For this activity, I focused on adding a sense of movement to the word “play nice” by tilting the elements in the composition. The type was segmented to look like block pieces placed together, like a building brick/lego concept. Along with the triadic/tetradic colours, I wanted to suggest a sense of (nice) playfulness.
In the book, Robert Bringhurst shares many great principles about design, many of which I couldn’t agree with more. Bringhurst mentions, “typography must often draw attention to itself before it will be read. Yet in order to be read, it must relinquish the attention it has drawn.” A little too much or too little won’t work in typography. Typography has to have this harmonious balance which in my opinion, is always difficult to achieve. Legibility was emphasised as one of the important principles of durable typography. He goes on by saying that these principles apply in different ways, to the typography of business cards, instruction sheets and postage stamps, as well as books – basically anything that needs to convey a certain message or information.
Letterforms have tone, timbre, character, just as words and sentences do. “The moment a text and a typeface are chosen, two streams of thought, two rhythmical systems, two sets of habits, or if you like, two personalities, intersect. They need not live together contentedly forever, but they must not as a rule collide.” A quote which serves as an apt reminder for the current project as we consider different typefaces and how we match them within a composition.
Having to look at good examples of good typography practices, here are some which I myself will (try my best) to uphold.
- Typography can be beautiful and decorative but it must never lose its message
- There is no bad typography; only inappropriate ones
- Choose a typeface that will honour the character of the text
- Pay attention to the smallest details and be meticulous about it
In this article, Warde shares her opinion of good typography using a flowery metaphor; using wine vessels. She lays out 2 choices: a crystal-clear wine glass and a solid gold goblet. If the clear glass was chosen – everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain. She mentions, the virtues of the perfect wine-glass have a parallel in typography – and that is type well used is invisible as type. Initially, I was confused by her statement because of how today’s design articles have framed my mindset on typography. And those articles go on by saying how type can be decorative as a form and how manipulation of the form of type has been widely used and so on.
I have always seen type as a form, not invisible. But Warde’s opinion has given me a new perspective on how good type should be legible and not overly decorated in order to convey its message. Warde explains further, “that is not objectionable, because of a
very important fact which has to do with the psychology of the subconscious mind. That is
that the mental eye focuses through type and not upon it”. We focus heavily on the elements on a page, but never the lack of it. What Warde made me ponder about was really to read between the lines. Arbitrary warping of design is bad type. Excess of colour, which gets in the way of the mental picture is bad type. Tight spacing, too wide unleaded lines lead to bad type. All of these, to Warde, mean subconscious squinting and loss of mental focus. Which was why print should be transparent and a transparent page is never too simple or dull. Sometimes, it is more difficult to achieve simplicity, leaving the essence of what’s needed and throwing whatever’s not.
Warde’s other point is that anyone who chooses glass over clay or metal to hold his or her wine is a “modernist”. Reason being that the first thing that comes to a modernist’s mind when being asked of a particular object would never be ‘How should it look?’ but ‘What must it do?’. And to that extent, I myself agree with Warde, that all good typography is modernist. Form over function is evident in typography as well. The main function of a book is to inform and educate and by reading the content. How effective the main function of the book will then be dependent on readability and legibility. After peeling layers and layers of metaphors, it is as simple as that.
However, with Warde’s opinion, it is sure that typographers will argue that type can never be invisible. Although the metaphor does make sense, Warde’s opinion might only be applicable in printed typography, and mainly books. In today’s typography where there is a myriad of experimental and decorative form and type, it is impossible to only agree that type is invisible. Neville Brody’s fascinating and experimental work might have just thrown Warde’s opinion out the glass window. All in all, this article is still justifiable and now, we get to look at type in both ways – whether invisible or not.
A digitalized version of my haiku.
I felt that my haiku is serene and soft, as words such as “settle down” suggests a gradually slow movement and peacefulness. Along with the feedback, I made the words flow downwards, which follows the falling leaf. I also chose an autumn/warm palette to compliment with the haiku. I mainly used one font, Avenir, but I varied the typefaces – bold for the ground, italics for the falling words. All in all, I could see the effects of variating typefaces and how it impacts a composition – how our focus is naturally drawn to bolder and bigger text, and how softness is subtly shown in italics and thin fonts. As such, it was fun to illustrate a haiku like this.
Sketches are in this post: https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/kyong009/in-class-activity-haiku/
Having to experience a transitional period where technology is evolving, Matthew Carter shared many stories and insights about typography and his own experience as a typographer. Carter is renown and even if one has never come across his name, they will have definitely seen his works before. Carter is the man behind typefaces such as Verdana, Georgia and Bell Centennial. One of the video’s highlight was the problem where fonts used to require large data back in the days. As such, Carter “solved” the problem by adjusting the points on a serif font – just that the problem was already solved by engineers 2 weeks before Carter found them the solution.
“What had started out as a technical exercise became an aesthetic exercise. “
Regardless of Carter’s redundant solution, he grew to like the aesthetics of his creation. Him misunderstanding the technology has offered doors to innovative designs. In my opinion, it was a good thing even though his solution flopped, as he created something of value to himself as a designer. Today, designers create everything with a purpose, an intention. Creating another Charter like this would be rather rare, and that was the beauty that Carter saw in the type.