Reflections | My Life in Typefaces

My Life in Typefaces

Image result for matthew carter screen base font
The Verdana typeface, designed by Matthew Carter

As a clueless individual in the field of Typography, it is always an eye-opening and inspiring experience to learn more about the hard work and painstaking efforts put in by type designers in creating groups of typefaces both for traditional and digital use. Matthew Carter is an extraordinary figure! Not only did he design some of the most recognised typefaces – namely, Snell Roundhand, Elephant, and Bell Centennial – but, he also had a hand in creating  typefaces for practical uses (Olympian for newspaper text and Bell Centennial for US telephone directories).

Image result for matthew carter us telephone book
Image of the Bell Centennial font designed by Matthew Carter, used in a 1995 US telephone book

Watching the TEDTalk allowed me to have a wider perspective in the processes that go into creating typefaces. Matthew Carter’s efforts in Bitstream Inc. and his collaborative efforts with Microsoft opened my eyes to screen-based fonts and the different considerations that go into the transition from hand drawn to digital typefaces. Reflecting on the points Matthew Carter brought up on the relevance of maximising legibility of screen-based fonts – in my opinion, although it may not be as relevant today, it did raise the bar for the standard of screen-based fonts and how people perceive them (and working hand-in-hand in creating better screen displays), as well as carrying the whole practice of typography into the digital age.

So I really thank Matthew Carter for his hard work and efforts!



In-Class Activity | Haiku

A Love Letter to EE8086 Astronomy

Image of Haiku

We were tasked to come up with a typographical poster for a haiku. Feeling rather imaginative and inspired that day about the quiz for Astronomy (a Science module most of the ADM students are taking this semester), that was happening on the same day, I decided to write a haiku about it:

Hello, please send help
I keep digging my own grave
Zenith? More like no

Looking at examples of typography posters, I quite liked how the layout of the letterforms and the inclusion of visual elements were able to convey the narrative of the haiku. Inspired by this idea, I intended for my poster to show how the test and the subject was slowly killing me (metaphorically, of course). To better convey this idea, I had the words form a shovel stuck into a mound of dirt with a body at the bottom (the dead body being what will be left of me after this module ends). Adding the circles from an OMR sheet as an added texture also helped in making the layout a little more interesting to look at.

I tried using methods of layout and visual hierarchy to help with structuring the linear narrative of the haiku as well as to emphasise certain words, especially those that form the visuals (e.g. the vertical placement of the word Zenith, an astronomical term, was to emphasise it being “the point in the sky or celestial sphere directly above an observer”). I thought using sans serif fonts allowed for better placement and wouldn’t look too gaudy in unconventional layouts.

However, I feel like adding layers of shadows or experimenting with the thickness of certain words could have made the poster a little more interesting to look at. I also had some difficulty in finding a place to put the first sentence, and just went with putting it in a corner.

In-Class Activity | Expressive Words, Opposing Pairs

Opposing Words

Image of piece for Clean/Dirty

In a recent class, we were tasked to create a small artwork revolving around the idea of opposing words; given a list of different pairings of words, we had to use typography as a medium to convey the meanings behind them as well as the contrast. For this exercise, I decided to go with ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ as I thought it sounded the most interesting!

I. Concept

Wanting to convey the literal meanings of both words as straightforward as I could, I tried to use a narrative to see how I could arrange and display the letterforms. Deciding to go with the more literal approach, the words were meant to represent something being hosed off, showing its clean form (the bright lettering) after removing the grime (the slimy, black lettering).

To further emphasise this idea, I used block letters and brighter colours to convey the concept of ‘clean’; I thought the straight lines of block letters and bright colours helped to convey slick and how things generally look like after being cleaned (slick and shiny). ‘Dirty’, on the other hand, uses wavy lines and black to convey grime and dirt. The difference between the structures of the two letterforms (straight/rigid VS. wavy/unstructured) really helped in showing the contrast between the two ideas. Furthermore, having parts of the ‘dirty’ cling onto the bottom of ‘clean’, in my opinion, helped in conveying the concept of hosing the dirt off something, and made the composition a little more interesting to look at.

II. Feedback & Learning POints
  • Straighter lines

Based on the feedback received in class from both friends and Lisa, the composition would have worked better with straighter and more  uniform letters (the heights of the letters matching and the lines themselves being straighter). I agree too! The idea would have worked better if it was typed instead of hand drawn.

  • Minimal colour palette

Instead of using a bright colour palette with pink and yellow, the idea of hosing off something would have worked better with the ‘clean’ was white with a black outline. I think the contrast between outlined words and colour-filled works would help in making the composition more visually-appealing as well.