AVT 414: Typography

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Designing with Thumbnails or Marker Comps

Thumbnail sketches are rough drawings, sometimes only comprehensible to the designer, used to explore layout options. These quick pen or pencil sketches allow the designer to try out several ideas and zero in on the most likely layouts before beginning a project. Marker comps are the approximate size to the final layout, using broad markers to indicate color, type positioning, image placement, etc.

Creating thumbnails & marker comps is a crucial part of the brainstorming aspect of your design work.
Don't discount the value of this step in the design process—plus it is a part of your overall grade for each project.

  • Don't fret over details. Use thumbnails to establish approximate locations for major elements. Don't worry about making "pretty" pictures.
  • Try for an approximate proportional page size for a marker comp layout but don't get out the ruler. You're aiming for a general idea of how the piece might look.
  • Make lots of rough sketches. Repeat: lots of sketches. You'll rule out many design ideas quickly this way before wasting time in your page layout program.
  • Don't try doing these initial rough designs in your software, even if using dummy text and placeholder graphics. You're apt to get caught up in things like changing the fonts or doing perfectly aligned graphics. Save that step till after you've done the initial brainstorming for ideas with thumbnails or comps.

Final Project

Typographer + Timeline Poster

17 Examples


Type Specimen Binder


Time Magazine Grid Analysis


AVT Postcard mailing address:

Don Starr
George Mason University
4400 University Drive MSN 1C3
Fairfax, VA 22030
Must be USPS postmarked by 4/24/2009

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