Looking to open a discussion on the current state of typography.

Evening all,

Just to briefly introduce myself: I'm Brad- a 22yr old Graphic Design student from New Zealand, and am a Masters Candidate at the Whanganui School of Design.

My dissertation looks into the current "state" of type work, both in terms of typography and typeface design. My primary focus is the mechanization/digitization of type work: the influence that mass-production and distribution principles have on both the value of a piece of work, and the extent to which its meaning can be read.

I'm fascinated with how these values relate to the origins of our language- ie. the spoken word and conversation. As cultural participants, we are bombarded with short, sharp digital messages. Books are read on mobile devices, newspapers presented on tablets. Digital media creates an illusion of productivity: the click-snap instant transfer of image and text interferes with our perception of conversation. Why write when you can email? Why call when you can text? The instantaneous, pixel-based nature of modern communication is at odds with thousands of years of evolution.

The precise Bezier curves and 1200dpi digital printing of our visual language bear no semblance to the gestural, cursive origins of our written language. The pixel is so far removed from our spoken language that it no longer bears any symbolic reference to the intended phrase, leaving majority of tone and voice up to the interpretation of the recipient.

As a paper, it will investigate the influence of speed: of production and of delivery. It will entertain traditional notions of craft with respect for the influence that technology has on type work, and will propose a synthesis between digital type practices and traditional craftsmanship, in order to restore the conversation within our type work.

Where are we headed? How many Garamond revivals do we need? Can the pixel carry any cues as to the voice of a piece of type- or does a physically crafted work achieve a better result?

I'm not asking for anyone to do anything for me, simply challenge my way of thinking- and hopefully I can do the same for you. Thank you in advance for your participation!

hrant's picture

The only thing I would say is that conversing with dead people is not fruitful, and "restoring the conversation within our type work" does not require a "synthesis between digital type practices and traditional craftsmanship", it requires what it always has: a forward-looking synthesis between function and self-expression. For example in the sphere of typeface design the breaking of the link with handwritten letterforms is not a bug, it's a feature - because it allows for both better functionality and more freedom of expression. Interestingly this even applied to the hand-made metal types of yesteryear.


bl.tipper's picture

Haha yes, very true.

It seems to be a question of appropriateness: I agree entirely with the notion of functionality and freedom of expression- but to what end? I guess my point is that it isn't possible to encode traditional vocal cues in purely screen-based type: it's a sign of a sign, if you will.

I mean obviously, type is about communication, and creating a voice in type work. We seem to have explored this whole screen type thing, and, alone, it is not an appropriate way to present a conversation. Sure, we're going to get higher resolution screens and the correspondingly-designed versions of Arial/Times, but isn't this a pointless exercise?

I'd say I'm trying to synthesize a more appropriate system of conversation through type work, taking into consideration technological developments as well as traditional practice.

And thanks, I really appreciate your participation!

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