The Importance of Typography

Typography is defined as “the style and appearance of printed matter; the art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it (Dictionary). It is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed, according to its Wikipedia page. This involves the selection of a particular typeface, the point size, the line length and spacing (which is referred to as leading), letter-spacing (which is referred to as tracking), and the adjustment of the space within letter pairs (which is referred to as kerning). The style, arrangement, and appearance of the letters are another concept of typography; this also includes numbers and symbols. Typography is a sister to type design; however people in each field do not consider belonging to the other. Needless to say, typography is used as a decorative device, which can be related or unrelated to information communication (Wiki).

“Typography is the work of typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, and now—anyone who arranges words, letters, numbers, and symbols for publication, display, or distribution—from clerical workers and newsletter writers to anyone self-publishing materials. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of previously unrelated designers and lay users, and David Jury, head of graphic design at Colchester Institute in England, states that ‘typography is now something everybody does.’ As the capability to create typography has become ubiquitous, the application of principles and best practices developed over generations of skilled workers and professionals has diminished. Ironically, at a time when scientific techniques can support the proven traditions (e.g. greater legibility with the use of serifs, upper and lower case, contrast, etc.) through understanding the limitations of human vision, typography often encountered may fail to achieve its principle objective, effective communication,” (Wiki).

The history of a typographer itself first emerged around the beginning of the 20th century; this is when it became possible to separate the role of designing a page using that setting of that type. Bruce Rogers was perhaps one of the first to be able to properly identify himself as an typographer.

The fame of Bruce Rodgers first came to be because of his “elegant and careful book designs and even designed his own book typeface, the now-classic Centaur, but who never (as far as I know) actually set type. (Certainly, if Rogers ever did hold a composing stick in his hand, it was not part of his regular job. I doubt he ever sat down at the keyboard of a Monotype or a Linotype machine.)” (Creative Pro).

Rogers’s book designs and his book itself were one person’s works of many people’s works in the long tradition of literary book design. However, it is worth noting that there were others who were using newer and more radical traditions. They used different tactics other than typography. For example, there was Jan Tschichold who wrote about the workman who were actually involved in the process of producing printed matter. His topic was one of unique selection. This piece’s research took place in Weimar, Germany. Creative Pro claimed that they were responsible for the designed pages that were in the asymmetrical style of the New Typography, and proselytized for that new, revolutionary approach to putting words on the page. Tschichold himself did not set his own type, but he became a master of specifying for the typesetter precisely how he wanted every detail to be set.

As indirectly stated numerous times, typography plays a relatively large role in the designing of a page layout. It does more than just decide the form of the text of the size of the text, although that is a part of it. The design of the stuff people saw every day — magazines and ads and packaging and billboards — was in the hands of “commercial artists,” a catch-all term with the emphasis on “artist,” implying that any type used was subservient to the overall graphic effect. (Well, actually, the real emphasis was always on “commercial.”) as stated by Creative Pro. The article continues to say that “as advances in printing technology made it easier to adopt a more visual style of page layout, commercial artists were becoming more concerned with illustration and the arrangement of photographs. By mid-century, in this country, commercial artists were calling themselves ‘graphic designers,’ in an effort to take away the blue-collar connotations of ‘commercial artist’ and position themselves as highly paid professionals. Most graphic designers did work with type, or at least with lettering, but they left the execution of that work to regular typesetters or to lettering artists.”

Creative Pro continues to explain that once everyone began using the same tools—same computers such as PCs and MACs and same programs such as Photoshop and QuarkXPress, PageMaker and Illustrator—the division of labor changed once more. They now had to take on the task of setting their own typography or hoping that a particular program, whether it was theirs or someone else, and its default settings would be able to do the job form them. Since most modern-day graphic designers have never sat at a production keyboard (much less picked up a composing stick and set foundry type by hand — a much older production method), they have never had the opportunity to learn how to handle type on a day-to-day basis; but there are fewer and fewer trained typesetters or type houses that they can turn to for practical help, (Creative Pro).

Even when graphic designers have been through an art or design school, where presumably they have been exposed to at least a basic education about type, most of them don’t seem to have absorbed much understanding of the nuances of typography. They’re practicing a graphic discipline that has become detached from its principal mode of communication; all too often, they simply don’t know how to deal with words. However, through the use of the decodeunicode, which serves as the world’s writing systems, may make it a little easier to learn. Or it may do the opposite and make it more difficult as there are exactly 98,994 graphic characters on different plans.

The job of a typographer is a tough but creative one. They are the ones who make certain articles pop out more than others and, hopefully, prevent text walls from completely overwhelming the reader on sight alone. They add a certain level of imagination to every form of text they touch.



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