Laura Franz /// teacher / historian / typographer

chart of categorical data for an article on who is represented in the history of graphic design
presenter lanyard from the UCDA conference plus the tee I wore, which says motivator, innovater, believer, teacher
screen shot of my slide deck for a lecture on the middle ages, which included a section on the power of being a voice on the margins
an early test for an collaborative sculpture installation called dangerous

Words and characters once impressed in clay, written on papyrus, and printed with ink are now manifest in pixels of light.

Laura Franz, Typographic Web Design, 2011

Inspired by the intersection of tradition and technology, I’m interested in how we can use theory from established media to inform our understanding of new media and contemporary messages.

As an historian, I’m interested in how we can reframe the story of graphic design / art history to include more voices and make connections between the past, present, and future.

I teach, research, write, present, and make art related to typography, how and why people read, and art/design history.

I Teach

I teach at UMass Dartmouth. I’ve taught typography, web design, digital media, Design Studio (in-house internships), and art/design history.

I teach two survey courses: Graphic Design History (25-30 students) and Introduction to the History of Art (100+ students, co-taught with Dr. Anna Dempsey).

My first lecture of the semester for Graphic Design History (first recorded when classes went remote during COVID) defines “graphic design” for the class, examines some starting points for the history of our field, and points out that history is a story based on what we know and what we share.

For Introduction to Art History, I write and record homework videos that cover complex ideas such as how art communicates which introduces students to icons, signs, symbols, affect, and persuasion.

We use these videos to give an idea or object more time and analysis than it would get during class. Sometimes, I’ll focus on a single piece (such as Augustus Prima Porta). Other times, I’ll unpack a reading (such as Images on the Edge, the Margins of Medieval Art by Michael Camille, 2004) and articulate how it relates both to class content and more contemporary artists.

I research

Writing, presenting, and making all initiate new paths of research (rather than neatly tie up old results). They are how I piece together sources, identify holes, start the quest for new/additional resources, and build new narratives.

But I do love a good excel document. So categorical data is one of my favorite ways to delve into research. I look for patterns and try to understand their context.

I Write

Read my articles on

My book’s no longer in print, but part if it is online at The HTML/CSS sections are dated, but the typographic theory is solid.

I Present

I speak at conferences and professional meetings.

Design/Art History topics have included:

Web Typography topics have included:

I Make

The sculptural installation “Dangerous” — created in collaboration with Stacy Latt Savage — was exhibited at the CVPA Gallery in Spring 2018 and was comprised of nine cast-paper torsos hung together as a gathering crowd (with room allotted for brave visitors to walk amongst them). The installation symbolized the impact, power, and potential violence of language, not only on the self but ultimately on communities and culture as a whole.

dangerous installed in the CVPA gallery

The installation explored our struggle to remain hopeful and tenacious in a world where using reckless language and making discriminatory comments is commonplace; in a world where factions express themselves without restraint or respect. Text sources: reoccurring negative words used in Facebook comments January 14-15, 2018; the Prayer of St. Francis.

“Dangerous” went on to be exhibited as part of Intolerance as Violence. Hera Gallery, Wakefield, RI in Spring, 2018. Juror: Ian Alden Russell Ph.D., Curator of David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University.