Graphic design student's 'unique and powerful projects' encourage creativity

Giannini's Bitmap Typographer published in OnePageLove, Lexicon in CSS Light
Abbey Goers | December 21, 2018

Asa Giannini received his mathematics degree from St. Olaf and was working at Wells Fargo in the Twin Cities when he felt he needed a career change. Considering returning to school, he reflected on his interests, ambitions, and even his age. Deciding he was still young enough to pursue a second degree and with several years of job experience, Giannini searched for a university to suit his needs. He spoke with friends who were attending UW-Stout for game design and development.

“I knew Stout was the place to go,” Giannini said. “Its reputation for having a practical and job-based curriculum teaches employable skills.”

Declaring a major in graphic design and interactive media, Giannini found a new interest in web design within his Introduction to Web Design course with Professor Marit McCluske. He also discovered a new strength in coding. Giannini humbly described his ability to intuitively understand and recognize its pattern. 

“The concept and logic of the language of coding made sense. It almost came as second nature to me,” he said.

With Giannini’s gifts for creativity and coding in mind, McCluske noted, “Asa is an exceptionally talented and driven student and designer who brings a rare and refreshing blend of motivation, problem-solving and enthusiasm for learning to the classroom. He blends coding and design skills to create unique and powerful projects. His approach to experimentation through code has led to some highly inspiring projects that are both fun and meaningful to use, two truly excellent design goals.”

Graduate Q&A: Asa Giannini

A Q&A with one of the 750 students who received a diploma Dec. 14 at UW-Stout:
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Giannini fully realized he was in the right field when he entered his Graphic Design II course with Professor Nagesh Shinde, who encourages his students to approach each project with the potential to be a marketable product.

With a note of gratitude to Shinde as a mentor, Giannini added, “My work started to look and feel professional. It was a revelation. I could start to envision my work in a professional environment.”

Shinde complimented Giannini both as a student and as an individual. “Asa has a vibrant imagination and is very thoughtful in his interactions with others. While he is sensitive to the thoughts and opinions of others in a group, he is not afraid to share his perspective with his classmates. Asa is a conscientious, passionate and hard-working student. I am sure that his dedication, curiosity and passion for design will help him succeed in the professional world.”

Letter S created in Bitmap Typographer
The letter 'S' written with Bitmap Typographer

OnePageLove and Bitmap Typographer

Now within his Design 371 Interactive Media Design course, Giannini’s gift for creativity and natural coding ability led him to create Bitmap Typographer, which was published in, a common resource for design students and educators.  

Giannini’s publication of Bitmap Typographer in OnePageLove “is a pretty big deal,” affirmed Professor Robert Fraher. “This is a professional gallery and is by far the most popular site for publishing one-page websites. Asa’s publication is a notable outcome considering where he is in his student career. It is not common for a student to reach this level of achievement. Once or twice a year, I see a student successfully published.”

Giannini was already familiar with OnePageLove, having been introduced to it in early design classes. “We use it for inspiration and the material is easily digested. I wanted to produce something in OnePageLove because of the scope of the site, the quality pages it publishes and the styles it allows.”

Recognizing the vast number of drawing applications available and knowing pixel art to have a strong following, Giannini set out to create a site that allows the user to design a typeface using pixels.

Giannini hopes design students and educators will use Bitmap Typographer as a resource to introduce basic concepts about letter composition. For inexperienced users, Giannini said, “You don’t need to be a designer to use Bitmap Typographer. It’s an approachable program, and its style is unintimidating. It’s intuitive and accessible. Just jump in and draw. In practice, I hope anyone who's interested in creativity can have fun with it.”

Stout created with Bitmap Typographer
Stout type created using Bitmap Typographer

Giannini believes Bitmap Typographer is approachable for two reasons. “First, it doesn't require any specific tactile skill as freehand drawing does. You simply choose which pixels to color black within the grid. Second, the final outcome is a typeface that is pixelated in style, which harkens back to retro video games and has a sense of fun attached. Few people have the inclination to try to make their own font from scratch, myself included,” he admitted. “But, building a pixel font with a few simple tools is approachable while still encouraging creativity.”

Bitmap Typographer is fun and simple for its users. But Fraher noted, “Arriving at simplicity is often the product of a lot of complex thinking.”

Giannini spent two to three weeks perfecting Bitmap Typographer before submitting it to OnePageLove. He was surprised to discover his page had been published when he “booted up one day and it was there.”

After discovering his publication, Giannini shared his page with friends and family. Enthusiasm spread. And those unsure of what he was creating in his college courses or what his degree entailed, came to understand. Referring to the creative process and complexity of his skills, he was pleased to show others, “This is what I do.”

Of his classmates and peers, Giannini said, “They’ve all been supportive. There is no competition among us. We like to show each other our progress and personal successes. We build each other up. The OnePageLove community has also been very supportive. I’ve received tips on future design elements. It’s really welcoming.”

Example of Lexicon text.
A word created in Lexicon is transformed into a geometric helix

A Second Publication

From concept to creation to interactivity, Fraher attributed part of Giannini’s success to his ability to recognize patterns and his fascination with language. “Digital language is not very different from the written word. When you work with a language, you come to recognize patterns and associations. Asa excels at this.”

Experimenting further with his fascination with language, Giannini continues to create products he hopes to publish on more platforms and galleries. He has published a second project, Lexicon, with CSS Light. Lexicon allows the user to type in words that are then transformed on screen into 3D forms resembling dancing double-helixes.

"This is really extraordinary. I’ve never had a student publish two projects from the same semester before," said Fraher.

Describing Lexicon, Giannini said, “The forms created serve more like an abstract sculpture than a functional tool of any sort. Really, the intention is to look at language from another perspective by seeing it as literal structural building blocks instead of a taken-for-granted means of communication.”

Giannini wishes to one day teach graphic design.

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