Sunday, February 1, 2015

Week 5: What is good typography?

Over a decade ago, graphic designer Armin Vit posited the question, “What constitutes good typography?” It’s incredibly easy to simply reply with an ambiguous or personal response on the order of “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” But that's not a sufficient response.

Generally, good typography is recognized as a measure of a good designer. But that still begs the question: what is good typography?
Typography is such an important element of graphic design that it often becomes invisible: designers select the appropriate typefaces for a project, spacing it properly, aligning elements, working with grids, and not abusing the type design with distortion or unnecessary artificial stylings. Of course, anyone can learn the rules of line length, leading, font-matching and the like and call it design, but, again, what separates good typography from bad?

“Is it the choice of typefaces?” Armin asked. “Is it the point size the font is set in? Is it the… combination of sans-serif with serif faces? Or the leading? The kerning? What is it? What are the uncovered secrets of good typography?”

Designer Beatrice Warde wrote, in her essay “The Crystal Goblet ,” that “… type which, through any arbitrary warping of design or excess of 'color', gets in the way of the mental picture to be conveyed, is a bad type.”

Think about what we have been studying so far. We’ve become more conscious of type in our designs and in life. Could, as Armin asks “‘good’ typography be invisible to the reader? Should it be? What significance does typography have beyond the fact that it should be read, and read well?”

Read Beatrice Ward’s short essay—I’ve posted an excerpt as a PDF on Angel in the Week 5 folder—or research what others have said about what constitutes good typography. Take a position and defend it with citations that justify your position.

For your reply, find another post and take the opposite position to the author—why does that particular reasoning fail to prove what good typography is—countering the original argument with your own evidence.

As always, post by mid-week. Reply by Sunday at midnight.

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