Early versions of Macintosh systems included a ransom note bitmap font called San Francisco, and there's a range of fonts still out there today that replicate this ransom note effect. But using a font like this feels generic, unoriginal. It's like using a handwriting font instead of using your own handwriting. If you make something yourself it is authentic and personal, and this comes through in the final design.
This challenge is a great way to get intimate with various letterforms, work with composition, texture, color, hierarchy, and concept development. I've often seen this technique of creating ransom note type show up as solutions in my students projects such as posters or book covers. I love it when that happens!
The challenge: Design a ransom note using found type. The note should express something that is currently going on in your life that you'd like to express. Use newspapers, magazines, and other printed matter. Try to make your statement brief, witty, and visually interesting. Conceptually the content of your words should relate to the design of the note.
Step 1: Gather the assets for your note by cutting out a variety of letters. Use larger letters for your message, and incorporate smaller type as texture. Tear the paper to add an unexpected element. Alter, cut, distress, rearrange, or manipulate the type. Push yourself to use the material in a creative way. You can also use a photocopier to replicate and scale the material.
Step 2: Assemble your composition using the adhesive of your choice (glue stick, rubber cement, double-sided tape). Composition size is 8 x 8 in.
Step 3: Scan in your final composition. You should always keep a digital record of work done by hand.
Lara McCormick is the author of Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring the Creative Impact of Typographic Design Principles, due out in March 2013.