Typographic Voices

Excerpted from the article originally published in Communication Arts March/April 1998.
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Typography—how type is used rather than the specific design of typefaces—has always been a primary workhorse for communicating content. In much current design work though, images often take precedent over typography because of their power in terms of visual form. It is generally accepted that we live in an image-based culture rather than in one that is based on the written word.

Perhaps because of the emphasis on images in design, more and more designers are returning to typography as a means to make their work stand out. The power of the written word and typographic approaches to design are voices through which meaning can be articulated and content given more resonance.

Typographic treatments can be tailored to the specific purpose of a project: from traditional book typography that adheres to simple columns of text along with display type, to combinations of display and text type actively employing contrast, scale, white space, texture and layering to add further levels of emphasis and meaning. Media such as photography, filmmaking, television, multimedia and digital technology have also undeniably influenced contemporary typography. The most experimental results can readily be seen in many "alternative" music- and style-related publications that have sprouted up in recent years. New typographic approaches are becoming more prevalent in current graphic design beyond their more ephemeral editorial aspects. This article is a survey of some of the variety of ways typography is being applied in design.

In order to gain insight into typographic approaches currently in use, we contacted a group of designers from around the country who are using typography in innovative ways and asked them about the role it plays in their work, their influences and their creative processes.
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