18.02.15 — Design

Crafting A Typography Essay

As I may have mentioned, I am currently working on an essay for my Principles of Typography essay. Today I engaged with some more reading for the module, and pulled out some interesting theories and quotes. For those uninterested in graphic design, now may be the time to skip this post for the next one.

Firstly I looked at Herbert Bayer with his essay On Type, where I found many teachings on the control of type. He notes how typography is a service art rather than a fine art, and how a reader’s eye will flitter haphazardly across a typographic piece unless the designer has taken due care to carefully guide the viewer’s eye. As he concluded, I picked up on his comment that controlling the contrast of the typeface and the background on which it sits can be used to good effect.

I secondly moved onto some wisdom from Rob Giampietro (of Lined & Unlined) on Default Systems in Graphic Design (read online here). This explores the idea that default settings (such as the Calibri typeface at 11pt in Word and Myriad in Adobe Illustrator) have a knock-on effect on graphic design, as the “system makes assumptions that, unchallenged, become truths.” It was an agreeable argument – oh, the amount of times I have received badly designed submissions set in Calibri!

Next up I read through The Philosophy of Modernism in Typography by Douglas McMurtie. In this evaluation of the modernist attitude in the field of typography, McMurtie notes how type’s primary function is clarity and how it must tell it’s story as directly as possible – succinctly encapsulating the modernist ethos.

Finally I moved on to read Beatrice Warde in her essay The Crystal Goblet, an argument that “printing should be invisible”. In this Warde makes the case for the adoption of modernist attitudes in typography, arguing that it is not how typography looks which is important; rather that the purpose of a piece should take precedence when typesetting. The essay is a pleasure to read, using beautiful metaphors to convey meaning, and I urge anyone reading interested in typography to source a copy. However, the following quote was my favourite, and I just couldn’t resist sharing it here:

It is mischievous to call any printed piece a work of art, especially fine art: because that would imply that its first purpose was to exist as an expression of beauty for its own sake and for the delectation of the senses.

Beatrice Warde

So from all this research (check out my full collection here) I have been debating and scribbling down ideas for the title of my upcoming essay. Here are a few of my main ideas so far…

  1. Can we apply Jan Tschichold’s Die Neue Typographie principles/teachings to new media? (i.e. websites, smartphones, UI/UX systems, etc.)
  2. Have the stages of typographic thinking, especially modernism, replayed themselves through the relatively short history of online typography?
  3. Can principles and/or theories used when composing printed type be transferred directly to type handling online?

I will be back soon with more updates on Leeds life in general, but for now I am drinking my new favourite drink (rose milk) and settling down to watch some Parks & Recreation. Stay tuned for news of my room redecoration, Galentines Day (you read that right) and my plans for Easter (including going pescetarian for Lent!)

Update: You can now view an ongoing copy of my report here. At the time of writing I have only finished my title and the abstract.