I can’t remember where I read this, and maybe it’s a commonly used analogy in Typography 101, but when I read someone describe typefaces as clothing for words it resonated with me.
I am much more attracted to the simple easy-to-read fonts, and I would say that reflects my own fashion sense as well, simple and easy to wear, not attracting too much attention. I’m fine dressing in a Helvetica manner with Palatino touches. I definitely know plenty of people who must be drawn to more flamboyant cursive type and others who drift towards modern difficult-to-read fonts.
The focus for this issue of Designedge Canada is the topic of typography, not so much type design, but the use of type in design. In our cover story we speak with three individuals who take their typography very seriously. All three are book designers, two specializing in hand-made limited edition books, a medium where type is fundamental to the design.
A recurring theme throughout this issue is the notion of the typeface being invisible to the reader. Jason Dewinetz of Greenboathouse Press introduced me to the writing of Beatrice Warde (who also went by the pen name Paul Beaujon) and her essay, the “Crystal Goblet.” Written around 1930, Warde insisted that type should be like the crystal goblet that you pour your wine into. You don’t see the glass you only see the wine. Typography is not about design, it’s about working in the service of the content and the message.
That said, there is something fascinating about design that can attract attention using only type. In his column “Love and x-height,” contributor Dominic Ayre reveals his own affection for type of all types, and the enjoyment he finds in exploring unique typography and how he is able to gain a better understanding of what a designer is saying, or intended to say, through the typography in a design.
And bringing these two worlds together, I had the opportunity to exchange e-mails with graphic designer Marian Bantjes, a classically-trained typesetter who is now setting the design world on fire with her elaborate and ornamental designs that often incorporate type and challenge the viewer to find the message within. She recently published a book chronicling the last decade of her work. If you love type, or you simply love graphic design and the thought process behind great work, I suggest you look up Pretty Pictures.
Based on what I’ve seen. I’d say Bantjes is a very snappy dresser.