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Author and typographer Robert Bringhurst said it best, in his much-respected book The Elements of Typographic Style, “Typography exists to honor content.” This has always been true, whether it’s printed matter in a textbook or the main creative element in a design solution.

Typography is the style, arrangement or appearance of printed matter. Its origins come from the Greek typos meaning “dent, impression, mark” and graphia meaning “writing.” A broad term, over time it has meant different things to different people, but it has always served as the vehicle for information. In the 20th century, it became a tool of the designer, and evolved from a means of delivering a message to often becoming the central design component. Its most recent incarnations have been in the digital realm, opening it up to even more interpretation (or not, if one considers online type issues: legible fonts, CSS and relative font sizing).

Typography is complex, an intricate science. To the designer, and connoisseur of type, choosing to use a particular font in one’s work is a big decision. The implications are huge; the characters carry weight in terms of how they are perceived as well as what they are referencing. What impression needs to be made? One of harmony or strength, contemporary or historical, casual or sophisticated? If chosen well, type will echo the sentiments the designer intended for the targeted audience.

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Typographers take their concerns many steps further, looking at serif or sans serif, contrast, weight, structure, kerning and so on. For the uninitiated, the minutiae can be overwhelming. One only has to search for “typography” in Google to see 15 million results.

For this feature, we invited creatives to submit design solutions that used typography as the primary ingredient. While no one can deny its popularity in the design community—just look at the number of type titles that are published each year—we were uncertain of the response we would receive. Much to our surprise, submissions poured in from all over the world. Twenty-one type-centric solutions were chosen for inclusion, representing an inspiring range of work, including brochures, posters, signage, logos, identities and a truck wrap.

One such project that came with an inordinate amount of pressure in terms of the typography was the TypeCon2006 identity. Of course it stands to reason that when branding a conference for The Society of Typographic Aficionados (SOTA) every detail must reflect their dedication to type. SOTA and TypeCon executive director Tamye Riggs says, “The assignment can be a challenge for designers who work with SOTA. They understand going in that type must be central to every single piece they develop…The pressure can be intense; the design review board scrutinizes every detail of the typography, requesting multiple tweaks to kerning and spacing, weight changes and modifications to letterforms for better fit. The smallest details are important to making type look its best.

Typography exists to honor content.” —Robert Bringhurst


“We’ve been fortunate to work with designers that love type,” Riggs continues. “That said, even top talents get a little nervous knowing that their type treatments must stand up to the scrutiny of experts and critics from around the world. Once a TypeCon identity is released to the public, the eyes of the type world are on it, and they can be quite vocal if something doesn’t work…It was a real pleasure to work with Clifford Stoltze and his crew at Stoltze Design in Boston for the TypeCon2006 identity. Stoltze totally understood how to evoke the feel of Boston with typography. He took a somewhat clichéd theme (a play on the historic Boston Tea Party) and came up with a fine blend of history and contemporary style.”

Budget constraints are sometimes the catalyst for choosing type solutions in lieu of photography or illustration, but the scope of projects on the following pages demonstrate that the substitution does not have to compromise quality and that type, indeed, is a many splendored thing. ca

Rebecca Bedrossian is global content director of POSSIBLE in Portland, Oregon. The former managing editor of Communication Arts, Bedrossian has been immersed in the world of design and advertising for over 15 years. She has served on the board of AIGA San Francisco, and her articles on visual culture and creatives have appeared in publications throughout the industry.

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