to standardize. Speech plays a relatively minor role and visual communication, once reading classes commence, becomes almost nonexistent. The writer has considerable power because of the freedom of expression the process of writing allows. Although writing (and language in general) is bound by conventions to a remarkable degree, it is paradoxically still possible for the author to feel entirely free and unrestricted by the means and process of writing. This is because written and oral language are rigorously taught and, more
importantly, constantly practiced throughout our lives. In contrast, visual communication is rarely touched on at any stage between preschool and graduate-level education. In order for typographic and visual communication to work efďŹ ciently, itÂ generally requires clarity rather than complexity, and the expected rather than the unexpected. Uniqueness only slows down the communication process. For these reasons, typography is generally expected (by the author, editor, and publisher) to be conventional.
ALIGNMENT AND GRIDS The character “death,” written by the Japanese Zen philosopher Hakuin (1685–1768), is here accompanied by an inscription: “He who has penetrated this is beyond danger.” Despite intensive post-war industrialization, Japan has revived the art of sho, Japanese calligraphy. Seven-year-old children painting patterns as a preparation for writing lessons. Marion Richardson, Writing & Writing Patterns: Teaching Book, 1935.
The common grid, used by all in the West.
WRITING AND TYPOGRAPHY
In the 1920s, the Bauhaus initially professed a debt to the Arts and Crafts movement, declaring “there is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman.”2 Their concept of craft sought to reinstate all disfranchised art forms in an attempt to use the dual practice of art and design as a means of supporting the struggle for human equality. However, while the theory was maintained, the notion of the handmade came to be considered antiprogressive. Equality, it was felt, could be better served with design aligned to mass production. The consequences of the split that led to the separation of “thinking” from “doing” have been exacerbated since the advent of digital technology. As a consequence, a design student can say, “I don’t want craft to get in the way of my creativity,” and this will be accepted as a rational statement. For typographers, craftsmanship and technology are inseparable. The way computer technology has affected working methodologies has made some typographers pessimistic; they argue that the craft has been driven out of design. However, it is a misconception that if a company invests in the best computers and the latest software then the
technology will design the typography for them. Having talked to many in senior management, it is clear to me that there is a general belief that the typographer is, essentially, a machine minder. This inevitably affects the status of the typographer, which in turn affects the way in which they are dealt with and how they are expected to work. Any time spent on improving what the software delivers can be severely criticized as time wasted: “If you want to kern, you do it in your own time, not the company’s.”3 This lack of regard for tacit knowledge echoes the business world’s general contempt for most craft-based activities. Has it ever been otherwise?4 Too many design companies prefer to emphasize their use of technology to promote status rather than draw attention to the creative intelligence and craft skill of the typographer. Although such PR tactics are understandable (if highly regrettable), a company that denies the existence of its own expertise or does not recognize its own expertise, is not functioning properly. It is impossible to improve the standards of design without facing up to the politics of the workplace. Without time to think, the activity
RECORDING TACIT KNOWLEDGE Detail from a sketchbook and one of the spreads from the type-specimen booklet by Jeremy Tankard for his typeface Fenland. This typeface is constructed rather than derived from pen-written forms. However, the modulation across each character remains essentially organic. Tankard (see page 170) lives and works in Cambridge (UK), and British heritage and culture figure large in his work.
of design is not “design” at all. Unfortunately, typography, being about detail, about the barely perceptible, is at present, possibly one of the least respected of all design activities. Typography has always encompassed the use of technology. There is a continuing debate among typographers on how far technology shapes us, and how much we shape technology. Although the technology keeps changing, what is important is the level of control that the typographer has— not so much over the technology itself, but over the way it is used in the workplace. Too often, it is the strategies, principles, standards, and methods put in place by others that will have the biggest inﬂuence on the quality of the typographer’s work,
rather than the knowledge and skills that he/she possesses. Digital technology need not drive the craft out of typography; the computer is, in fact, a ﬂexible and responsive tool.
CRAFT AND TYPOGRAPHY
The desktop publishing revolution The “revolution” for typographers began in 1984. Three companies were responsible for it—Adobe, Aldus, and Apple—and their innovative products made typographic design on a computer a reality: PostScript, a device-independent page description language invented by Adobe; Aldus PageMaker, the first ‘DTP’ application; and Apple’s first affordable, 300-dpi printer, the LaserWriter—all running on an Apple Macintosh. In the fervor that accompanied the manufacture and selling of digital hard- and software, the “end of print” became a common phrase. The American graphic designer David Carson used the term as an occasional tag-line on the cover of the magazine Ray Gun and it was later used again as the title of a book about Carson.1 Ray Gun (1992–2000) was a popular culture magazine in which digital technology played an essential role, not only in its manufacture but also in its truly uncompromising appearance. This was further exacerbated by Carson’s visual references to multimedia: the fractiousness of his typography; the overlapping of information; images inexplicably disappearing off the page; or the depiction of outof-focus or random subject matter. This, it was surmised, was what the end of print looked like.2 Yet these pages were equally an unmistakable celebration of a print medium reborn—revitalized by the creative potential of digital tools—the very technology that many had predicted would be the cause of printing’s demise. The body of graphic design work associated with Carson’s Ray Gun in the run-up to the twenty-first century (along with Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko’s Emigre, and the work emanating from the American colleges Cranbrook and CalArts) has come to optimize print media to assimilate, contain, and respond to the threat of digital media.
CELEBRATING DIGITAL Detail of a spread from Ray Gun, designed by David Carson. In the introduction to his book The End of Print, Lewis Blackwell explained why Carson remains an important figure: “The work celebrated the resonance of print and its processes, as well as the potential for a more intense visual media.”
DIGITAL REIMAGINED Cover of Emigre magazine, published in Berkeley, California, edited and usually designed by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko. However, this issue was “guest” designed by UK-based The Designers Republic in 1990.
THE DESKTOP PUBLISHING REVOLUTION
A2/SW/HK A2/SW/HK design office (based in London) was formed in 2000 by Scott Williams and Henrik Kubel. In 2010 the duo established A2-TYPE in order to release and distribute a decade’s worth of specially crafted fonts. They launched with 15 fonts created for print, screen, and environment. The team was recently commissioned to design suites of custom fonts for the Moscow Metro, the
MOSCOW SANS + PICTOGRAM SYSTEM The Moscow Metro custom fonts and associated pictogram system is a truly collaborative project and will, if implemented systematically, have a huge impact on how people navigate the Metro. The project was commissioned by City ID and the Moscow Department of Transport in 2014. It is part of an extensive sign and wayfinding scheme for Moscow Metro by City ID, with product design by Billings Jackson. The typefaces and pictograms were art directed and designed by A2–TYPE, Scott Williams and Henrik Kubel, with Margaret Calvert as type and pictogram consultant. The Cyrillic script was designed in collaboration with Ilya Ruderman.
New York Times Magazine, Aperture, the Independent newspaper, the Sunday Times Magazine, Google, and the Seaport district in Boston. Scott and Henrik are members of AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) and the team was recently awarded the Tokyo Type Directors Club Grand Prix award of 2016 for their custom fonts for the New York Times Magazine.
Cartlidge Levene Cartlidge Levene is a London-based design studio that specializes in the creation of identity and visual language, and focuses primarily on identity, printed collateral, exhibition design, environmental graphics, wayfinding and signage, and digital media. They often combine these skills to deliver a seamless design language across a range of media for a single project. Their designs are underscored by clear methodology and meticulous attention to detail.
WIM CROUWEL POSTER, DESIGN MUSEUM, LONDON Cartlidge Levene were one of seven design studios commissioned by the curators of the exhibition Wim Crouwel: A Graphic Odyssey at the Design Museum, to design a limited-edition poster utilizing one of Crouwelâ€™s famous poster grids created for the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Cartlidge Leveneâ€™s design was based on a timeline, spanning the duration of the show, featuring other key cultural events held in London during the same period. The idea was to create a graphic calendar using the vertical divisions of the grid. The posters were screenprinted in four colors.