I am often asked what is it about typography that I love so much.
The thing about me is that I am a very intuitive designer. A lot of the design decisions I make are based on intuition. This is a personality trait where I rely very heavily on the gut feeling. On introspection I have realised that intuition doesn’t magically just happen, it’s actually based on experience, thoughts, feelings, memory, and the processing of the information, at least in my case, happens at a very subconscious level.
So the short answer to the question is that I am intuitively drawn to typography.
But after being asked this question repeatedly I realized that I had to know… at a conscious level what draws me to typography.
Typography in my mind is the whole and soul of communication design. Any form of CD will have some level of type involved. And to have a strong foundation in typography is essential to the field. Here is why.
When we look at typography in isolation, at the very fundamental level, typography is a set of letterforms put together to add meaning. Drilling down one level further, the study of letterforms will help designers establish a strong foundation in relationships of form. Any letterform has a positive and negative space balance, then there is the anatomy of the form, the relationship of the height to the width, how the weight is distributed across the form the create the right balance.
The next step is to study how individual letterforms come together to form a character set. How is the weight balanced across verticals horizontals diagonals and circular forms. How are the joints balanced.
The study of basic letterforms gives the designer the foundation in form and balance. This, to me personally is the most exciting part of typography. The idea that the same form can manifest in countless ways still staying true to the legibility. That’s where the constraints come in. At the end of the day, however experimental one gets with typography, the form needs to be legible, needs to be recognizable.
The other thing that really excites me about type is creating interesting layouts. A half point change is leading can make a world of difference to the overall layout. And given my intuitive approach to design I used to take these things as a given, I mean how can you set type without figuring out the perfect leading. But after two years of teaching type and countless years of training junior designers it dawned on me that not everyone gives typography the respect it is due!
Attention to detail. That is what typography teaches you. Painstakingly fixing the kerning of logotype, or deciding the optimum gutter space for your layout, these are details that are unfortunately very often overlooked.
Going back to the bigger picture of communication design, if your typography concepts are strong, creating effective communication is a piece of cake, even if your artwork has only a single word written on it. Because balance, hierarchy, and attention detail will come to you as second nature, and the focus then will be on effective communication.
Typography in my mind is the underdog of design. But given the correct attention it can change your design from good to fabulous!