March 27, 2010 0

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)

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