Typography: A Lost Art That’s Becoming Found Again


It’s tempting to think that words have the same effect in different fonts and layouts, But, as I’ve mentioned before, typography is essential part in helping people understand visual communication.

Yet, as many have noted, it seems that many designers especially in the digital space have forgotten about typography.

Legendary graphic designer Massimo Vignelli commented on the computer’s positive and negative influences on typography in a 2006 interview. The computer, he said, “allows you to do the best typography ever, but it also allows you to do the worst ever…. All of a sudden we were facing the greatest amount of vulgarity, or what I call visual pollution, that had ever been done before. But at the same time, we also had some of the best work ever done.”

The computer is a wonderful tool, but it’s no substitute for learning the intricacies of typography.

Swiss design firm iA wrote an essay contending that 95 percent of web design is typography, explaining that new designers often haven’t studied the work of the past. In a response to the original essay they write, “Instead of using the precious know-how that has been accumulated, tested and cultivated over the years and adapting it to the web, designers are playing around with boxes and colors and lines and flowers and funny ornaments… Typography is an old school discipline that requires a lot of studying, repetitive concentrated effort and looking at printed materials.”

But there are signs that typography is getting its share of respect, including some great websites devoted to it, as well as a number of art shows around typographic themes. And even some typographic blunders help draw attention to the importance of, for instance, getting the kerning right in the word “click”.

The interest in typography, I suspect, has to do with people realizing that typography is not only aesthetics but also functional — that it helps reinforce the mean­ing of the text. Focusing on typography helps drive communication, which is the designer’s job and exactly what their clients want.

Please, let’s not forget about typography.

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