A. Bitmap Graphics


B. Vector Graphics


C. Masking


D. Fireworks CS6 Workspace

Experimenting with Typography

Typography is defined as “the art of the letterform” (Lohr, 2008, p. 211). In this exercise we were asked to design graphics using only letters to illustrate the meaning of four words. The words I chose are from a professional development unit that I am writing on using Fireworks CS6. All four of the terms will be learned as part of the unit. The graphic representations above will assist teachers in learning and remembering the meaning of each term.

The Fireworks CS6 unit is being developed for use by in-service teachers. Members of the target audience on campus are adept at using computers. However, not all are comfortable in working with graphics. Teachers on our campus who will use the unit range in experience from a few years to a few decades. Every teacher has access to computers and tablets to use with the unit. Some use technology in their classrooms daily. Others use technology to respond to email messages and record grades. There is one aspect of the target audience that is unknown – the online audience. This unit will be completed entirely online. Anyone with Internet access will be able to complete the unit. There is no way to know the skill level of people who find this unit through an online search. The only thing we will know about that section of the target audience is that they have enough computer skills to navigate web sites and search engines.

The terms I chose represent abstract, technical concepts.

  • The terms bitmap and vector as they relate to graphics will be new terms for most of the target audience.
  • Masking is a concept that is familiar to teachers, but that familiarity needs to be transferred to digital technology.
  • While the term workspace itself isn’t abstract, its application in Fireworks CS6 is different than the target audience may expect.

I believe that once teachers have started working through this unit, they will be able to make the connection between the graphics and the terms the graphics represent. This will increase retention and improve the possibility that teachers will use the terms and employ the concepts in their future work.

A. Bitmap Graphics

Also known as raster graphics, bitmap images are composed of tiny dots called pixels. Pixel is an abbreviated form of “picture element”. If an image is intended to be used on the Internet, it needs to be a bitmap graphic. Vector graphics must be rasterized (made into bitmaps) to be used online.

I used the AR ESSENCE font, size 144, as a basis for this graphic to add character and decoration to the image. For example, the m has a descender (Lohr, 2008, p. 231), which catches the eye because it is at once unusual and legible. Lohr explains that decorative font styles can be used to set a mood or serve as a metaphor, but they should be used sparingly, such as for titles and other special text (Lohr, 2008, p. 224). Used too often, decorative font styles become hard to read and cause eye strain.

To create the text effect, I typed www.bitmap.only in all black letters on a white background. Since the term bitmap is the focus of this educational graphic, I used a smaller font size for “www.” and “.only”. I covered each letter with white dots to simulate pixels. (In reality, pixels are much smaller.) Then I filled the white background with black, which effectively hid all of the original black letters. This left only the “pixels” in the shape of the letters.

The test user was able to understand this graphic upon first glance. The user related the concept behind the graphic to a previously known concept – pointillism.

B. Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are not composed of pixels like bitmap graphics are. Instead, vector graphics are rendered (depicted artistically) using geometric formulas. Because vector images are formed using mathematical formulas, they scale much more easily. This means that the image sizes can be changed without affecting the quality of the image. When a bitmap image is scaled, the edges become blurry. Scaled vector images retain their clarity. To demonstrate scaling, I first copied the original image. Then I scaled the original to four different sizes. Finally I pasted the scaled images into the form of a triangle in keeping with the geometric theme of the image.

I used only geometric shapes and no fonts to create this graphic. Black rectangles, circles, and triangles are all included to lay the foundation of the letters of vector. I added white triangles and rectangles to mask parts of the black shapes to form the letters. The e, for example, consists of a black circle and a white triangle mask.

The test user was able to understand this graphic and its meaning, though not as quickly as with the bitmap image. The vector image required more of an explanation. I believe that is because there was no prior knowledge of anything similar to vector graphics on the user’s part. Because the test user understood the graphic after a short explanation, I did not make any changes to the original image. Within the context of the unit, the image will be explained to target audience members. The graphic will serve as a mnemonic device for most users.

C. Masking

Masking refers to covering part of an image for special effects. This is commonly used to present the effect of adding a matte to a photo in a frame. To produce the matte effect in Fireworks CS6, create an oval around the subject of the photo, leaving the subject visible while hiding the rest of the photo. Masking can also be used for other special effects.

To create this image I used the Gill Sans Ultra Bold Condensed font. I chose this font from the black letter font category (Lohr, 2008, p. 216) because I liked the bold shape of the letters. Also, the shapes of the Gill Sans Ultra Bold Condensed lowercase a and g are ideal for this graphic.

Creating the face and mask effect required several different font sizes.  To match the size of the eyes, I needed the counter (Lohr, 2008, p.231) of the lowercase a and g to match. Getting this to match required the a to be size 182 and the g to be size 144. To create the mask, I used an S from the Onyx font. The Onyx font has small counters. This means the Onyx S is a better shape for a mask than a rounded S with large counters (Lohr, 2008, p. 235). The Onyx S also covers up part of the ascender on the a and part of the descender on the g to produce the effect of a pair of eyes showing through the mask. The nose letters, kin, are size 24; the M is size 36.

My original graphic wasn’t received well by the test user. It did not show anything as being hidden or covered up, making the concept of masking harder to understand. The new design is much more effective in presenting the idea that parts of the other letters are masked, or hidden, by the letter S.

D. Fireworks CS6 Workspace

While many people understand the concept behind the term workspace, not all of the target audience will know that Fireworks CS6 refers to the entire working window as the workspace. When working through the unit I am writing, and through most Fireworks CS6 tutorials online, the user will need to remember this term and definition to understand the information presented in the tutorials.

To create this graphic I used different fonts and styles to depict the various parts of the workspace. First, I took a screen shot of the Fireworks CS6 workspace. The screen shot formed the base layer of the image. Using the screen shot layer as a guide, I placed text boxes in position over the menu bar, ruler, and palettes. Once these were in place, I deleted the screenshot layer, leaving only the text in place.

The panels and document area are shown with Gill Sans MT Condensed size 16. The menu bar is shown with Gill Sans MT (not condensed) in size 16. I used these two font styles to show the difference between the condensed and standard version of the same font. Also, the panels and document area do not need to be legible in this graphic. However, I did need to fill the space to provide an illusion of a palette or toolbar. A condensed font style provides a way to fill space without leaving too much white space on the page (Lohr, 2008, p. 235). The menu bar does need to be legible, so I used the standard version of the same font and font size to accomplish legibility. Another teaching point in the graphic is the idea that most of the text boxes in the image are Gill Sans MT font, size 16. Some are in the condensed style; others are not. There is a notable difference in the appearance between the standard and condensed font styles.

The rulers along the top and left edges of the document window are depicted with the Charlemagne Std font using all capital letters. I used capital letters to provide a taller, thinner imagery than mixed case would offer, regardless of the x-height (Lohr, 2008, p. 231). I wanted the taller height to represent the lines in the ruler. I also increased the kerning (Lohr, 2008, p. 237) to better represent the amount of white space between the lines in the ruler.

In the user test, this graphic was not immediately understandable. The user had not used Fireworks, so the image was completely foreign. Once I opened Fireworks CS6 and showed the user the display, the meaning became clear. I decided to leave the graphic as it is. Like vector, this image will be presented in a context where the target audience will be able to make the connection between the computer display and the graphic.


Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

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