Webtype in use: MFA Design Program at the School of Visual Arts NYC


When it comes to presenting themselves online, design schools often tend to push the usability envelope in an effort to show off the innovative spirit of the institution. Amid this flurry of websites that are dazzling but confounding, the home for the School of Visual Arts MFA Design Program, designed by The Original Champions of Design (OCD), is refreshingly straightforward. The pages are a reflection of the maturity of the SVA MFA program itself, which was launched “as an alternative to programs that emphasize form over content”.

The MFA Design homepage’s simple structure allows for practical adaptations at various viewport widths.

A simple site structure allows for practical adaptations at various viewport widths. Note how the navigation reformats and resizes to remain accessible.

The homepage is deceptively simple, with two main columns divided into four main topic rows, but each section contains a wealth of content once you start digging. Heads and text are all presented by one typeface, Titling Gothic FB. While there are an astounding 25 styles of the sans serif family on Webtype to choose from, OCD practiced restraint, limiting themselves to just a few weights of one width.


This “Normal” width of Titling Gothic is actually quite broad. Its stoutness echoes Joe Finocchiaro’s custom lettering for the MFA Design logotype and — compared to the relatively condensed fonts we’re accustomed to seeing online — gives the site a distinctive look without resorting to flashiness or pretension. When set in bold and all-caps, Titling Gothic builds assertive bricks of clear labeling and clickable navigation.


The designers even use Titling Gothic for text throughout the site, turning a blind eye to the assumption (found right in the typeface’s name) that it only be used for headlines. In many cases, this works just fine, especially with the font size is large.


For longer paragraphs of smaller type, however, one wonders if a stout, screen-optimized text face like Benton Sans RE or Giza RE might be a more prudent choice. But we’ll let you be the judge.

Text type quibbles aside, we salute the SVA team for this design. Rather than rely on visual gimmickry, they had confidence in their content. The result is understated but bold, and a fitting voice for the program.

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