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MK Butler

The Meat and Potatoes of Typography BY MK Butler

Date: Winter 2011 Place: Savannah Institution: Savannah College of Art and Design Art Direction: Zoran Belic, Professor Design: MK Butler Copywriting (based on Professor Zoran Belic’s Lectures and Robert Bringhurst’s book: “The elements of Typographic Style”): MK Butler Illustration: MK Butler, Clipart ETC © 2010 by the University of South Florida (etchings of cutlery and cow) Typefaces: Archer, Quicksand Print and Production: Copyrights: All copyrights reserved Copyrights NOTA BENE: I understand that the content of Professor Belic’s lectures is copyrighted material and that I cannot publish (in print, via Internet, or in/by any other media) or otherwise disseminate my notes based on these lectures. I can only use this material to meet the course requirements, i.e. include it in the course design projects, and/or partially in my portfolio design examples. Should I ever intend to publish any design project containing all or any part of Professor Belic’s lectures, I declare herein that I will strictly adhere to copyright regulations and laws, i.e. I MUST acquire an explicit written permission from either Zoran Belic or his heirs in order to publish and disseminate in any media, form or format the above said materials.


Introduction to Semiotics


Typographic Tautologies


Typographic Anatomies






Elements of Typographic Style



Introduction to Semiotics



SEMIOTICS Semiotics is the study of cultural sign processes, analogy, metaphor, signification and communication, signs and symbols. Semiotics is usually divided into three categories, semantics, syntactics and pragmatics Semantics the study of meaning. It typically focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata. What is reality? Reality is reality is. It is what it is. Moses asks God, “What is your name” and he says, “I am,” or “I am who I am.” This is the beginning of the mystery of sacred language. Descartes response to reality was, “I think therefore I am.” Reality is what we perceive. It is what we know. We access reality through our senses, what we can touch and see. What is transcendental may also be a part of reality. Reality may be defined as something that cannot be changed but that leaves a hole for the things in our environment that change daily but continue to be real. Unless you believe on a deeper level that even those things that change were predestined to change and in fate dictating reality as if we are pawns on a chessboard. Perhaps we have the illusion of making choices but in reality we aren’t. The conclusion is that we really cannot know for sure the answer to the question. Nobody has the answer and Descartes’ logic may not have been solid logic or the answer but it added to the evolution of logic. We ask this question because in the field of Graphic Design we are interested in visual communication systems. What we perceive dictates our reality. We aren’t really interested in asking, “Is this real?” But instead, “How does it function?” Reality for the purpose of communication is what is phenomenologically accessible. Communication systems depend on perceptible reality and in order to communicate we have to have mediators or a medium. Illusion, as long as it appears or is perceived, is perfectly valid. Language is one of the significant, even sacred, systems for communication. Our senses, which include sight, smell, sound, touch and taste, are mediators, as well, for communication. Every time we gauge our senses we can become aware of a singular object. We use this phenomenon to communicate; we navigate using our perception. Phenome are sounds that are the building blocks of our language. Combining these sounds is called “morpheme” or words. Language is


used to describe and form concepts, our sensory experience. The word describe comes from the Latin root “scribe” indicating talking about experiences. We believe our words describe reality, relating them to the other phenomenon. For example, we say that a rose smells like a rose based on our past experiences in smelling other roses that had a similar scent. We also have our aesthetic judgment, moral judgment and so on. Aristotle said, “Democracy does not make truth,” a consensus does not make truth, we must study nature compared with vocabulary and all that we perceive. A “signifier” is any word of any give language. It signifies the signified or indicates an idea or a concept. It serves as a sign or carrier. Signified is a mental entity or conglomerate of experiences. Take the example from earlier, the word “rose” is a signifier. A “referent” is the phenomenon that the signifier signifies or points out. Any other sensory phenomenon or meaning beyond the word. All words are use to describe perception and reality. Charles M. Morris is one of the founders of semiotics. He expanded Saussre’s theory. His theory is not only about language but all sorts of information processes. Signifiers are carriers of meaning that interpreters see as objects. Morris’s new terms for the cardinal of semiosis break down into five elements: sign vehicle, designatum, denotatum, interpretation and interpreter. A sign vehicle is any phenomena that serves as a sign. Sight






Every time we guage our senses we become aware of a singular object.

Designatum is something that is referred to by a linguistic expression. Denotatum is the same as a referent, it is what the sign vehicle points out. Interpretation is an act of connecting the sign vehicle with designatum or denotatum. Interpreter is any singularity that commits the act of interpretation of sign vehicles by connecting designatum and sign vehicle. Interpretation is not the same as communication. Communication is a special instance or type of interpretation. Communication is happening when the idea is communicated correctly in each person’s head.. Professor Zoran Belic introduces four levels of interpretation. The first, perceptual, is our sensory ability. Second, we interpret through our instinctual abilities; we ask ourselves two questions, “is this life threatening

Figure 1.1, The phrase above was assigned in Typography Studio I by Zoran Belic. The prompt: guess the context of the quote and set it to reflect the context. In the first attempt the typeface Cloister Black from the Blackletter family was chosen because of the style of early Latin print presses and the assumption that the quote was of the same period.


or life promoting?” Thirdly we interpret through our emotions, i.e., I feel good, I feel bad. We are constantly in some kind of mood that is changing often. Lastly we have our intellect. This is the linguistic component to the mental construct and an element of language in involved. This becomes involved when you know convention. We have social relationships between certain elements introduced earlier. Syntax an arrangement of words to communicate, the syntax of language is grammar, a set of rules that regulate relationships among signifiers. Semantics is the relationship between two or three elements of semiosis. Pragmatics is the relationship between interpreter and all other elements of semiosis.

Figure 1.2, After the challenge students learned that the phrase above is translated, “Nothing is in the mind that did not pass through senses except the mind itself” and was written by John Locke who lived in England in the 1600’s. With this knowledge I chose to re-set it in IM Fell English, reflecting the Fell type characteristic of England in the 16th and 17th centuries.





Typographic Tautologies



TAUTOLOGIES There are two kinds of signs: natural and artificial. Natural signs represent the relationship between sign vehicle and referent and artificial are those that are based on conventions or learned relationships.. We recognize the artificial because of familiar conceptual interpretations. We have a perceptual interpretation for everything, we associate forms to other familiar forms and that creates a sign. We will always associate whatever we perceive with something that we have memorized, it is impossible to have a completely pure sign with no associations. Our associations are a construct and constructs make us capable of moving through our space. Language evolved as oral communication and a system of writing was invented to communicate. There are many differences between the oral and written modes of language. The written form of language is a more prevalent and enduring form. The different between oral and written communication is syntax and the syntax for the written language is much more complex. There are more rules. There are a few different types of languages, for example, mathematical language has its own vocabulary and syntax. It is not based on natural signs but has different elements. More examples of special languages are Morris Code and programming languages (html, java, css.) All languages have special distinctions, sometimes this means that using the words of a language but changing the designation, for example, “tail,” “leg,” “stem” are all referring to botany and animals but also the meaning changes when referring to typography. Science relies on measuring and expressions of measuring in mathematical terms. This common language that scientists use shows the role that language plays when approaching reality. The language is used to explain reality and the sentences used are called descriptive sentences. Generative sentences, which are also known as definitions, are usually based on observations and are made of descriptive sentences ad other descriptive characteristics of language. Not all definitions need descriptive sentences to define what they are. Some definitions create ideas but the sentences used to explain what that definition is not based on descriptions but are based on previous sentences that are definitions. Philosophy requires logical consistence through speech or discourse. Scientific method is the protocol that scientists need to follow and ever


other scientist can repeat in order to convert a belief into knowledge, whether the belief is true or false, a belief can exist. The concept of truth is connected to knowledge. Truth is anything that is used, whether it is logic or mathematics, can have a value of truth or falsity. These values are logically coherent. If the first statement is logical then all other sentences that follow it will also be logical. This is also true with descriptive statements. For example if a person were to say, “It’s raining”, it may be raining somewhere but we don’t know where. Therefore the statement is true and false. It is contradictory. In order to make it not contradictory we need more sentences describing the situation and the conditions. Once there are more sentences we are able to decide what is true or false. These descriptive sentences can be true or false. The value of each mostly depend on our experiences. All modes of languages have two functions: to preserve and to disseminate. The storage capacity for the written mode of language is greater. Tautology is a special formulation in primarily mathematical context or language. In a poetic world it is recognized as redundancy. Totality is a type of sentence, which has two different meanings. The first meaning is a redundant statement. It is an unnecessary repetition and is not supposed to be redundant. The second meaning is in mathematical logic. While there is redundancy and repetition it is an important repetition and it is a step in obtaining a conclusion that is repeating an idea in a hypothesis plus some form of argument in order to obtain a conclusion. The hypothesis is the conclusion and it is the truth. An example of this is the statement A=A. It is a tautological statement since it is repetitive. It is logically true but is not informative. As this relates to typography, type is an oral system of communication, which is language. There is a relationship between the oral system of language and the written mode of language. With the written system we see what system is developed and how it is connected to the oral system. One example of this is the Pictographic system. With this system we don’t use words. Everything is composed of simplified images, which are supposed to capture the essence of an object. With this type of system comes natural signs and artificial signs. A Natural sign is a signifier and a referent that are related in a “causal way” meaning that one causes the other. An example of this would be seeing lightening and then hearing thunder. The lightening is the signifier ad the thunder is the referent and one (the lightening) causes the other (thunder). Artificial signs are signs that show the relationship between the signifier and signified or the signifier and referent in subjective but conventional ways.


There are special relationships with certain elements or signifiers. For example, syntax is the set of rules that regulate relationships among signifiers. Semantics is the relationship between two or three elements of semiosis while pragmatics is the relationship between interpreted and all other elements of semiosis. Another system is the ideographic system, which refers to ideas. Ideographic scripts are not thought to be able to express all that can be communicated by language. Essentially, they assume that no full writing system can be completely pictographic or ideographic; it must be able to refer directly to a language in order to have the full expressive capacity of a language. There are also logographic systems, in which a picture refers to an actual word. The final system is called glyphs. In this system the characters represent every symbol. There is a visual connection to phonetics in language. Graphing combines to create words, or signifiers. In the assignment represented below students were asked to use one glyph in a specific typeface and Figure 2.1 Shows the tautological, or truest, Relationship to the phenomena


place the letter appropriately in a 8x8 frame. The objective was to offer the viewer such a contrast that the viewer will only refer to one sound; to give the viewer only one designatum or referent. Figure 2.1 shows my initial solution, which is the correct solution. The choice of Helvetica, a sans serif, allows for an unadulterated view of the letter. Any sans serif typeface would appropriately and straightforwardly communicates the intended purpose of the letter., that is, the phonetic sound. The placement of the letter within the box allows for the emphasis to be on the letter. The space around the letter is inactivated negative space and therefore does not communicate but drops away to allow the letter to be seen. The second solution (Figure 2.2) is an example of a wrong solution. The negative space is equal to the positive space which creates new shapes and distracts from the letter form and its intended purpose. The sans serif typeface, Baskerville, holds a different meaning because of the amount of history and the shape of the letter form. We do not view it as a pure phonetic sounds but also a different conveyed meaning. Figure 2.2 Equal negative and positive space creates unintended connections with other phenomena





Typographic Anatomies



ANATOMIES Bowl, shoulder, fur, apex, cross bar, beak, spine, tail, these are all anatomy terms for humans that have become a special language used for typography. There is a whole special vocabulary used for typography alone. These terms refer to the structure of letter forms, but on a broader level, composition is important. Each letter is subjected to ratios or proportions. Ratios are when you divide one numerical value with another. Proportions are equations of two or more ratios. Proportional will be when the ratio of height and width of two elements are the same. The basis of designing any typeface is geometry. Mathematics is the muse in designing. The syntax for letter forms is style. Style is a set of syntactic rules regulating visual organization among visual elements. When it comes to composition, grids are used to lay out text. Organizing in grid is the syntax of the page. Grids are a major device and need to be applied with the utmost intricacy. In design there are consistent eye pleasing proportions, the divine proportion or golden mean rectangle and the Fibonacci proportion. When people were spontaneously tested they were most aesthetically pleased by the golden rectangle when it was compared next to a circle. Our natural world is homogeneous because of the golden rectangle. It expresses the same principles as the natural world. All humans, plants and animals adhere to this rectangle. It is why, for example, humans are attracted to other humans who have great symmetry. As for the Fibonacci series, which is a transcendental number, it is also found in the natural world. In the sunflower, for example, the seeds are arranged from the center coming out in the series. The concept behind anatomy is proportional structure. A proportion is an equation of two or more ratios. For example I there are four quantities, which are a, b, c and d their proportion would be a/b = c/d. A ratio is a comparison between one metric value to another. Design involves 3-D projects, which all entail spacity such as ratios and proportions. In constructing visual media we have to observe ratios and proportions. We have knowledge of rational proportions such as in poster design. We can divide it vertically either in halves, thirds or quarters or we can divide it horizontally in the middle, halves or thirds. For poster design a 3x3 guide is


the matrix. Today the designer strives to avoid symmetrical composition in order to compose a more dynamic composition. A dynamic composition leads the viewer from one element to another visually and nothing is ever placed in the center of a composition. The designer should use contrast, size relationships and color in order to attract attention. The goal is to create a linear path for interpretation. What does the viewer view first, second and third. The designer essentially wants to use elements to tell a story and arrange the elements in an optical hierarchy. The Fibonacci Sequence organizes in nature in the form of a spiral.

In order to create this optical hierarchy there needs to be an understanding of the visual functions necessary to create this dynamic symmetry. This dynamic symmetry is also known as the golden mean or divine proportion. This dynamic symmetry is applied to developing symmetrical compositions. The divine proportion is a/b = b/c = c/d = d/c = 1.618. There is a special golden section rectangle that reflects this divine proportion. The golden section rectangle is a ratio of the Divine Proportion, which states that AB/AC=AC/CB. What makes the golden section rectangle so


unique is that when it is subdivided the reciprocal is a smaller section of the parent rectangle and the remaining area is a square (Figure 3.2.) The decreasing proportional squares create a spiral. This spiral is a symbol in many cultures and can be found in all organisms that grow and have a skeletal structure. The golden section also mathematically fits into the Fibonacci Number Sequence. The proportional pattern of this sequence closely fits into the golden section proportional system. Early numbers in Figure 3.2 Organic, Mechanical and Musical Proportion


ISO sheet sizes: AO = 841 X 1189 mm A1 = 594 X 841 mm A2 = 420 X 594 mm A3 = 297 X 420 mm A4 = 210 X 297 mm A5 = 148 X 210 mm







the sequence almost fit into the golden section but when the sequence goes beyond the fifteenth number 0.618 divides it. In order to understand the importance of ratio and proportion in typography, students were assigned to choose a capital sans serif letter form and measure every proportion within it (Figure 3.3). Then the measurements were compared to the other proportions to find the ratio. When the ratio numbers were found they were averaged to find the index number. This number served as the ratio for every panel of a three dimensional model. The panels were combined on increments of that same ratio and only met the other panels in those measurements. The 3D object was required to have six different viewpoints or angles of observation. The resulting model was then to be colored on each side with a current trend color and labeled across panels maintaining proper proportions and kerning. See Figure 3.4 on the following page. B C


Figure 3.3 A:B = 1.06 B:C = 1.69 C:D = 2.9 D:E = 4.39 E:F = 1.0 F:G = 1.0 G:H = .02 H:I = .45 I:J = .46 J:K = .32



Index = 1.33








Figure 3.5, The colors chosen for this project, Lavender, Pea Pod, Blue Curaco, Coral Rose, Beeswax, and Honey Suckle, , are from Pantone’s Spring 2011 trend collection. These colors are chosen based on the runway at Fashion Week in New York City.


LETTER STRUCTURE Diagrams scanned from Lettering & Type by Bruce Willen and Nolan Strals








SIMULACRA Simulacra, from the Latin simulacrum which means “likeness, similarity”, is first recorded in the English language in the late 16th century. The history of discourse, meaning speech and theoretical analysis, inclusive of art and design, is informed and inspired by the work of a few French authors or deconstructivists. Claude Levi-Struss, French anthropologist, is considered “the father of modern anthropology.” Strauss shows us that many aspects of other cultures appear to us as metaphoric and are often encrypted information about the world perceived in a mythical nature are of a factual nature. These myths he, believed, contained factual information. He is the founder of structuralism, a theory that is essential for cultural survival. Strauss believed that our own savage minds have the same structure as our civilized minds and that these characteristics are universal. His ideas also appear in philosophy, sociology and humanities. Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist and philosopher. His work is often associated with post modernism and post-structuralism. His theory developed from mainly economically based to a more media and mass communication centred theory. He recognizes post-structuralism and is influential among American intellectuals on his field. Baudrillard used his theory as a model to approach different phenomena. He based a lot of his own ideas off of Marshall McLuhan and developed his own idea about how social relations are controlled by the forms of communication that a society uses. Post-structuralists have a biased theory toward structuralism as they see what they expect and don’t see what is the reality. Other poststructuralists include Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Micheu Faucault, Felix Guatery and Gilue Deceuze. Roland Barthes was a French philosopher and semiotician. He is best known for his work titled, “Death of the Author”. This work discusses the theory of personal interpretation. The viewer is interpreting art and any other objects in anyway they want. There can be many different interpretations for the same object since every person can have different interpretations for that object. There is absolute subjectivity to interpret any art, artefac or object. Another theory of this model was derived from Jacques Derrida. Derrida was a French philosopher whose work is associated with post-structuralism philosophy. He developed the


technique of deconstruction, in which an object or text is dissected to its elements. The text or object is deconstructed in order to come to the core of what it is or the core of interpretation. Any text is not an isolated whole but contains several different meanings and can have more than one interpretation. The text links these different interpretations but can only be dissected so far due to these different meanings. Many of these technical terms have played a large part in language and the evolution of the communication system. Robert Logan is the author of the book “The Fifth Language”. This book was written after Marshall Mcluhans book The Medium is the Message and develops upon Marshall’s ideas. In this book Logan discusses the five modes of languages or the five systems of communication. The “proto” language is the first language ever developed and the language that all other languages are developed from. The first mode is the oral mode of language and is the most ancient. The second mode is the written mode of language and uses the oral mode in order to communicate. The third mode is the mathematics mode. This is an important mode of communication and leads into the fourth mode, which is the scientific methods mode. The last mode is the computational mode of language. All of these modes have the function, which is to first store the accumulation of the languages and then to distribute the information. Each mode meets the function differently. The moral mode it is more limited than the written mode. The oral mode is instantaneous and a person’s memory acts as the depositing technique. With the written mode it can reach the future since it can be read and deciphered at any time. With the mathematical mode it is a special kind of language since it can be applied to the world and can be deciphered. It uses numerical values in order to measure and quantify the world and then stores it. The scientific methods mode uses the theories from the mathematics mode and measuring therefore becomes the foundation of this mode. Finally, with the computational mode, languages are developed due to computers since these computers can deal with complexities of the technology. All of these are modes of languages. Other terms were developed such as natural languages and artificial languages. Natural languages are all languages that are spoken in the world. They occurred and evolved over periods of time. These languages have a long evolution, which is why they are called natural. Artificial languages don’t use common words. They develop a unique vocabulary unlike natural languages. Artificial languages are not meant to communicate with people. An example of an artificial language is Java


Script. This program is developed to interpret the html language in order to communicate with machines. An interesting example of simulacra is caricature, when an artist creates a sketch that closely approximates the facial features of a real person, the sketch cannot be easily identified by a random observer; the sketch could just as easily be a resemblance of any person, rather than the particular subject. However, a caricaturist will exaggerate prominent facial features far beyond their actuality, and a viewer will pick up on these features and be able to identify the subject, even though the caricature bears far less actual resemblance to the subject. The term ‘simulacrum’ may be used to denote the formation of a sign or iconographic image whether iconic or anionic in the landscape or greater field of Thanka Art and Tantric Buddhist iconography. For example, an iconographic representation of a cloud formation sheltering a deity in a thanka or covering the auspice of a sacred mountain in the natural environment may be discerned as a simulacrum of an ‘auspicious canopy.’ Perceptions of religious imagery in natural phenomena approaches a cultural universal and may be proffered as evidence of the natural creative spiritual engagement of the experienced environment endemic to the human psychology. Sometimes, certain technical terms are borrowed or created for new purposes. Certain disciplines developed their own terms to fit their purposes but use words that are derived from already existing terms and therefore change the meaning of the term. This is also known as a special language. Typography is considered a special language. My language is a map of my reality but it is an imperfect reality. There are many things that are unnamed so language, our map, doesn’t exactly cover the real. Our observational means are also limited. In the project related to this unit, students told to pick a letter and imagine that it is serving as a mold. With this assumption students must find phenomena that looks like the letter in the world, both natural and artificial objects and natural and artificial environments. Environments are phenomena that exceeds the size of a person and cannot be lifted by human arms. Students were also told to find five glyphs representing one letter in different typefaces that look similar to the one before them, creating a progression, five letters that represent a historical segment of a letter form and different marks that stand for five phonetical values. This portion of the project can be found on the opposite page (Figure 4.1) while the images representing phenomena in nature can be found on the following two pages (Figures 4.2-5).


T Figure 4.2 Artificial Objects

T Figure 4.3 Natural Objects


T Figure 4.4 Artificial Environments

T Figure 4.5 Natural Environments








METAPHOR Rhetoric is the art, or skill, of persuasion and exploring the possibilities of persuasion, both oral and visual. In order to be persuasive, one must present an argument that is convinces the audience to act. Classical or Aristotelian rhetoric focuses on three forms and five cannons of argumentation. The three forms, logos, ethos and pathos, are modes in which to present a successful argument. The five cannons are rules by which to judge the effectiveness of a rhetorical argument. These include invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. Logos represents two concepts in Greek, “word” and “law.” Words are descriptive means we have developed for describing phenomena. A law is the universal element, aspect or facet that pertains to all manifestations. For example, all objects are subject to gravity. There is a tight connection between language and the laws of nature and principles. Mathematics is a great means of expressing reality. It serves as a model that explains and predicts reality. Logical rules are at the root of mathematics. This model of mathematics explains nature well but is not necessarily applicable to art or history, for example. These disciplines will have their own criteria. In the example of history, we have artefacts and carbon dating to prove the reality. Logos is the root of the word logic and the words must be right in order for the truth to transpire. Some have canonized this by saying that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God.” In Greek logos, word and law holding the same meaning. Syllogism is the way of reasoning where once a premise is determined true it leads to a conclusion that is also true. For example, in the statement “All humans are moral” the first premise is that there are no exceptions that this describes a fact. In the second premise “John Doe is a human being” we can gather that he is mortal. Knowledge is a proven belief, a syllogistic figure of reasoning. An enthymeme is probable syllogism expressing truth in absolute logical terms. All rhetoric must follow logos. Not only are the words important but they should be truthful. Truth is found in the relationship between the representation and the represented. As this relates to the visual world, visual communication should be true, your image should be true. The next form is ethos. Ethnology is the study of different ethnic


cultures, and ethnography is the art or science of different cultures. When we study ethos we can see a variety of customs that inform the behaviour but there are more often moral rules and principles. Moral principles are the systems of morality that are particular to specific cultures or ethnic groups. Moral principles are not the same as laws. Language makes up the ethnic structure, for example, saying, “Do this, don’t do that,” is using language and it will be informative of certain cultures. Behaviour follows certain principles and logic. Ethics is the theory of morality that studies and sometimes normatively prescribes universal principles of behaviour. Its Principles are to be seen as separate from moral principles. Sometimes they overlap but other times they do not. For example, it is understood that a naked woman cannot go out on the street in Pakistan. This would be morally wrong in Pakistan, but not ethically, because women do this in Africa and it is not immoral. Ethicality is not always compatible with morality. It is however, within human nature to examine the moral principals of any time period. Pathos, like in pathetic, which means sad and complaining, corresponds with the Greek for feeling. In rhetoric, a person needs to use examples or stories that are emotionally moving to the audience. In design the equivalent would be aesthetic values, such as color choice and combination but other things combined can inform the image’s message. In conclusion, rhetoric, visual and oral, must have ethical, logical and pathetic dimension in order to read your audiences. As it relates to the five aforementioned cannons, memory is important in rhetoric for presenting a persuasive argument; you must know the material and have your speech memorized to be effective. The equivalent of this for design is knowing the subject matter of the field. For example, what colors communicate, rules for design, typography etc... As arrangement is important in rhetoric, for visual communication it comes down to arranging elements and composition. Delivery is how the information is presented. If you speak to 5,000 people, you aren’t going to whisper. In the same way, visually, you need to pay attention to scale and media choice. Style as an aesthetic concern is what color will go with what, for example. It is comprised of elements, visual values from tonal to chromatic from abstract to narratives. Lastly, Invention is important. You have to be inventive and create things that have not been seen before by your audiences. This analogy between oral and visual means of communication says that what applies in classical rhetoric can be applied to visual rhetoric. A metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another.


“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” When we take Shakespeare’s quote, “All the world is a stage and all the men are players.” Ground and figure make up a metaphor and in this example world is the ground and stage is the figure. A figure is a word that informs the ground. Stage informs the way that we see the world in this example. This is also an example of an extended metaphor because each sentence is comparing the ground and figure. Stage, players, entrance and exit all imply life, death and social roles. We use metaphors in our speech with the intent of describing the world and conveying truth. A creative metaphor is an original metaphor where a comparison reveals something new about the notion that is playing the ground. Our goal, as visual communicators is to create new metaphors.


Students were instructed to choose a typeface and create an advertisement, directed at graphic designers, that sells and educated viewers on the font. Central to the assignment and the advertisement should be an original metaphor. In order to create this metaphor students needed to learn the history, context and intended and communicated purpose of the font. Below is my solution, Mrs Eaves. The metaphor is the actual character or person of Mrs. Eaves and how her story is actually embodied in the typeface.



WITH quiet refinement, she takes much care to her assignment. From poetic prose to headlines, neat, she’ll make short text rather sweet. Familiar with a modern flair, more than stress, with Baskerville, she shares.

Designed by Zuzana Licko in 1996 Licensed by Emigre




Elements of Typographic Style CHAPTER 6



THE ELEMENTS OF TYPOGRAPHIC STYLE A commentary on the book by Robert Bringhurst In his book, The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst discusses typography as an art that should be treated with diligence and care. It can be misused but should be either “honored and shared or knowingly disguised.” The best use of type draws attention to itself, because it is exquisite, but then disappears with a kind of “statuesque transparency.” It is a visual form of language that is timeless. Typography should always be legible while possessing an intangible energy, described at times as serenity, liveliness, laughter or joy, to the page. These principles should apply to typography in every medium. The goal, however, is not to glorify humble text, Bringhurst uses the example of a bill passed in English Parliament, classified ads and the phone book, but to clean up the text with a “typographical bath and a change of clothes.” No matter the message, text can always benefit from good type treatment. Another main goal that typography aims for is durability, its ability to “keep up with the times” in terms of style. It must be legible and have a quality that sparks interest in the viewers and gives life to the page as a whole. This energy relies on the meaning behind the text, which is not provided by the typographer but by the writer. The art of typography is fulfilled by the clarity of the text not by useless aesthetics that visually please the viewer. The term “typographic style” does not refer to any particular style but to the ability to move through the whole field of typography itself and be able to function at every different stage. This means that the overall design needs to be carefully constructed. A typographer’s job remains consistent even though the art of typography has greatly developed, i.e. with the invention of digital scanning and offset printing. The purpose of type is dictated by history starting with the mission of copying manuscripts as a quick means of reproduction. It was intended to give the illusion of speed, stamina, patience and precision to the writing hand. Type continues to be something of that nature: idealized writing. The task of “creating noninterference with letters” and making the letters come alive on the page rather than “standing still like starving horses in the filed” is difficult but rewarding. One important and not often emphasized principle is to read the text before designing it so that the typography will be an outward


reflection of the inner purpose of the text. This includes, but is not limited to, organizing the text so that it makes sense to the reader, for example structuring the type in a book to guide the reader through sections or expressing a clear visual relationship between the text and other elements. A designer’s process with regard to typography should start with reading the actual text that is to be designed. A typographer is responsible for translating, understanding and communicating the message that a text is trying to provide. Therefore, it is important for the typographer to read and understand the text before designing it. A typographer must choose the typeface smartly by both knowing what the text intends to communicate and also what the text represented in a typeface would communicate. All letter forms have their own character and tone, the text that a typographer is dealing with has its own personality, as does the typeface they choose to use. It is a general rule that these two “personalities” can’t cross but must agree. If a poor typeface is chosen then the visual meaning of the words and letters are contradictory. The choice of the typeface and the design of the overall shape of the page go hand in hand. The overall shape of the page is very subjective and is different for each case. It relies mainly on the typographer’s own intuition of what looks best. Typography’s relationship to the page can be compared to the ancient weavers who make tapestries on a loom. The ancient scribes made this comparison visible with their even flexible texture of wording on the page that they called a “textus,” which means cloth. Like the scribes, we aim to make the text as even as possible. Careless spacing of letters, lines and words can tear the page, like fabric, apart. The density of type on a page is called the “color,” it refers to the darkness or blackness of the letter forms in a mass on the page. After the first more important demands of legibility and logical order are satisfied the evenness of color is the typographers normal aim. The color is dependent on type design, spacing between letters, spacing between words and between lines. They all depend on each other. It is important to define the word space to suit the size and natural letterfit of the font. Horizontal spacing is measured in ems. One em is a distance equal to the type size, so it is proportionately the same the same size in any size. In new devices the em is generally a thousand units. Word spacing depends on if the text is justified or ragged right. If it is justified the text needs to be elastic, if it is ragged it can be fixed. Letterfit effects word spacing; a loosely fitted or bold face will need a larger interval between the words. If text is justified the minimum reasonable word space is a fifth of an em (M/5) and M/4 is a good average, the reasonable maximum is M/2. The ideal length of a line is typically 66 characters and a rational minimum


is a 40-character line. Anything less than that will result in inconsistent word spacing and an outbreak of hyphenation. If there is a short line length it is typical to set the type ragged right. A good way to figure out how long your line length should be is with a copy-fitting table. With this table you should measure the length of the lowercase alphabet in any typeface and size and the table will give you the average number of characters to use for your line length. The copy-fitting table is an important tool for a designer. A good designer will try and avoid having two consecutive lines with hyphenations at the end. When a text is divided into multiple narrow columns it is usually good to set the type ragged right. This will lighten the page and make it flow better and will cut down on the number of hyphenations used. It is also common to set type ragged right when a san-serifed typeface is used. It is also important, in design, to maintain the integrity of a letter form. Type was designed through centuries with care and detail but now it is easy to just change a letter with computer software. The only time the width of a letter form should be altered is if it will genuinely improve the type. Letter forms have been developed so that they are legible; this not only refers to the actual form of the character but to the space between and around the letters. A designer should never cramp letter forms together since it takes away from the overall legibility of the text. Bringhurst explains also in chapter ten of his book that if a letter shape is poorly drawn it should be abandoned, not edited. Analphabetic characters are often wrongly represented, by means of scale, drawing, etc, in digital form. If a font looks bad at low resolution, check the hinting. There are two different kinds of hints, generic which apply to the font as a whole and specific hints applicable only to individual characters. Bringhurst continues by discussing the harmony and counterpoint of typographic design. He begins by discussing the overall size. It is important not to compose anything without using scale. Early Renaissance typographers would set everything within a book the same way and use the same typeface and the same point size for everything. This consistency is a clear example of the rhythm that can be achieved on a page by using the same typeface. Typography developed and by the sixteenth century European typographers developed a few new common sizes, which provided the designer with the option to choose a new scale or tone row for their work. Over time, the scale that a designer chooses to use becomes a part of their personal style. When designing a book it is important to let the page breathe and it must breathe in both directions. It is a general rule when setting introductory


paragraphs to set an opening paragraph flush left so that it is set apart from the information that follows it. The only exception to this rule is if the paragraph is followed by a title or a subhead. All paragraphs that follow the first paragraph must be set apart from the first one. One way to do this is by using an ornament where the paragraph should start. One may also drop lines to mark the beginning of a paragraph. A few designers choose to outdent the start of a paragraph. This and an indent are the two most common forms of setting the start of a paragraph. The width of a paragraph indent is measured as one en, which is half of an em. If block quotes are used in a text a designer must distinguish them from the rest of the text. One way to do this is changing the typeface from the rest of the text or changing the point size of the type. Another way could be using indentations. A combination of these may be used but it is important that the quote is differentiated from the rest of the text. Bringhurst explains how typography crossing different language should be used. Every language and text, for that matter, has its own requirements that a designer needs to accept. It is important to know the historical meanings behind the requirements and understand the historical context. In the end of chapter three Bringhurst explains the context of the use of roman lettering, sloped caps, italics, bold and condensed over the past twelve centuries. He explains that technology is increasing and can improve typography and the skills that designers already possess, for example through condensing, expanding, outlining and shadowing. In Chapter Four, Bringhurst looks at the overall structure and form of typography through the different devices and different contexts in which it is used. He addresses how to make an opening, including title pages for book chapters, articles and the opening resumption of the text. Once again he emphasizes that the type should be consistent with the content. If the text has immense reserve and dignity, the title page should also do so. He describes typographic poise, which consists primarily of emptiness or white space. A modest line or two at the top, balanced between white space can be very successful. Secondly, he addresses spaced capitals and the type for titles; it should not be too heavy or big to overpower the text. If the title is set in larger size than the text it should be scaled back in color to keep the balance. Thirdly, the title and opening don’t exist separately, they should be organized together as a kind of form that contributes to the overall design of the book. A designer first needs to decide whether the heading will be symmetrical or asymmetrical. A symmetrical heading is centered and is known as a crosshead while Asymmetrical headings are usually in the form of left sideheads (flush left) or right sideheads (flush


right). Another way to distinguish a header with out increasing the size of it is to set it in the margin. This is known as a running shoulderheads. It’s a general rule to either set all headers symmetrically or asymmetrically. You should never mix the two because it will lead to stylistic as well as logical confusion for the viewer. When setting tables they should follow certain rules such as, all text should be horizontal. Letterforms should be clear in order for easy reading. Guides and dividers should follow the flow of the text and finally the table should have sufficient white space. Designers should be aware not to over punctuate lists and should set them flush right. By addressing the analphabetic symbols of typography a designer can understand how to deal with the abundance of squiggles, dashes, dots and ideographs that occur in the alphabet that do not really belong. The most important are the punctuation that emphasizes pauses in thought: the comma, period and parenthesis. The dot, or midpoint, is the most successful, simplest form of punctuation. It has remained true to its history, in lists and letterheads and breaking up sentences for twenty centuries. Recently designed typefaces tend to distort the forms and borrow from different fonts. It is important to correspond with the correct typeface of use when using analphabetic symbols. The hyphen is also a symbol of much importance to be addressed. Its use can be right or terribly wrong. When dealing with hyphens in phrases typographers normally use spaced en dashes instead of a closed set of em dashes or spaced hyphens. Depending on the typographer’s own style and what they prefer they will either use an em dash, three quarter em or an en dash. When dealing with number sequences it is a general rule to use closed set en dashes or threeto-em dashes. In order to mark dialogue, Europeans usually use an em dash followed by a space consisting of M/5 instead of quotation marks. Sometimes, instead of using the letter x when representing dimensions a dimensional sign can be used. Designers have to be careful when doing this though because often the punctuation can be mistaken as an expression instead of a notation. Other general rules include limiting or avoiding quotation marks when using a Renaissance typeface and placing punctuation marks inside a closing single or double guillemet if it is a part of that quotation. If it isn’t a part of that quotation then the punctuation mark is placed outside of the guillemet. It is important to take care when mixing and matching various typefaces. Bringhurst points out that several problems that designers should consider when designing, in the historical, technical and cultural aspect of various typefaces. Different type was intended for various means of production; for example type developed before the 1950s were best


made with metal letterpresses and require typefaces to be handset. The development of technology allows for these typefaces to still be used digitally. There are a few differences between letterpress printing and offset printing. With letterpress printing definition in the thin forms of the strokes are added while offset printing produces the opposite effect and thins out the typeface. It is important for typographers to pay attention to these different kinds of typefaces and to adapt the letterpress typefaces for digital purposes. Another important aspect of design is the choice of paper that a designer uses. A lot of Renaissance and Baroque typefaces don’t look good on glossy paper while most Neoclassical and Romantic faces were designed specifically to be used on smooth paper. Modernist typefaces such as Futura and Helvetica can be printed on any type of paper due to their stroke having a uniform width. In choosing a typeface it is important to look at the overall theme and context you are trying to convey. Most of the time a typeface that is excessively decorative is unneeded. When choosing a typeface it is important to look at all of its elements. . A designer needs to take into consideration a typefaces size and line length before using that certain typeface. Baskerville, Helvetica, Palatino and Times New Roman are very different from one another due to the make up of their individual letterforms. When designing, it is important to avoid using combinations of these typefaces. When designing with old typefaces, know the background in order to use them properly. Bringhurst implies that designers sometimes choose certain typefaces based on their own personal nationalities and religious faiths or around a style of a certain time period or type. This can work greatly to the designer’s advantage as it avoids an arbitrary choice. Bringhurst explores the historical aspect of typography in order to bring the element of value that he described. Although most people believe that printing from moveable type was invented in Germany in the 1450s it was actually first invented in China in the 1040s. The earliest forms of letterforms are Greek capitals that had been scratched into stone. Here the strokes of the letterforms are very thin and delicate. The early forms of Greek letters were drawn freely, meaning they were developed without using a compass and are san-serifed. Over time these thin strokes were developed and became thicker while the aperture grew shorter creating serifs. A good designer not only knows the history of typography but also understands the relationship between letterforms and humans and their actions. Renaissance letterforms are composed of luxurious light and


space. Letterforms of this time, from 1500 on, grew softer and more level. The form of upper case was derived from Rome while the lowercase came from northern Europe. In contrast to this form of writing, Baroque typography is filled with motion and plays off of opposing forms. Baroque letterforms are more sculpted while Renaissance letterforms are more freeflowing. Neoclassical letterforms were developed from the Rationalist era and are typically peaceful forms. Romantic letters lack the free flowing style that Renaissance letterforms have. Geometric letterforms are formed with mathematical forms, such as the circle and the line. Typographic modernism letterforms are modeled after Renaissance forms and are uneven rather than abstract. Typographic style is based upon the art of writing. Every alphabet is a culture and every culture has its own personal history and traditions, which is important to the over all style of typography. Bringhurst breaks down the mathematics of shaping a page, composed of many different sizes and proportions that are more visually pleasing than others. Each page holds a text block that must produce overall harmony with the page and tie the reader to the book. The golden section is a ratio between to two elements so that the smaller is to the larger and the larger is to the sum of the two or a : b = b : (a + b).. The embodiment of the golden section can be seen with two numbers, shapes or elements. The golden section or Fibonacci Series can be a useful tool for typographers. With Fibonacci’s Series a number is derived in the sequence by adding the two proceeding numbers. If type sizes are chosen following the golden section, such as 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…the end result is a Fibonacci Series. While these point sizes may be sufficient for most typographers a second or third sequence of sizes may be developed in order to create a more diversified scale. The second sequence may consist of is 6, 10, 16, 26, 42, 68, 110… while the third sequence can consist of 4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47, 76… All three sequences follow Fibonacci’s Series. In addition to this it is also wise to choose page proportions that fit the overall size and shape of the page. It is also important to take into context the historical connections that the design might have. It is important to design and shape the textblock so that it works with the overall shape of the page. A modular scale can be used if a designer wants to subdivide a page. A modular scale is a set of well-balanced proportions. While modular scales have the same function as a grid they are also more flexible. The method of designing a page is the same as the method for writing one. When designing a page, a designer should essentially start at the top left hand corner and work their way across it and then down. While precise measurements often help a design sometimes it can hinder it too. A designer shouldn’t be tied to designing


with exact calculations and should explore the overall page. When addressing the exhisting tools for typography, Bringhurst believes that the artistry of a page is more about the knowledge and skill of the person doing it than the tools used to do so. Tools can help or hinder skills and thus should be limited. There are more than 500 characters to be considered, when combining the standard alphabet with numbers, characters used by chemists and other fields. The American Standard Code for Information Interchange or ASCII developed their code using only 128 characters of binary information. As a result there isn’t enough information for Spanish, French or German languages to be written. Due to this a newer extended version of ASCII was developed, which incorporates 256 glyphs. 256 glyphs has become the new standard for languages in Western Europe. This shift to the extended 16bit or Unicode form will now allow 65,536 characters, which will allow everyone to write in most languages through a software that will interpret each individual characters. Microsoft Word is an example of this software. While there may not be an individual font that uses all 60,000 characters there are a select few fonts that use Unicode and have more than 10,000 characters, which when divided into different forms of script such as strike script and embossed script their characters can grow to about 60,000. Unicode only lists textual symbols not typographic ones there for text figures, swashes and small caps aren’t seen in Unicode. There are a few discrepancies in the original design of Unicode like with ffi, which occasionally will produce a script form, ffi. These discrepancies are welcomed because it helps Unicode adapt to the ever-changing glyph palette. Certain fonts may have different variations of the same character and only now are they being deciphered from one another due to Unicode. Even though these characters appear to be very similar they are different and need to be distinguished from one another. In English, the use of different fonts are mainly utilized for aesthetic purposes but for other languages, such as Arabic the use of different fonts plays a major role since different fonts can change a word completely. In conclusion, typography is a carefully cultivated art with a long history of precision and purpose. Words hold much power and communicate language to the world, thus they are sacred. The communication starts with visual form and a single letter, representing a history of development, a culture and personality, in its own design. The letter must, therefore, be respected and used correctly. In order to be successful with laying out type on a page the designer must learn the rules and gain understanding of the care to which typography has always been taken, all of which are outlined in The Elements of Typographic Style.



Meat and Potatoes of Typography  

This book was designed for my graduate Typography studio. After lectures and discussions over Semiotics, Tautology, Simulacra and Metaphor a...

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