Aleatory Agency: Exploring Typographic Decision-making and Skills Development Through Chance and Game Play


Typography instruction has been the bedrock of graphic design practice and instruction for as long as we have been practicing design and teaching others to do the same. Unavoidably a canon of exemplary work and best practices has formed over this period. Such canons tend to form around reasonable inputs—e.g. the peer-based review of work, the limits of the human perceptual apparatus, etc.. However any canonical basis for design instruction runs the risk of becoming rotely instructed—as a canon tends to deflect further criticism—and disenfranchising—as a canon tends towards an implied authoritarianism. This project is an attempt to create a tool that (1) fosters a sense of agency in students’ typographic decision-making, while it (2) encourages exploration of typographic possibilities outside the comfort zone of prior instruction, and (3) assists in long term retention of basic skills. It takes the form of a deck of cards. Cards are selected at random and each card contains a prompt for a typographic constraint, precedents, or method of technical execution. The irregular combination of prompts leads to exploration and experimentation that encourages risk taking in typographic design. Currently we are working with a group of undergraduate design students who are suggesting revisions to the contents of the cards; designing the cards’ faces; and developing gameplay scenarios, which as yet involve designing a given page of text based on random draws of a number of cards. Our paper covers the work done to this point and the future of the project.


Nathan Matteson
Associate Professor, School of Design, DePaul University, Illinois, United States

Lee Zelenak
Lecturer , School of Design , DePaul University , Illinois, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Education


Typography, Decision-making, Experimentation, Chance, Skills Development

Digital Media


Aleatory Agency (pdf)


Aleatory Agency (pdf)