Hierarchy: Redesigning the Rhode Island Driver’s License

HiAs defined by Ellen Lupton, typographic hierarchy “expresses the organization of content, emphasizing some elements and subordinating others.” Hierarchy as defined more generally is an ordered arrangement. Typographic hierarchy does not correlate to size, but to visible prominence. In other words, what the viewer sees first, and leaves remembering. Formal choices like color, weight, contrast, position and repetitiveness are all factors in making visible what’s important.

Critical when designing larger works, hierarchy is also important in smaller works. This exercise asks you to list in order of importance the elements of something very small — the Rhode Island driver’s license. A license should have clear hierarchy, but the current R.I. driver’s license is a fine example of a design lacking hierarchy.

Your first task is to make three separate lists, prioritizing different information for each list. For example, one list may prioritize the name of the individual, another the state, another the date of birth. Identify all unique bits of information on the license and order them. Currently, the Rhode Island license prioritizes the license number. If you find value in this choice, then one of your lists should place that at top.

Create two designs for each list. One should be limited to two fonts (two sizes or two weights) and one spot color. The second design may use any combination of size and color. Use your Village typeface only. Design the front only. You may suggest that certain elements be moved to the back.

Printouts due next week. Also post the six to the website under Assignment 4 with your three lists.

Printable area of license is 3 1/8″ x 1 7/8″ with 1/8″ border all around.


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