PROJECT:  Site Specific Word or Phrase

GOAL:  To create a plasma cut metal text installation, considering context and documentation.

OBJECTIVES:  To introduce the concepts of scale, proportion, and context. To explore the ability of sculptural form to convey meaning. To introduce methods for moving easily between scales, working with metal, and Illustrator.

REFERENCES:  Jenny Holzer, Joseph Kosuth, Barbara Kruger, Shepard Fairy.

DESCRIPTION:  For this project we are going to create a site specific word or phrase using the Adobe Illustrator program, cut it out of metal on the CNC Plasma Cutter, and photograph it on site.  Go through the individual assignments in this project for detailed information about each step of the process.

In your sketchbooks, make at least ten sketches for this project, and try to make them as different as possible.  This is a brainstorming activity – often your first ideas are not your best, they may be better than your 4-7 ideas, but are usually not better than your 8-10 ideas.  With each sketch, identify the site you are thinking about.  You can do this by sketching the word in the site, or by photographing the site an sketching the word on the photo in Photoshop or with pen / pencil on a print.  Consider how your word or phrase connects to the site you have chosen.  Are you trying to make a statement?  A protest? A support?  Why?

Be prepared to share your sketches in class.  Remember, sketches are not drawings – they don’t have to be perfectly photorealistic, but, they do have to be clear enough to accurately communicate your ideas.

Once you have a good site and sketch picked out you need to make a full scale vector drawing of your text in Illustrator.  You will have a 1 foot by 4 foot piece of metal to work with, so it is a good idea to set those parameters as the page size in Illustrator when you make a new document.

If you have never used illustrator before, go through these videos to familiarize yourself with the program.  I use Illustrator all the time, even more than Photoshop because it is so easy to use, and so good for a variety of digital outputs.  For this project, don’t get overwhelmed with fills, gradients, or even colors – the strokes are all that matter to the CNC machine.  There’s a ton of good info at:; but the following videos will be most helpful to you:

Some other important points – You can’t use the text tool!  I know, that’s a crazy constraint.  I want you to actually build out your text forms using primarily the line and arc tools.  And also because your text all needs to be one connected shape, like cursive writing (just an example, there are other ways to connect letter, like underlines, etc.).  If you just cut out individual letters there’d be nothing to keep them aligned correctly, or even in the right order.  Be sure to look up the word Kerning if you’re not familiar with it.

Upload your final illustrator file (  to this assignment along with a scan or photograph of your selected site sketch (TextLastNameSketch.jpg).  This assignment will be peer reviewed.  In the peer review, try to identify any issues with the file, how they could be fixed, and if word makes sense in the site context.

Write one page double spaced (300 words) about your project answering the following questions:

  1. Describe your project in detail.
  2. What was the most interesting aspect of the project?
  3. How was the project difficult to make?  How was it easy to make?
  4. How was the project different from your original expectations?
  5. If you were to do the project again, what would you do differently?
  6. What was the concept or meaning you were trying to convey with this project?

After receiving the peer reviews of your vector file, make any appropriate revisions and edits and upload your new file here (  You will need this file done for the beginning of class so that we can use it to cut out / print your work.

Upload photo documentation of your work to this assignment (TextLastNamePhoto.jpg).  The photograph should clearly show your work situated in your site.  There should be no other extraneous elements in your photograph.  Have your final object ready to present in class for the critique, which will include the feedback for this project.

Your metal text should be well finished and filed for the critique.  If you so choose, you may paint or patina your text, but this project is not about color or texture, so keep it to one color.