What’s Your Type? The Art and Design of Text

How can something so ordinary, so pedestrian and mundane be, at the same time, singular and iconic? Do you look at letters or are they just a means to an end? By ear and eye, we take them in–bite-sized, building block bold, every shape, look and length to behold.

Text talks, draws us in, is constantly pointing that-a-way. We follow its lead, relish and rail against the ideas it portends. Hand-lettered, typographic, calligraphic, script, print or scrawl, words turn heads.

A letter is a l­-i-n-e. A word is an im@ge, in fact, doubly so. What are the possibilities for the use of text as art? Why not start at the beginning with Alphabetical:  How Every Letter Tells a Story?

Draw Your Own Alphabets! Check out Hand Drawn Lettering:  Draw, Print, Paint. Find inspiration in The Art of Whimsical Lettering. Get bold! Try creating Knitted Letters or following The Knitted Alphabet: How to Knit Letters from A to Z.

What compares to the elegant flair of a calligraphic stroke? Teach yourself! Mastering Calligraphy:  The Complete Guide to Hand Lettering is a good place to start. Discover intricately drawn letterforms from across the world in Learn World Calligraphy: Discover African, Arabic, Chinese, Ethiopic, Greek, Hebrew, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Russian, Thai, Tibetan Calligraphy and Beyond.

Graffiti and calligraphy share the same page in The King of Kowloon: The Art of Tsang Tsou-ChoiHe roamed all over Hong Kong writing his family’s history across the city on walls. Graffiti is global. Read all about it in The Popular History of Graffiti: From the Ancient World to the Present. Then turn to Graff:  The Art and Technique of Graffiti for the details of how to draw bold, striking letterforms.

In what ways have artists used letters and letterforms to inform their artistic practice? Check out LetterScapes: A Global Survey of Typographic Installations and artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Tracey Emin, Jenny Holzer and Lorna Simpson who incorporate text into their work.

Type serves domestic, commercial and artistic purposes. From Type on Screen to Graphique de la Rue:  The Signs of Paris, our lives are inextricably linked to typography. Do you know their names? Take a tour of The Anatomy of Type:  A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces. Are you the Essential Type or do you go from Glyph to Shady Characters? There’s all types of books on type from the New Modernist Type to Shadow Type. No matter what type you fancy, typography has an essential function to perform. Type Tells Tales and those tales end up being formatted and transported in particular vehicles of transmission. DJ Stout’s Variations on a Rectangle is an excellent survey of the use of text and image to tell a story in book form.

You can tell a book by its cover! Come see the Open Set Exhibit showcasing fifty books representing a variety of styles and structural approaches in finely crafted design bookbinding, Sept. 8 – Oct. 28 at the Central Library. The Open-Set: Bookbinding & Book Arts resource list will get you started with binding your own books.

Broader perspectives on the role of text in society can be found in The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World.

Provocative ideas about differences between literate and preliterate societies are discussed in The Alphabet Versus the Goddess:  The Conflict Between Word and Image.

What’s the last word? Type us in! Check out the resource list What’s Your Type?  The Art and Design of Text. Write on!

~posted by Chris


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