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The State of Typography

The State of Typography

One of the things that really drew me to design was my love for typography. I want to share why typography is such an important part of Workshed‘s design style. While this may be mostly interesting to people who are design professionals, I think it will also give our friends and clients a glimpse into the “Workshed Aesthetic” that I’ve been following for the last 10 years.

I would really love for the world to gain an appreciation for typography and aside from embarking on a life of typographical evangelism, the best I can do is to explain what it is and all of its intricacies. It’s much more than just selecting a font or two for a project. It’s much more than picking some colors and placing those fonts — it’s about manipulating the fonts to expose their strengths, hide their weaknesses or even to completely deconstruct or manipulate the font into oblivion so it’s something entirely new.

I grew up with a big sister who is a talented artist and calligrapher. I grew up appreciating poster and album art. I spent a fair amount of time as a journalism major, designing pages that were largely comprised of type. I also grew up in the era where Generic brands were all about fascistic typefaces written in black on stark white packaging. A world without strong typography is a dull, sad, depressing world. Without typography, design would not exist in its current form — and dare I say, communication would not exist in its current form. Type can communicate so many things depending on how it is used. Using Times New Roman at 12 points, with default letter spacing communicates a completely different message than using it at 32 points with tight letter spacing. Type is emotion. Type is a grid. Type is nice, mean, sexy, angry, happy, sad or silly. It is a tool, and aside from photography, the most powerful tool in the designer’s arsenal. Type is not to be underestimated. Type is an art unto itself. And, each typeface has a distinct personality.

In recent years, exploration of typography seems to have waned in the hip design circles. Perhaps it is a kickback to the desktop publishing revolution, in which Microsoft decided to punish us all with the birth of Comic Sans. Perhaps it is the supremacy cry of professional designers promoting a “less is more” approach by proving they can MacGyver an award-winning masterpiece with the smallest selection of typefaces in their design palette. Or, perhaps it is the logical backlash of designers trying to undo the chaotic and highly-revolutionary typographical treatments Neville Brody, David Carson and the entire grunge font movement exposed us all to in the 1990s. The fact is, many designers have opted for a minimalist approach in recent years, embracing Helvetica Neue Light as the cheerleader of this movement. While elegant, sparse and airy type has its place, it can also lack that distinguishing character that a design can cry out for and fails to differentiate one euro-influenced design from the next. This is what so excites me about the new Workshed logo. It has type with personality. There is a definite character to it and the usage of the typeface (Brothers, for those of you playing along) exploits its strengths — it is a display font to the core and should be used accordingly.

With any design project, typography must be kept in mind at each step. Don’t just choose typefaces — use them, work them. Make them work for you. Play with different angles, grid patterns, size relationships, play words off one-another, make them look like they are moving, worn down, hurting, happy, sad. Give them personality. Instead of starting with a layout, start with type. Work it. Own that type, y’all!

I’m going to close this one out with some reference links. These are examples of, and educational pieces about, typography. I encourage everyone who reads this to ask questions, try some experiments with type and learn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xg5O0l7ybY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o1U4o1bc2k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejweI0EQpX8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syf8olcM0z4 (Warning: Strong Language)
http://ilovetypography.com/
http://www.papress.com/thinkingwithtype/index.htm
http://www.davidairey.com/typography-tips-and-advice-for-graphic-design-students/
http://www.designobserver.com/archives/025212.html
http://robgoodlatte.com/2007/07/24/3-examples-of-bad-microsoft-word-typography/
http://flywebmaster.com/webdesign/tips/good_bad.php
http://www.dailytype.ru/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7p1v6NWnhw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPP5jx-kx0Y