Typography: Communication Design

Typography: Communication Design

Andrew James

Andrew James

Letterpress Operator at Capital Colour
Andrew James

Latest posts by Andrew James (see all)

Spanning back as far as the earliest forms of human writing, typography is the practice of arranging letterforms, symbols, and numbers together to form written communication. In graphic arts, typography grew into a specialized field after the invention of movable metal type.

The Roman alphabet contains 26 letters as opposed to some eastern countries that contain far more. For instance, typography in China consisted of over 2000 written characters. The simplicity led to a faster pace for technological growth. Once letterforms could be cast with consistency, the studies of typography started to span and diversify.

The coming of the industrial revolution created a need for type designers, typesetters, line-casters, punch-cutters and more. Type foundries across the western world began to design and cast individual type for typesetters to arrange into sentences, paragraphs, and titles. Lead was the metal of choice as it could be easily melted down and poured into brass molds. If the lead type were to become damaged it was able to be melted and re-cast. Typefaces like Garamond were based on designs made in 1495. Many of these early designs became the basis of all serif fonts. The word “font” itself comes from “fount” a reference to “foundry” type. Over time, type design continued to expand by developing its own terminologies for the specifics of letterforms. The simple slant of a letter can denote one stylistic approach over another.

Until the rise of the digital age, typesetting remained a specialized occupation that saw many technological and cultural changes. Type design closely followed the cultural ether as time progressed through western society. Renaissance, Romantic, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Modernism all contain type designs that bear the characteristics of each art period.

Contemporary digital type design provides modern typographers with the tools to create and access a seemingly limitless number of typefaces. Digital fonts can also be manipulated on screen to create many desired effects.

Today, everyone is a typesetter by using Microsoft Word or simply composing an e-mail. However, special attention to type forms and page layout by a trained individual can help a graphic project communicate as best as possible. A trained typographer that has become familiar with a given typeface can maximize readability and legibility. Many typographic flaws can deter effective communication or cause disruptions in ease of reading.

Stylistically, a typeface can communicate a specific mood or message through its use. Large, bold, san serif typefaces can shout headlines or catch phrases with the appropriate look. Script fonts can help set a formal tone for wedding announcements or holiday cards. Serif fonts that are carefully set can provide book readers with a distraction free experience. Sometimes poorly set text can make the most exciting stories difficult and arduous to read.

 

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