The great passions and radical dogmas contained in a book of typography


A guy nerd’s love for fonts can be eerily similar to real-life romance. Did you know that printing characters on a sheet of paper is called a “kiss”? Typographic romance can range from a deep affection for a perfectly chiseled face to a raw passion for vigorous, full-bodied alphabets.

This emotional power helps explain the rise of “expressive typography,” which refers to boldly designed, attitude-filled fonts, where the shape of the letters themselves speak as loudly as the words they spell. Type onlya new book by Tony Brook and Mark Sinclair, examines nearly a century of typographic expressionism by showcasing an array of font-defined images – images made with letters.

The boundary between graphic design and typography is blurring more and more each day. “Type is quickly becoming the solution of choice for many designers around the world,” says Brook. “You can see the work of almost every designer that’s ever existed online for free, and it’s definitely having an impact. It’s also possible that the economic downturn is having an influence. The type is cheap to produce, the photography and illustration can be expensive.

But the approaches captured in Type only are not for everyone. The book traces the development of a very iconoclastic (sometimes fashionable and sometimes anarchic) ​​approach to typography, representing three generations of typography – analog, analog-digital, and digital. Purists in particular may not appreciate the overriding “anything goes” message.

Earlier work in the book comes from ideologically grounded movements such as mid-century modernism. “Recent work sometimes appropriates some of the visual affectations of the past but not, it seems, the dogma,” says Brook. “I was very keen to show a degree of similarity, both in spirit and in formal approach between older and newer work, to establish a clear connection.” The 1922 opening image by Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters is very deliberately placed: “To my eyes it looks incredibly contemporary and, in terms of radical expression, sets a marker for the rest of the work to follow. . »

The design of the book is intended to be rhythmic, with the selected examples suggesting both tonal and atonal compositions. The effect is musical, in a way. “I think we have the relationship between anarchic/organic pieces and orderly/structured pieces working well,” says Brook. “We have consciously chosen some of the most provocative and extreme examples of what is happening, of course. However, I would say that using type as a solution in itself without the aid of photography or illustration is firmly entrenched in the mainstream.”

The works presented are best appreciated as a critical mass, a collection. Some are beautiful, some are not; there is the “deliberately ugly and the oddly strange”. It’s the marriage of the weird and the clean that makes the book compelling for type nerds like me. “I confess that I now come to some of the more fanciful flights,” says Brook. “They make for awkward viewing, but hopefully not boring.”


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