Confessions of a Typophile

November 15, 2017
Posted in Design
November 15, 2017 Charlene Zubrzycki

Confessions of a Typophile

A graphic designer can spend hours upon hours deciding the perfect typeface in which to use on a project.

This is not just because we are all registered typophiles’, but because we take into consideration the semiotic content behind the typeface. We know that the visual language being used in a project can speak louder than the actual verbal language, and typography can take control of the overall initial concept. Below is a simple example of this methodology with the word ‘Hello’.

Here are two versions of the word ‘hello’, both have the same verbal meaning but because of the different use of typography they each have contrasting semiotic content which creates conflicting connotations for the word.

 

 

The ‘hello’ on the left is Cooper Std. This typeface is a rounded, big, bubbly type which creates a friendly quality with the word. It’s jovial with a childish quality which adds to it’s friendly character, as it is unintrusive visually. Set in lowercase with tight tracking (the space between letters) also enhances the friendly notion. With the tight tracking and all letters been pulled together, it is reminiscent of a hug which adds to the friendly notion. It’s almost as if the letters want to be close together. We normally associate all uppercase letters with ‘a shout’ so by using all lowercase we are reinforcing this friendly, approachable quality. The ‘hello’ is also positioned in the middle of the page giving it a loud ‘look at me’ feeling, as it is the first thing you see on the page as our eyes naturally are drawn to the center of images. With all of these elements combined we can imagine that the person saying this ‘hello’ is of friendly character, and that they want to talk to you.

The ‘HELLO’ on the right is Adam.CG Pro, which is in complete contrast to the previous ‘hello’.

It’s a straight and angular typeface with generous tracking. With it being pointy and angular it doesn’t give off a friendly feeling at all in comparison. More of a professional, masculine, harsher quality. Because the letters are uppercase, this creates a more forceful feeling with regards to the ‘HELLO’ as we use caps to express disdain or shouting. The positioning of the word also creates unfriendliness as the word isn’t there bold as brass in the center of the page grabbing your attention, it’s hiding in a corner. With all of these elements combined we can imagine that the person saying this ‘HELLO’ is of unfriendly character, and doesn’t really want to say ‘HELLO’ to you… who would want someone shouting ‘HELLO’ in their face forcefully?

‘Hello’ is a nice pleasant word which we always speak with a smile. So we should be visually reflective of this idea and bring those same behavioural actions we have as people visually into the chosen typeface. Personally I think a nice, clean, rounded modern, san serif gets this quality across excellently. 🙂

Think about it…

We always hold these characteristics with people and their personalities in real life. Heavy people are usually thought to be jolly and funny (you’ll never find a skinny Santa) and the skinnier you are, the more horrible you are (well salad wouldn’t make anyone happy anyway.. and as a wise man once said; ‘You don’t make friends with salad’)

For example take a look at Disney. They always do this with their characters. Anyone friendly or nice is always shown as been plump and bubbly.

And anyone evil is always skinny and pointy.

Essentially graphic designers see typefaces as people (hence the word type’faces’). They each have a different character and personality.

While keeping this methodology and visual thinking in mind, a designer also has to stick to all the rules of successful typography. Rules such as the optimal line length, leading, tracking, kerning and not forgetting the important hierarchy, (but I won’t bore you with that side of things… **Design Tip if you know all these rules you can break them 😉 ).

But with all of these factors in mind, and a million different typefaces, with a million different personalities, in a million different styles. Typography can have numerous possibilities for designers, and it can take a bit of time to get the concept they want to convey to viewers.

So the next time you can’t understand why a graphic designer has spent an ‘unnecessary’ amount of time on the type and typography for a project, think again. Good design goes unnoticed!

Typography is a crucial, very important part of any design, as it can be the ‘be all’ or ‘end all’ of any design project.

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Charlene Zubrzycki

Head of Design at Bluechief Social. Holds international design award titles. Is a Convicted poster pervert and typophile. Concert addict waiting for her next pearl jam fix

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