Typography and Language

Typography & Language, presented by Andrew Slatter and Nicola Homer, focused more on the content of text particularly in publication. It became apparent that it is just as, if not more important, than the visual aesthetics of the over all piece.

8vo and Lewis Carroll’s work both exemplify the body of text becoming a visually graphic image in different ways. Carroll does this through the lay out of his poems. The earlier version of The Mouse’s Tale begins ‘We lived beneath the mat’ (see figure1), the body of text is designed to look like a mouse tail peaking out from beneath a mat. It also reflects the movement of the small but fast animal, as the text darts across the page from one way to another.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 04.59.40 (figure 1: Lewis Carroll, typographic image 1866)

On the other hand 8vo, a London based graphic design group formed in 1985, created work by treating type as an image. Using colour, an anti-grid lay out and placing the type in the foreground the text becomes dominant with in the image. Whether Slatter realised it or not, when reading the text of this image (see figure2) during the presentation he paused whenever the colour changed. The use of colour of the image of text affected the way in which the text was read aloud. I found this incredibly interesting, although I am unsure whether Slatter did this knowingly.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 05.06.36.png  (figure 2: Tribute issue to 8VO 
 Creative Review January, 2006)

However, I agree with Bridgit Wilkins’s statement from her essay Type and Image; ‘Type as an image alone is meaningless unless it has an inherent interrelationship to the information it is communicating, otherwise it can only be decoration’ (1990 pg.11). Though 80v’s work was exciting and innovative, it is arguable that the text becomes almost illegible. Carroll’s design of text has a clear link to the information provided with in his poetry and to me is more affective in terms of text becoming a visual image.

Another example of this, was the invitations to the 1997 D&AD awards. Each invitation had a different tone of writing and with that its very own personality. With out any visual aid as a reader I was able to create a character based on the text provided with in my imagination. Each narrator had a different accent, and with it, an almost stereotypical character to personally address me to the event. For example (see figure4), the writer is able to create a narrative character that visually appeared to me as a middle aged, ruddy faced man, upper class English accent in a well tailored suit. Personally, this was my favorite example from the lecture; it showed me that imagery isn’t always necessary to entice a reader.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 04.58.41.png (figure 4: Printed material for the 1997 D&AD Awards Design: CDT Copywriter: Will Awdry)

Semiotics was also included in this lecture and several others. Both Nichola Homer and Ruth Sykes used Margaret Calvert’s designs for road signs as an example of semiotics in the #What’s wrong with Graphic Design? lecture. Designed over half a century ago and these road signs are still in use. Their simplistic designs are clear to the viewer, these designs are of such great importance, as they have saved so many lives.

Margaret Calvert portrait.tif

Overall I enjoyed this lecture, as it made me consider whether image and text are always necessary together, particularly for universal use. Where as, text must be translated into several languages for it to be understood universally. At times, imagery aids the meaning behind the text but they do not have to always be paired together to provide a powerful message or have clarity.





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