Part 1: Objectives

Typography: Text & Image, Text as Image, Image as Text

The questions for this week:

  • Why has typography become such an important tool?
  • How does typography straddle the divide between word and image?
  • In what ways can we say that letters are themselves visual objects?
  • Does the interplay of text and image make for a more powerful communicative expression than text or image alone?
  • Can type alone influence us and affect our perceptions?

Part 1: To-Do List

  • Blog post relating to last week’s coursework or class
  • Readings/Texts
  • Attend optional live session or review material in live session folder if you didn’t attend
  • Work on the Children’s Book Assignment

Part 1: Overview

Typography – Letters as words and art and communication

Letters are so central to our culture that they have become almost invisible as objects in themselves. But letters are visual objects that we use to represent the sounds, words and information that we speak: verbal communication.

Our brains must first interpret these visuals and process them into their corresponding sounds to understand the words they represent. This is why speaking is natural to humans, but reading and writing have to be learned.

As writing and printing became more important to human societies, the marks we made evolved with our media. Once printing became central to Western cultures, letters became text, which then developed into the field of typography–“the style, arrangement, or appearance of typeset matter” (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Typography became big business in the age of mass media and advertising and reclaimed its roots as a visual object in of itself as text has become image as much as a substitution for image or accompaniment to image.

Text has become an essential part of our visual and communicative landscape in travel and navigation, education, politics, advertising, on the internet, as logos and symbols, and in art.

Text is everywhere.

This unit, as usual, can only touch on the complex and fascinating study of the nature and role of letter forms, typography, and writing in our society.

There is a lot to see, read, and think about for this topic. And if you do take the time to reflect on this material, the world around you will start looking different as you notice type all around us, influencing us and affecting us.

See what you start noticing!

Part 1: Readings & Text

  1. Matthew Butterick, “What is Good Typography?” Butterick’s Practical Typography. 2nd ed.
    • An excellent overview from a great and opinionated open resource on typography.
  2. What Different Types of Fonts Mean and How to Use Them
    • There’s a lot of information on this page presented as infographics. Stop to consider whether the feelings you get from these typefaces match what the writer says these typefaces convey.
  3. Digital Synopsis, 39 Creative Ads with Brilliant Typography
    • Here’s where the lettering and design truly come together. This website gathers together a number of outstanding examples of where you can’t separate the message from the way it is conveyed: the type as image creates the communicative message.
  4. Roger Dooley, “The Wrong Font Can Kill You. Literally. Your Sales, Too.Neuromarketing
    • Typography is serious business as well. It is an important design feature, and like design in general, it can have life consequences depending on the message or object.
  5. Suzanne Labarre, “Are Some Fonts More Believable than Others?Fast Company, August 16, 2012.
    • Fonts can influence you in multiple conscious and unconscious ways.

Digging Down Deeper

Douglas Davis, Imported from Brooklyn (22:47)

This video documentary profiles CUNY graduate Tony Di Spigna, a world-renown typographer and one of the most influential artists in his field. He is still active, having designed lettering for Meghan Markle’s and (Prince) Harry’s wedding. This film won a 2020 Emmy for special educational documentary.

Citation: [Brooklyn Free Speech] (2020, Feb. 20) “Douglas Davis, Imported From Brooklyn | B Free Awards 2020: People’s Choice” [Video File]. Retrieved from

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