April 2, 2010

Letter Labor

Another website devoted to the development of a typeface. In this case Neutral by Kai Bernau.

Letter Labor

Kai Bernau

Atelier Carvalho Bernau

March 27, 2010

Typography Now Two

‘Some readers may choose to interpret a layout as being unreadable; as having crossed the line between forma and function. The question is: if we didn’t experiment, if we st all our type in a three column grid, would you even be interested? Probably not. The clean grid of modernity has been formally rejected by the nihilism of industrial youth culture.’ —Joshua Berger (17)

‘The new ability has become the new aesthetic…like the arabesques of the 1880s and the swashes of the 1970s, the contortions of the 1990s will fall out of favour, but not before showing us what the new tools can do.’ —Tobias Frere-Jones (17)

Instead of looking at it from the point of view that mass consumption is a bad thing, and anything assisting it is guilty by association, perhaps a bit of credit is due to the mainstream for taking some risks, and to the avant-garde for infiltrating mainstream culture…I’m not saying that the avant-garde exists simply to supply the commercial world with the means to sell more products, but I do think it can be beneficial for both to occasionally share idealogies.’ —Rudy VanderLans (17)

‘The power of capitalist culture to commodify and control has dispersed the designer’s forms and instruments of criticism and made them harmless in the dazzling spectacle.’ —Jan Van Toorn (17)

‘The complexity I’m interested in is complexity of meaning. I’m not so much interested in the layers of form as the layers of meaning…I think this approach fits modern society because the contemporary world is subtle and complex. Simple black and white dualisms no longer work. Graphic design that tries to make things simple is not doing anybody any real benefit. Society needs to understand how to deal with the subtlety, complexity and contradiction in contemporary life…it is possible and necessary to have both complexity and intelligibility in graphic design.’ —Katherine McCoy (78)

‘Most of the time the message isn’t worth saying. So when you do get a chance to say something yourself, you might as well say something you believe in…There’s a reason for the way I do things and if you look I hope you’ll get the meaning, though the communication process isn’t so direct that you are necessarily going to get it the first time you look at it.’ —Jonathan Barnbrook (78)

‘Since form cannot be separated from content and since form itself carries meaning, then the idea is, in fact, structured and informed by its presentation. Just as the invisible typeface is an impossibility, neither can form be invisible.’ —Louise Sandhaus (106)

‘Why is “cutting edge” usually synonymous with illegibility? What would happen if the two terms “hip” and “hard to read” were uncoupled? Can a text be both readerly and experimental?’ —J. Abbott Miller (107)

‘The dominant and repressive role of the text over the image is breaking down. As the desire to fix image connotation is replaced by a more inclusive and open understanding, the boundaries between words, sounds and images dissolve into the electronic flow.’ —Jeffery Keedy (183)

‘Television has conditioned everyone at being very good at discerning what an image is and “getting” it within a few frames…If you don’t like it, you hit the remote control. So print, quite often, does the same thing: it freezes a moment where a lot of things are happening to provide an impression. People can either stay there and engage the interesting aspects, or turn the page.’ —Rick Valicenti (13)

‘If radical typography’s purpose amounts to nothing more than a new way to shift the goods—and amuse the designer in the process—it is destined to last only as long as it continues to intrigue the consumer. Within the cultural area, too, experimental typography faces similar pressing questions of purpose. In hard communication terms, leaving aside the deconstructionist theory, which few typographers can be said to truly understand, what is it for? Exciting as it may be to look at, does it represent a functional improvement on more conventional ways of delivering the same essential message? It is easy to justify extreme manipulations of small quantities of text in a poster of a television commercial when the emotion of the message is as important as what the words have to say and, historically, designers have always sought to achieve a balance between typographic legibility and the need for expression.’ —Rick Poynor (12)

‘The implosion of traditional typography may, like a sloughed skin, be a sign of renewal, or it may prove to have been a marker of millennial anxiety, profound uncertainty in an accelerating culture, perhaps even long-term decline. That is for historians to decide. What can be said with some certainty is that the mutations of typography in the 1990s reflect a deep scepticism about received wisdom and a questioning of established authorities, traditional practices and fixed cultural identities, which has parallels throughout society. They tell us a great deal about the increasing value we place as a culture, in the mediating power of typography as an interpreter of the reality we inhabit. They encapsulate the moment while also, in the largest sense, being wholly of their time.’ —Rick Poynor (15)

March 27, 2010

A Few Things

This is a very informative article about type design by Gerry Leonidas, Senior Lecturer in Typography at the University of Reading (UK) and Programme Director of the MA in Typeface Design.

‘Typography and typeface design are essentially founded on a four-way dialogue between the desire for identity and originality within each brief (“I want mine to be different, better, more beautiful”), the constraints of the type-making and type-setting technology, the characteristics of the rendering process (printing or illuminating), and the responses to similar conditions given by countless designers already, from centuries ago to this day.’

March 25, 2010


This came in the mail the other day. Can’t wait to get in to it.

‘Writing is a system of shapes. The shapes are closely related to each other, and they are not clearly distinguished from shapes which do not belong to the system. The shapes are as different as possible; they should not be mistaken for each other. This balance depends on perception.’ (11)

March 25, 2010

Limited Language

In stumbling around trying to formulate a clear question for my first theory essay I stumbled upon Limited Language.

Limited Language is a brand which uses the web as a platform for generating writing about visual communication. the idea of the brand in this context is a deliberate conceit – to explore how words, like images, are commodities.

I was specifically looking at M/M’s recent work with Nicolas Bourriaud in designing the Altermodern catalgue and found an article looking at their practice as an example of Semionauts:

What makes M/M Paris interesting isn’t that they have worked in on-going collaboration with many of Bourriaud’s artists or, even, that they believe they are dealing with the same questions or social realities as the artists they work with. Instead what is crucial is that they can feel, as graphic designers, able to enter into debates and questions asked by Bourriaud’s relational aesthetic whilst communicating as designers with “… the means to answer these [questions] using real networks of communication.”

In occupying these spaces (or interstice) of communication artists and designers become a foil for the artist who – traditionally – provide trapped (ideological) representations of the ‘real’ that at best, can provide solace or commentary rather than discourse. The relational designer or artist – as semionaut – initiates a starting point, a trajectory – creating work which drip feeds into the consciousness and is not snared by its own finitude.

They’ve written an article on the Eye blog about M/M’s design of the Altermodern catalogue. They also wrote an article titled, Part of the Process, that focused on Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and how it might apply to designers. Along those lines Paul Elliman also has some interesting things to say about designers and Relational Aesthetics.

March 16, 2010

Counter Form

This blog is devoted to my honours project at Monash University in 2010. This year is an excuse to explore the craft of type design. Besides hosting a collection of all things typographical, it’ll also create an archive of the typeface I am working on, commissioned for a Melbourne artist-run initiative. Notes from other subjects this year (including Design Theory and Artists’ Books) will also be found here.