As a young man, I completed a four-year apprenticeship in typography. And no, I’m not quite in my nineties. Typography is as valid now as it ever was, possibly even more so.
The craft has been around as long as written language. It’s seen in everything from novels to newspapers, outdoor signs, television and now the online space.
Wikipedia correctly states typography is, ‘the art and technique of arranging type to make written language readable and appealing. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing (called leading, rhymes with heading), letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space between characters (kerning).’
Ironically, while researching this post, I noticed the Wikipedia logo is one of the many modern offenders with its sloppy kerning. Take a look:
Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a decline in the standard typography. This could be put down to the huge leap in technology… Got a laptop? You’re a designer! Or, is it the ever-growing trend to do things faster, cheaper, quicker, or maybe the lack of emphasis put into this subject at universities and colleges.
Has typography as a craft become unsexy and unfashionable?
Who knows? But as a Graphic Designer and Art Director, I know that studying, respecting and developing typography skills (few would say they’ve mastered the craft) has held me in good stead over many years in advertising.
Still, I’ve been constantly amazed with how little young designers know or even care about good typography.
I’m happy to have been able to pass on some knowledge and to have opened a few eyes to the finer aspects of good typography, with great results.
Often people don’t know what’s missing until someone asks where it is.
The next time you’re driving past a billboard or flicking through a magazine, take a second look at the typography and see if it stands up to scrutiny.
Ask, ‘Is it easy to read? Does it make sense? Does it look like it was put together by someone who cared?’
You might be surprised at your answers.
Steve Schollum is a Senior Art Director at BCM