Copyright © 2007 by Michael Rosenau All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission from the publisher. Critics are welcome, or course, to quote brief passages by way of criticism and review. Rosenau Publishing • P.O. Box 845 Savannah, GA 31402 Designed and Assembled in Savannah Georgia printed and bound by Rosenau Design Group

CONTENTS 1 2 3 4 5 6

For my wonderful Design professor Zoran Bellic, and his bitchin’ 6-series.







True by necessity of their logical form
Em width. The base for typographic measurements.

page 6

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page 20


page 26

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True by necessity of their logical form

True by necessity of their logical form





True by necessity of their logical form

True by necessity of their logical form






True by necessity of their logical form

True by necessity of their logical form

Tautology is defined as being true by virtue of its logical form alone. In this paper I will be looking at tautology as it pertains to semiotics and its relevance in modern typography. If you were assigned the task of taking any letter and any typeface and told to place it on a blank document at any size and position on the page so that it represents that letter as being only that letter and nothing else―how would you present the letter so it would be a tautological statement? In this paper I will break down the reason behind the correct representation of a letter so that it is being only that letter and nothing else. A simplified definition of a tautological statement is A=A and it can be seen as an absolutely true statement. In pertaining to typography lets look at the theory of sign known as semiotics. In typography each letter of the alphabet in its purest form is a visual code for a phonetic value. What about all the different typefaces to chose from? Which ones purely represent the phonetic value of each individual letter? San Serif typefaces are the best choice, they were created to represent each letter in the alphabet as tautologically representing only its phonetic value. Serif typefaces have ornamentation and aesthetically added forms that can lead the viewer to see a letter as something outside of being just that letter. The French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure’s theory for semiotics revolves around the signifier and the signified. The signifier is audio that serves as a sign which points to something else. The signified is something that has been pointed out by its signifier, which can be referred to as the acoustic image. According to Saussure, sound is comprised of two elements; phoneme which are all sound values and morpheme which is the building block of sounds to form words. Semiosis is the process when something becomes or is a sign. Phoneme and Morpheme are the two elements of semiosis. So what do Saussure’s theories mean for typography? Saussure’s theories tell us that each letter in the alphabet is a signifier. The visual shape signifies the sound that the letter makes―which is the signified and vice versa. Charles Morris a philosopher also has a theory of semiotics. There are 4 cardinal elements. First is the sign vehicle which is equivalent to signifier. The sign vehicle is anything absorbed through the 5 senses. Second we have the designatum/denotatum which is equivalent to signified and it’s something pointed out by the sign vehicle. Designatum is something not perceptible and denotatum is something perceivable. Third we have the interpretation. Fourth we have the interpreter. All 4 elements are absolutely necessary. Morris’ theory applies to typography the same way Saussure’s do-the sign vehicle shows us the designatum/denotatum and we interpret that information according to our knowledge. Before learning about Semiotics, Saussure and Morris I was given the task mentioned above—to present a chosen letter in its tautological essence. I thought to myself should it be big should it be small, should it be serif, should it be san serif. Should I place it in the corner or in the center.

Ultimately I chose a san serif typeface I placed the letter G in the center of the page and gave it a font size of about 40pt not big not small but average. My decisions were correct because the letter was not acting as a design element it was not straying from its essence as would a decorative serif typeface. Placing it in the middle is the most natural way to view the letter. We as humans naturally want to center objects, we look to the middle. Choosing a medium font size allows the negative space and the margin surrounding the letter to become nonactive and not important. My tautological assignment of basically removing all design elements from a sign (phonetic letter) is used marginally in the design profession. There are certain rules that I do follow. I know that san serif fonts are easier to read in body copy. I also know that people read words often as shapes and that the spelling of a word can be totally skewed and people will still read it correctly. Because of this knowledge I use typography as a design element to further enhance what I am trying to communicate. These facts that I know pertain to semiotics and the tautological representation of letters. What’s fascinating is we can relate the structure and theory of semiotics to visualization. A deeper analysis into the history of semiotics and typography brings up gestalt, pictographs, ideograms and logograms. Gestalt is wholes comprised of elements. Pictographs are visual marks capturing the essential forms and other perceivable objects. An ideogram is a symbol that represents an idea. If the symbol instead represents a word it’s a logogram. We can trace our letters and characters back to a pictograph. The beauty of it all is in the way language forms us, we are a depository of information of language. It defines our intellectual abilities. If we understand semiotics its themeology and the syntax of words our intellect will grown and so will our visual skills along side it. We still must remember that the primary function of all characters is communication. That must not be ignored.



Proportionally structured by necessity of their optical appearance
Using the dimensions of the typeface to dictate a design solution.

“Typeface is a graphic expression of a letter form. It is visual code for a phonetic v a l u e . ”
-Zoran Belic




Proportionally structured by necessity of their optical appearance

Proportionally structured by necessity of their optical appearance

Syntax is defined as the grammatical arrangement of words in a sentence. Building off of the topic of semiotics from our last lecture we see syntax as the relationship among sign vehicles. When analyzing the influences that surround the syntax of a language we must ask our selves the question legibility of typographic signs. Is legibility subject to change and history amongst the particular language of focus? Do we condition our readership to prefer and recognize certain visual coding systems? I see the answer as yes because legibility is a matter of interest, it is dependent on the desire of an individual to access and or present that material. When Gutenberg invented movable type he could have invented san serif typeface. He could have seen the need for a tautological representation of each phonetic value. Instead he invented a typeface that was a variation of the lettering standards used in manuscript writing of that time. He created letters in the style of the time. Even today we prefer specific types of character renderings. San serif typefaces are preferred today for communication and for a modern design. The syntax of language are the rules. Sometimes these rules are very logical and structural. Sometimes the rules are a matter of heritage. Subtle changes over time. Through the use of these rules or syntax we assemble sentences in a linear matter. Sentences are subject to the grammatical rules. These rules are organizing our speech to convey meaning. This is the central structure of our language; the official language. Outside of this central structure are deviations. Dialects, slang, lingo’s are all deviations from the official language. A deviation is really to negative of a term in my opinion. I would call them additives. In America Ebonics is a primary example of a dialect of American English. Linguistically speaking Ebonics can stand on its own and be recognized as its own official language. Politically this will likely never happen. So what’s the analogy between grammar and the visual realm? What is the syntax of visual constructs? Colors, shapes, composition and the Golden mean. Colors have various associations and combinations that evoke personal feelings and commons emotional responses among cultures. Shapes can be subjected to formal rules. Simple shapes can be combined to build more complex shapes. Much like the way we build single words to create complex intellectual sentences which can contain more meaning and depth. The golden mean or golden rule is the most powerful and widely used proportion in design. It is a ratio found in the structure of the natural world. All of nature revolves around this proportion which is 1.618 or 0.618. When we design according to this proportion the design appears harmonious. This balance in design is an artificial harmony because we are emulating what we find in nature and what we naturally find pleasing to the eye. As humans we have a desire to emulate and depict as accurately as possible the world around us. We must take

care in how we construct a false reality. Logical rules are a necessary element to construct our visual statement. There is no binary logic in the visual realm. If there was we would have troubles innovating our creativity. In language we have binary logic yet as human we love to speak in metaphors which are often paradoxical statements. Take for example the metaphor, “life is a stage.” If we look at these words syntactically they are two unrelated statements. As a metaphor this statement is very powerful. A metaphor is a symbol we create new worlds visually with metaphors that have layers of depth and meaning. Applying this to typography we see that letters are derived from symbols which were metaphors. They’re a visual analogy between similar objects and letter forms. Simulacrum—an image representing another image. With metaphors and simulacrum we are stepping outside of binary logic into the visual realm. Constantly looking for visual harmony and an aesthetic value. Trying to emulate and relay meaning from a written verbal idea to a visual one. If we use some visual rules and syntax as guidance in our design a great more creative solution can be achieved, as long as we adhere to a strong core concept. Break the right rules.



Proportionally structured by necessity of their optical appearance

Five Cardinal Points
Playing with meaning and context.

Dealing with Hierachy.

Proportionally structured by necessity of their optical appearance



Simulation or simulate is to pretend to have something one doesn’t have. Jean Baudrillard is the champion of simulation theory. The world renowned intellectual theorist recently passed away and left a legacy of theory and critical analysis of culture and its inate desire to simulate. We as humans are deeply involved in simulation. More increasingly in the past century. Technology has played a large part in our manipulating of substances to create something that will feed our ideals. Our conquering of flight was a result of an imitation of natural flight. In simulation theory the act of simulating can also be referred to as mimesis; the act of mimicking or imitating.

Representational by necessity of subsitution

“SHAPESar e the second elements h a p e s combined can build more c o mp l e x s h a p e s . They can be subjected to more formal rules.”
-Zoran Belic

There are two main forums of simulation. One way to imitate is to mimic the surfaces of objects, an example is faux finishes. Technology is becoming so advanced that many faux finishes are almost indistinguishable. When this happens the purchase and consumption of the original look is often an emotional decision. Secondly we have the imitation of the principles or structures of objects. Technology plays an even larger part in structural simulation than surface simulation. Major accomplishments in the special effects industry of movie making have been made. Special effects feed our desire for the credible believable appearance of story telling. Structural simulation studies the laws and info structure beyond initial perception. Achieving a view of the microscopic world to discover and accumulate knowledge about those underlying processes. Remarkable achievements have been made by discerning what’s behind or under the surface. A third element of simulation is how we look to nature for inspiration to simulate in another way. Not mimicking but instead learning and transferring knowledge to find a different structure to emulate through. An example is how a bird flies by flapping its wings. The bird is made up of light hollow bones and feathers. We used the bird as inspiration to achieve flight through a combination of propulsion and gliding. Early attempts at flight did try to directly simulate bird flight employ the flapping technique. A second topic that relates to simulation and is also highly prevalent in our technology based society is replication. Replication since the industrial revolution has changed the way we live and interact in society. There are two major characteristics of replication. Look is the visual replication of the forms and shapes of an object. They appear the same. Function is the characteristic of the objects use. Each replicated objects performs the same tasks. Simulants are the closes to life of all simulations. Simulants are artificial intelligence. They are made by humans to try and mimic what we do. We are trying to create an independent machine that thinks and makes decisions freely. With artificial intelligence we are trying give machines creativity. Baudrillard’s fear is that in our simulation rich society the more we are involved in simulation the further we




Representational by necessity of subsitution

Representational by necessity of subsitution

are from life. Will we soon become simulants of our own? We naturally can transfer simulation and repetition into our design techniques and strategies. With the golden proportion we simulate the appearance and feeling of natural elements in the ratio of our design layout. Nature itself is very repetitive and mathematical in its underlying structure. Ultimately in our design we should seek to draw from many influences—artificial and natural enabling us to come to an original style and visually appearance.

Finding and compairing the letter “H”



Representational by necessity of subsitution

Representational by necessity of subsitution

Artificial Natural
How does this correlate to the origins of the written language? Inspiration from experience and keen observation.



Representational by necessity of subsitution

Systems of writing
Different Graphemes for the sound of the letter “R.”









Latin Letter
Typographic marks change through centuries. Each mark in an alphabet depends on a phoneme. The grapheme changes with time and with culture, it adapts, matures or digresses. Typography never occurs in isolation. Letterforms are not objects of science they are an art form and they participate in history just like other art forms do. Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Romantic. Different typographic styles exist for each art period and each typeface has a reference to an era just like Michelangelo’s David does. Technology can often play a big part in the change of typographic marks. When the technology of moveable type hit Europe scribes saw there profession change overnight, yet today many ancient Roman scribal conventions exist as type today. Breaking down the Latin letter let take a closer look at the Renaissance roman letter. Renaissance roman letters where developed in northern Italy by scholars in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. These letter forms have a sensual nature and reflect the bustling time when beautiful art and music was being made with great ambition and progressiveness. Just like Renaissance painting. The typographic letter developed during this time they set the standard for the medium for centuries to come. Moving on to the Mannerist letter we once again can compare changes in the typefaces to the changes in painting. Mannerist type is a bit longer and the angularity is stronger. Most work was primarily done in Italy and France during this time period. The Baroque letter has bit more differences from the benchmark Renaissance letter forms. Here is a list of difference that Robert Bringhurst points out. The stroke axis varies widely with in a single alphabet. Contrast is increased. The x-height is increased. The aperature is generally reduced. There is further softening of terminals from abrupt to lachrymal. The head serifs become sharp wedges. In summary the Baroque letters appear more modeled and less written than the Renaissance form. The give less evidence of the trace of the written letter, the scribal form. Part of that attribute can be contributed to the further development of moveable type. Neoclassic art can be classified as more rigid and restrained than Renaissance art. More science and less emotion. Neoclassical art is more interested in rigorous consistency. Yet still in Neoclassical letters evidence of the broad pen is evident. Bringhurst calls them a “products of the Rationalist ear: frequently beautiful, calm forms, but forms oblivious to the more complex beauty of organic fact.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Skipping ahead to the Realist letter which appeared in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries accompanying a large variety of artistic movements such as - Realism, Naturalism, Impressionism, Expressionism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Constructivism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Op Art, and many many more. Most all of these movements have inspired some sort of typographic form. Focusing

Changes throughout the centuries Changes throughout the centuries

on the Realist letter form we can notice that it has the same basic shape as the Neoclassical and Romantic letters but it is heavier on the serif or it has no serifs at all. The stroke, weight and aperture are much more uniform and consistent. Most realist typeface lack a full collection of goodies such as small caps and text figures. Geometric Postmodernism. These letter forms don’t revive classic typefaces of the Mannerist or Renaissance times they instead reminisce on Realist ideas adding in some post modern humor and a touch of typographic sophistication. Postmodern letters live in the world of technology - high-speed offset printing and digital design. Technology and culture has shaped all these eras of artistic movements. Typography fits in to these movements just as strongly as painting, music and architecture do. Typographers will continue to create letter forms that fit and react to contemporary times. Yet typography today is much like it has always been. Bringhurst states this “confront the basic task with which typography began. That is the task of answering in two dimensions to a world that has many.



Symbolic by necessity of tranferred signification
Robert Logan has hypothesized that there are six modes of language. He states that speech, writing, mathematics, science, computing and the Internet form an evolutionary chain of languages. Each one of these languages have different similarities amongst each other and each mode has evolved from the previous language due to its inability to deal with new information and needs in society. Each language has its own distinct semantics and syntax. The first mode speech is our original way of sharing information. Before written language evolved memorization of speech was the primary way to store and pass on information with in a culture. In speech we listen to the melody of the language. This skill is important for retaining information that exceeds one’s intellectual ability. Rhyme and rhythm are used in addition to melody to create easily stored and remembered information. This way of communication is the tradition of how societies and cultures passed down valuable information. Shamans in ancient cultures where given the responsibility of retaining the history of the tribe. Shamans are healers and storytellers. They had to memorize and relay information through Rhythm, rhyme and melody. Their words opened doors of creative thought and visualization for tribe members inviting the presence of other forces. In India the word manthra which means sacred sound defines how the delivery of words can give extra meaning, spiritual meaning. Shamans often didn’t know the entire meaning of the information they were relaying. They relied on the Rhythm and rhyme of the Shaman who taught them to convey that special cultural meaning. In today’s Christian world we have our own special expressions and meanings. When reciting a scripture we have normal expressions and we have expressions that mean something. Such as the use of the word amen, amen is a word of Egyptian origin. It means sun god and it has evolved through the centuries to become a word of special meaning for the ending of a prayer. It has almost no association to its original meaning. The oral tradition is enhanced by the written system. The written system relies on characters representing phonetic value. Capturing and storing information grammar and structure become more important in the written mode of language. We use the rules of grammar to check the logic, to compare efficiently. We also go beyond the grammar into the structure that is called logical reasoning, not only for organization but for systemization so that we can organize our variety of interpretations of the world. Our third mode of language is mathematics. Math is deprived of other meanings. It is a special language and we use it to measure and quantify things. We use it to draw parallels and to compare and contrast. We try to find ways in which the world is made up of and can be broken down to math. A number four we have scientific methods. We com-

“Not binary logic in the visual realm. Harmony is an aesthetic value. We are trying to emulate and look for simularity bet ween the subject matter and the choice of typeface.”
-Zoran Belic




Symbolic by necessity of tranferred signification

Design is subtle manipulaton.

Symbolic by necessity of tranferred signification

bine it with number three mathematics because math is at the core of all scientific methods. It is used to analyze and with out it scientists would not have enough time to find meaning in the vast plethora of information in our world today. Which leads us to our fifth mode; computing. The computational mode is all about complexity. Computers are used for accessing information and sorting information. Scientists are heavily reliant on computers. Computers are made up of math. They are used to enhance our communication. Computers are an extension of a scientists mind. The most recent and sixth mode of language is the internet. The information revolution is redefining the way we learn and process information. This technology will have powerful effects on social, economic and cultural life. How can we relate all of this information to our design. Well we as designers understand that visual media is a big aspect of communication. Today as designers we are not honest people. It is our job to manipulate and seduce our viewers to desire the product we are advertising through visual means. We aren’t looking to outright manipulate them we get into their subconscious through associations and metaphors. There are two desires that consumers have. The desire to possess, to own, to occupy and to most of all live. There is on the contrary fear of loss which deep down is tied to a fear of dying. We designers tap into these fears and desires with color, composition, association and strong metaphors.



Book Review
Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style
I find Robert Bringhurst’s book “Elements of Typographic style” an exhaustingly thorough analysis and presentation of typography and its history. I was researching Robert Bringhurst online and found an interview with him after the release of his second edition of the book. I found this quote that he said at the very end very applicable to my journey as a designer. He said “The masters of art, it seems to me are those who never stop apprenticing.” I’ve heard this saying in various forms over the years but I like the way he states it because it really keeps people off of their pedestals. There is not much room to move on top of a pedestal. What I think he is saying is that we can learn from lots of different people and if we approach each day as an opportunity to learn something new we can progress the medium of design. We can keep aspiring to do better and keep learning. I was quite overwhelmed by the book as I began to read it, Bringhurst weaves poetic lyrical descriptions of type with tangible logical rules to follow. I really had to relax my senses and just take the book in, and try to absorb through inspiration. What I really did enjoy about the book was the deep visceral respect Bringhurst places on the art of type design and typography. His in depth look into every minute aspect of page layout, typeface choice, etc. etc. It’s not only an in depth look, it also includes many strict guidelines to follow for the organization and distribution of the type on the page. What I was most interested in was the actual process of making a typeface out of metal at a type foundry. He dipped into explaining it in bits and pieces but he never fully explains how it happens. The book is definitely a typographic bible as Hermann Zapf has wished it to become. It is the kind of book a designer can reference over time or read leisurely in parts. I really enjoyed Chapter 6: Choosing and Combining Type. He talks about how a typeface should be chosen on the basis that it has remained faithful to the spirit and the letter of the old designs. Many typefaces have gone from metal to photo and finally to digital. Faces are designed differently for each output medium. The weight and finish are different. As a typographic purist he talks about the final printing conditions being taken into consideration as well. He is mostly talking about poor digital reproduction such as a laser printer. He constantly refers to the original intention of a typeface. What it was made for, who made it and why, what time period it was made in. What typefaces it was inspired by or modeled after. What kind of paper it was pressed into. It seems a bit anal at time but that kind of attention to every detail can enhance the subconscious impact of the design. In this chapter he says choose faces that suit the task as well as the subject. Go with the deeper less obvious associations. Once again we come back to subconscious manipulation. He uses the example of designing a book about bicycle racing. Don’t use a typeface that has and O with spokes in it and a T that resembles handle bars. Choose a typeface that

“We see that letters can remind us of other objects so we as designers find a visual a n a l o g y bet ween s i m i l a r objects and letter forms.”
-Zoran Belic




Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style

Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style

is first and foremost good type. Then look for the assets that you will need. Such as a typeface that is good for long body text. Maybe a face that is lean and strong, swift. A French or Italian face would be good to since those two countries have a long passionate history in cycling. I am very interested in Bringhurst’s detailed look at typography and how it is a highly complex and misunderstood art form. I wish to over time absorb all his principle of type. I am much more interested in his process. His process of analysis and his start to finish break down of what needs to be looked at is applicable to any creative process. I remember one favorite passage where he speaks of how instinct is memory in disguise. I find that very true. Look at most of the early 20th century masters of Art such as Picasso, Matisse, Rodin, or Pollock. These artist didn’t jump straight into abstract, expressive, cubist, child like art. They learned the principles of painting and sculpture and then pushed it even further with their intuition. Picasso learned from Cezanne’s work, Pollock learned from Picasso’s work. Yet they all create innovative progressive utterly unique styles of painting. Bringhurst’s process is phenomenal. The genius of typography is in the details. Not very many people could look at the actual book and how it is designed and see what care and precision he put into the type design to complement his brilliant writing. What if the cover was pink and the type was blue on grey paper using Arial as the choice typeface. What would then be perceived of the book and its author? Great design is often the most difficult to describe especially for the laymen. The pink cover with blue text could be pointed out by anyone as terrible and uninviting. What about a poorly justified text with the rivers running right through each and every page? Would that be noticed? Typography is a highly intelligent art form. Chapter 8: Shaping the page is probably my favorite chapter. More often than not I’m a sucker for Bringhurst’s poetic metaphorical writing. Here’s the opening paragraph. “A book is a flexible mirror of the mind and the body. Its overall size and proportions, the color and texture of the paper, the sound it makes as the pages turn, and the smell of the paper, adhesive and ink, all blend with the size and form and placement of the type to reveal a little about the world in which it was made.” He talks about how we have no real freedom of choice when it comes to choosing the shape and size of our substrate. We are restricted to the already determined sized decided by commerce. We have history, natural science, geometry and mathematics to aid us in dividing up our determined surface so that it is pleasing to the eye in the end. I am particularly fascinated by the golden section and the Fibonacci series. I enjoy the fact that this dimension is inherently pleasing to the eye. It makes perfect sense that in America we have inches instead of the metric system, and we

have 8.5 x 11 instead of A4 which uses the golden section. We just have to do everything different no matter the sacrifice. Chapter 7: Historical Interlude I found very educational. Comparing and contrasting a number of faces from different periods of time really showed me a typeface really is highly representative of time period, especially the italics. Compare early I Renaissance italics to the Mannerist italics. The Renaissance italic Bembo has a rounded almost angular curves. The Mannerist italic Poetica is very script like with long and exaggerated tails and serifs. These subtle differences are important when choosing a typeface for a design. Simply going off of what face looks cool isn’t enough for Bringhurst. Yes he would agree that the page layout and design needs to visually and aesthetically soothing. But if you choose an English typeface designed for the protestant church for use with a book of Jewish poetry its completely ironic. Like I’ve already mentioned before. Most people won’t care or won’t get it. Typographers will see it as a sick joke. But the deeper more important issue is that choosing to mix styles and eras needs to be an aesthetic conscious choice. Not a lazy design solution. Little subconscious details go along way. They enhance the message of the text. The ultimate goal of the typographer is to enhance. One question that I would like to ask Mr. Bringhurst is this; What if the content in which I, the typographer am designing the book for is crap? What if I get some really terrible short stories with no plot, poor character development, too much dialog, and a boring mundane message? Do I do my best to enhance that story by creating an amazing book and with a beautiful typeface, elegant margins, perfect justification and kerning? Do I give it an innovative cover with soft supple paper? Or should I create a completely ironic design where everything clashes and it’s all a complete mash-up of randomness, just like the text within it. I’ll go ahead and answer my own question. I would make as wonderful design as I possibly can so that at the very best the book could win an award for its design. To take a step back and look at the issue, I see that a designer can find assets in even the worst of projects. Everything has something positive to contribute. In the case of my example it might just be buried deep down under all the terrible writing that I mentioned…but it’s there. Chapter 3 don’t compose without scale. This chapter deals with issues of hierarchy, something that is often overlooked and misused in the design industry. I’ve seen it miss used in an attempt to be innovative, different. I am all for stretching the envelope, painting outside the lines, walking on the wild side. When it includes diverging from clear communication its just frivolous and self indulging. Designer’s often forget that they are designing visual communication, not personal works of art. One thing I noticed in chapter 6 is that Bringhurst is



Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style

Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style

always referring about to scribes and the early centuries of metal type. Many of Bringhurst’s rules for typography and in this chapter for scale are derived from old scribal traditions. It’s fascinating to me that in so many art forms valuable rules and guidelines have been lost through time. In typography these guidelines have been ignored due to the sheer simplicity of digital typography. Anybody can choose a font lay it out and make a book. Centuries ago before letterpressing handwriting was an art form. Scribes where highly regarded because they were the documenters of history of information. They had rules and guidelines for creating a page. Other crafts are similar. Technology seems to initially kill all the beauty of the hand crafted product. Our hope is that over time, it regains all the virtues of the craft to enable all it’s dimensions to be created with ease. Typography seems to finally turning the corner. But we need more typographic masters guiding the technology. Right now in America you cannot copyright a typeface. I’ve learned from this book that many great ancient and classic typefaces have lost their luster over the years either from poor recreation. Or from being converted through too many different technologies like I mentioned earlier. Reading this book makes me want to visit a type museum or see a letter pressed sheet of Bembo or Baskerville on beautiful paper. I want use a set letters and run a press. I want to see the process of making the metal type. One could really just go through this book and read the headers of each chapter and the subheads throughout the chapter. Take this summer at the end of chapter 1 it’s a great list to reference. “There are always exceptions, always excuses for stunts and surprises. But perhaps we can agree that, as a rule, typography should perform these services for the reader: • • • text; • • link the text with other existing elements; induce a state of energetic repose, which is invite the reader into the text; reveal the tenor and meaning of the text; clarify the structure and the order of the

designer will benefit from reading this book based on the principles that Bringhurst instills and promotes. Don’t be simplistic in your type choice and page layout. Look into the values of the content. Research and know its history and roots, its intention and meaning. Choose a typeface that reflects that. Choose a page layout that makes text easy to read. Enhance, enhance, enhance. If you over design and draw the focus completely to your typeface and your layout you’ve failed, it needs to be a harmonious marriage of content and design. In chapter 6 Bringhurst talks about building a type library. He says, “choose your library of faces slowly and well.” The best typographers have no more than one roman font at a time, one blackletter and one Greek. He feels that today we have too many fonts that more often than not don’t make up a complete collection. Have a little of the best than a lot of the mediocre or the routine. I completely agree and I actually look to apply this to my life. I would rather have one really nice well made, comfortable pare of shoes that will age and adapt with me over time…lasting years, than to buy 2 pairs a year because they wear out every six months and become uncomfortable. The same goes for choosing a typeface. Buy a good typeface or family and get to know it. Find various ways to apply it to design, explore its possibilities. Then move on. I think the same thing can be said for many different disciplines. When you learn something new. Learn everything about it. Become the best you can be at it. Don’t be satisfied with just surface knowledge or surface understanding. Learn its language. As a designer I need to know the specific language of design, so I can converse in that language with other designers. That is what gives our profession validity, and that is what gives a person a certain prestige. It’s how we know who are the masters; not only by how they create but by how they discuss and verbalize their work and their philosophies about their work and the profession. It’s interested how analphabetic symbols are often not of the same design of the typeface. Bringhurst states “the palette of analphabetic symbols is much more supple and expressive than it appears through the narrow grill of the typewriter keyboard.” These symbols are not to be over used but many of them are effective forms of typographic punctuation. His favorite is the midpoint. Use analphabetic symbols that are in touch with the basic font. He points out square brackets[] and parentheses as “problem characters” often of poor design. Sometimes characters are borrowed from other fonts, which can definitely cause stylistic problems. Bringhurst encourages us to borrow the italic ampersand (and symbol) for use with roman text. The italic ampersand has more character, and more movement. Once again I am inspired by his delving into the smallest of details. Next he talks about the hyphen, calling it the lowly hyphen. Many type designers designed the hyphen to slightly

the ideal condition for reading. Or how about just going through chapter 2: Rhythm and Proportion. 2.1 Horizontal motion. 2.1.1 Define the word space to suit the size and natural letterfit of the font. 2.1.2 Choose a comfortable measure. 2.1.3 Set ragge if ragged setting suits the text and the page. I could go on and on from chapter to chapter and it’s a great layout, a great learning tool. These subhead paragraph lead-ins could be a typographer’s mantra. Recite master Bringhurst’s 100 rules of type at sunrise and sundown. I think if I didn’t know anything about typography this book might be a little bit more difficult to digest. Any and all



Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style

slant upward, but when typefaces were commercially issued a straight one would be substituted. BringHurst encourages us to be faithful to the designers original intentions. All in all I really enjoyed this book and intend to read it fully through again, and to also drop in from time to time and read the subheads and summaries to gains some insights and inspiration. This truly is a typographic bible and it contains many proverbs of design that go beyond typography into good solid creative guidance.



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