Better Type Mus' Come #1: Seeing Beauty

 

Q: I sincerely want to improve my typographic skills and want to know what you think is a great way to walk that path? 

A: Thank-you Arnaldo. You have a delightful way with words. I couldn't have phrased that question better ...a great way to walk that path? You're right, typography is a skill and takes years of practice and understanding to get good at. I'm just getting started myself, so let me catch you up. I embrace this challenge and will do my best to help guide you with what I know and with what available resources I have.


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To start things off, Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech is a commanding call-to-typography action (and inspirational too). For especially the non-designers out there, this speech quickly validates the importance and value of typography. One, because its Steve Jobs — the 21st century Thomas Edison. And two, because we all enjoy Apple products. Steve Jobs on typography:


Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.


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I. An Eye for Beauty


"I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating."



The path to good typography begins I think with an instinctual appreciation for beauty. Following that cue, one can start asking questions and begin the discipline and joy of seeing. I suppose it's like eating. We can eat to eat, but until we start tasting for ourselves, then cooking is limited. In the context of typography, seeing is vital. Beauty is the reward. Inge Druckrey's Teaching to See is the best crash course in seeing that I've come across. It's a bit heavy, but it contains all that you would find in a basic graphic design class and then some.      


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In the next lesson, we will discuss the topic of typography as frozen sound.

Japanese movie poster version of the movie Punch, Drunk, Love

Japanese movie poster version of the movie Punch, Drunk, Love