Write to Design, Typography
Write to Design, Typography
  • Shin Won Sora
  • 승인 2009.03.04 14:16
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Look at your clothes or bag.  Maybe at least one of your items has characters on it.  It is hard to imagine any products without any letters printed on them.  Even the tag on your clothes is a result of ‘Typography.’  Not only that; newspapers, book covers and T-shirts use typography for various purposes.  We live surrounded by characters, Typography.

Typography in Design has more power than merely ‘characters.’  It is full of expression as if it laughs or cries.  In the late 19th century, typography was established as design and since then it has changed continuously.  Typography is an intensive tool for everyone who communicates through paper and television, not just an art form for a minority. 

What is Typography?

Humans express image through symbolic thinking and communicate through many steps of modification.  Among them, humans have used a sign, or ‘character,’ to visualize delivery of information by language.  To communicate a larger meaning, people needed to reprint characters, and through this process a word of modern concept, typography, was developed. 

Typography is rooted in ‘Typo,’ a Greek word.  ‘Typography’ was made by combining two words; ‘Typo’ which means letterform and ‘graphie’ which means technique or write.  It was used to mean “type printing” and in dictionaries it refers to type printing of embossed character on metallic pieces, including the outcome.  However, because of the birth of a new field of study, Design, after the influence of the Industrial Revolution, typography changed its meaning.  At this time, the concept of typography changed to mean “a study or technique which uses type for functional and aesthetic phases.”   Typography in modern times has a larger meaning than that.  Typography is all factors related to design such as image type, graphic, color, layout and design format, and the cardinal point of visual design which manages every product connected to design.  It includes all of visual design printing and electronic media: posters, advertisements, identity design, book design, editorial design, newspaper design, homepage design and moving design.  So to speak, typography is a superior concept to all those and it charges them as the central axis of many media.  In other words, typography is not a mere aspect of media but one distinct genre of design. 

Originally, typography meant printing by using type, but as printing and delivery media developed, its meaning expanded; from the narrow concept of type printing to every aspect of using type for message delivery.  A picture is to be seen and a word is to be read, so the fundamental purpose of typography is to be read easily.  Therefore, traditional typography was the simple functional concept of characters which the viewer could read.  However, modern typography extends its ranges from functional interest-the ability to read it fast and easily-to the invention of various fonts, enlargement of express methods and pursuit of experimental phases.

Function of Typography

Typography plays the role of aiding the viewer to remember the contents by expressing words in visual form.  Words were invented to convey meaning, and the shapes of words can be varied in order to be used as formative tools.  The basic purpose of typography is to deliver the exact concept of the messenger, including providing aesthetic sympathy to people who read it.  Typography has 2 functions; the linguistic function of conveying objective contents and the formative function of viewing in visual form before understanding meaning. 

1. Linguistic function
The linguistic function of typography is a practical function, which means to lay out by using different font styles and sizes in order to create understanding of the intended message.  It refers to the use of characters as tools of delivery which make the message easy to read or understand.  Therefore, considering the ease of reading through considering adequate font size, spaces between characters, length of lines and spaces between lines is important.

Ease of reading is spoken for in ‘Legibility’ and ‘Readability.’ 
Legibility: the process of perceiving and distinguishing individual characters
Readability: the achievement of the process of reading and perceiving

Legibility is related to the perception of characters and words, and the reading of content.  Readability understands content and the degree of relative difficulty of reading followed by accuracy of characters, individual interest and ease of reading.  When sentences are short and familiar, effective delivery is made.  According to the case of legibility explored by John Ryder,() there are ten factors which influence ease of reading: font, font size, spaces between characters, length of lines, spaces between lines, format, print size, blanks, grids and finishing touches.

2. Formative Function
The formative function of typography is not to be used as a tool of message delivery but as visual material.  In this case, type and typography factors are expressed more freely and dynamically, which derives mental and aesthetic strain.  Therefore it represents an interesting, poetic and philosophical atmosphere.  Also, a form of individual type can be a visual symbol.

Through various arrangements of type, the typographer can create abstract images.  Type can be a material for abstract art.  Robert Massin, a graphic designer in France, tried experimental typography by combining type and photography, escaping from ordinary typography which is read and seen.  This is a method of expression which accompanies the messenger’s subjective emotions.  The use of characters can be formative work when they are used for visual factors, not as a tool of communication.  In addition, the designer expresses their personality by using characters for illustration or pictures through the drawing or expansion, reduction and omission of characters.  

Typography in Our Life

In today’s market of self-selection and self-service shopping, package design delivers the characteristics of a brand effectively and increases its name recognition.  Packaging using typography has become important for conveying the originality and reliability of the brand, and ensures fast communication between the brand and the consumer.  That’s because if package design is concise and distinct, it promotes the customer’s interest.     

William J. Stanton(a Republican congressman), said that technique should have marketability or be market-oriented.  Package design makes the customer aware quickly, meaning they are likely to choose that product quickly.  In package design, typography has many good points; it is symbolic, imformative, reliable and memorable.

1. Symbolic
Typography contracts the identity of products into a strong brand image because it can place both sides of value-form and meaning-in one character.  Therefore, customers can perceive it more simply and with greater readability.

2. Informative
In the case of package design, typography offers concrete information on the product so that the customer can understand its properties easily and correctly, rather than being used merely as a tool of beautiful decoration. 

3. Reliable
A product that is unbelievable does not sell.  Letters can offer reliability.  Package design around typography increases brand name-recognition and allows effective communication based on the reliability of the product.

4. Memorable
Typography in packaging creates readability and shape by expressing the message visually through designing letters and adjusting the size or arrangement of fonts.  Also, it provides ease of discrimination in distinguishing the product, so the customer can memorize the brand easily and for a long time.

Typography used in package design plays a role of not just delivering the contents and properties of products but also inducing the customer’s interest by presenting different visual designs in the case of marketing and arousing taste or concern.

Characters are tools for communication to be read and used as visual symbols to be seen.  The public is now very familiar with the typography of ‘Coca Cola,’ which is in the “New Art” style.  It also reminds people of the appearance of the drink in its curved ‘Coca Cola’ bottle and gives an image of freshness.  The elegantly bent font is a visual code for recognizing the product.  The typography of ‘Malboro’ is a visual code which conjures up the image of tobacco.  The typography of ‘Hershey’s,’ which is written in Gothic font on a brown background, is the appropriate way to visualize the solid image of chocolate.   Products which have brand power have their own symbols of typography and thus have succeeded in providing a brand image to their customers.

In an advertisement which has to convey a strong message in a limited time, the proper use of typography is effective and allows correct delivery of meaning.  In Korea, it is true that the study and practical use of typography are insufficient compared to other countries.  However, the realm and power of typography are increasing gradually. 

A newspaper-like screen catches people’s eyes on television.  TV advertisements which use the characteristics of newspaper concentrate people’s attention.  It is a technique of making characters bring the viewer to a stop.  When letters appear on the screen, it is sure that audience will read it and the message will come across their minds.  Indeed, some sentences may have greater influence than splendid images.  Do you remember the advertisement for ‘SKY,’ a mobile phone?  It used only two words in bold typography, ‘MUST HAVE.’  When people watched it, they thought that that product was what they had to have and became interested in it naturally. 

Let’s look at the advertisement for a refrigerator called ‘DIOS,’ starring Kim Hee Ae.  DIOS wants to show that by using their product, taste will develop into elegance through a slight change in 2 letters; 맛(taste), and 멋(dandy).  The intention and feeling is delivered to consumers by just changing ‘ㅏ’ to ‘ㅓ.’  The core of this advertisement is short and intensive.  This could not be expressed without typography.

You can easily see handwriting and calligraphy, which are different forms of typography, in not only packaging but also posters.  It can deliver both happy and sad feelings well, and is used a lot in movie posters.  That’s because movie posters have to express many features of the movie in just one image. 

In the fashion industry, typography is one kind of design factor.  Most of you have T-shirts with letters printed on them in your closet.  In this way, typography appears on various styles in fashion today.  By using typography, fashion brands want people to recognize their brand names.  For this reason, they invent their logos by using typography and through presenting it on products in order to increase their name-recognition. 

Letters can also create patterns.  In the case of the monogram line of LOUIS VUITTON, the logo which is made of characters has been used extensively as a motif or pattern of design and has remained as a recognizable image in the long run. 
Lee Sang Bong, designer and calligrapher, has used Hangeul as a design factor for a long time.  His creative design made Hangeul popular in the ‘Who’s Next’ show, held in Paris in 2006.  His calligraphy is used on cellular phones, home fashion, kitchen utensils and even tobacco. 

Typography has developed and changed according to the public and culture.  We can’t live without characters.  For the purpose of delivery of contents or decoration, the use of typography will extend even further.  Typography can better convey images or the intention of the messenger than any other image.  As the Internet and digital technology have developed rapidly, typography has to be changed.  People have to understand it in the face of images which have symbolic and visual functions.  Also, many designers will use typography as a tool for effective and economical visual communication.

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