of the layers and letters for later manipulation!
  • Make sure to DELETE or use the EYEBALL to get rid of the original image, then EXPORT this as a JPEG and save it to your "letter_portrait" folder.
  • If anyone wishes to try to create an INVERTED portrait, where the letters are white on a black background, you can. You will need to use the RECTANGLE SHAPE tool in illustrator to place a new layer between the Photograph and your TEXT. Your letters will have to be in WHITE instead of BLACK.

SAMPLE PORTRAITS: See below. Please note that not all of these portraits are following the same rules for creation that you have above. Many of them use repeated letters, you cannot do so for this project!

Grading: This assignment will be worth a total of 125 points:

  • 25 points for proper completion of the practice Typography Portrait.
  • 50 points for proper completion of the personal Typography Portrait, while taking into account all of the rules of the project.
  • 50 based upon Mr. B.'s whims, regarding the overall look, creativity and artistic merit of the final product.