More Than Words
Designers shed light on the complex art of typography
Life / 8 Sep 2011
Typography is all around us. In the real world, fonts overtake billboards, store windows, magazines, and menus. Online, they define the aesthetics of blogs, social networks, and infographics. Some fonts are applauded, while others are mercilessly mocked, but all hold a certain emotional sway. Lately, typophiles have made it their mission to explain the import and influence of the font as an art form.
Just My Type: A Book about Fonts
: Author Simon Garfield expounds on the phenomenon of “font fandom” in this exploration into typography. Stories about the history and evolution of fonts in culture reveal the myriad ways that fonts work their subliminal magic, and why we’ve come to view them as such definitive indicators of character and identity. Along with a comprehensive history of the creation and popularization of typefaces we know and love (or hate), Garfield provides examples of successful font selection—such as the Gotham font used in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign materials—and explains, in a chapter called “We Don’t Serve Your Type,” exactly why typophiles balk at the dreaded Comic Sans.
TYPE
: This episode of Off Book, a new PBS Arts web series that explores the expanding definitions of different art forms, tackles modern applications of typography in graphic design. The mini-documentary features interviews with typeface and graphic designers who regularly rely on typography in their work. However brief, these exchanges reveal much about the power of typecasting—to convey a feeling, to build a sense of identity, to provoke an emotional response, or even simply to deliver information. Starting with the disappearing art of album cover design and closing with the now-widespread infographic, this seven-minute film artfully expresses the significance of typography in a wide range of media.
Try Helvetica
: It’s been four years since the release of Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica, a documentary that tracked the rise of the sleek Helvetica typeface in design and advertising. This 54-year-old font has yet to decline in popularity; in fact, type designer Cyrus Highsmith recently tried, and failed, to avoid Helvetica for one full day in New York City. But, apparently, not every nation has reached its Helvetica nirvana, as Brazilian design firm NOONO’s Tumblr blog advances the view that Brazil is sorely lacking in its use of the Swiss typeface. To prove the point, the designers use Photoshop to reimagine everyday signage in Helvetica. Viewers can decide whether it enhances these storefronts, or robs them of their rustic charm.
©The Intelligence Group