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Type Design Quotations

In Others Words... the Art and Science of Designing Fonts


One of my type designs.

Anyone can be a type designer, right? | Font Design Techniques | How to Make Fonts

© Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com
Although software makes it possible for anyone off the street to turn their handwriting into a font or create something that looks and acts like a font, a professional type designer is highly skilled and knowledgeable about the anatomy of typefaces as well as type history. Type designers create new typefaces from scratch or based on existing typeface designs and their work is generally considered the best for professional typesetting. Type design requires both technical skill to create a digital typeface that works and artistic skill to create a typeface that looks good and meets the demands of those using it.

In the first section we have some quotes on the process of designing fonts. In way of personal commentary and explanation, I believe I've been a bit wordier than the designers I'm quoting here — making it necessary to do these font design quotations in two pages. But I hope you find it all as fascinating as I do.

Type Design is the Art of Words

"Geometry can produce legible letter but art alone makes them beautiful. Art begins where geometry ends, and imparts to letters a character trascending mere measurement." — Paul Standard
Similar to someone who knows all the technical workings of InDesign inside and out. They can produce technically perfect layouts that look good and print without issues. But it's that artistic spark that's needed to really make the layout stand out. Classic fonts and the most used fonts by graphic designers tend to have that extra spark as well.
"... a type designer does not draw letters. A type designer designs words and words are structures that contain patterns of black and white shapes, form and counterform. It is a game that deals with space and rhythm. " — Cyrus Highsmith
This observation by Highsmith fits in perfectly with some of our typography quotations in this quotes series such as Ellen Lupton's "Typography is what language looks like." We may try to identify a typeface by looking at individual characters, but choosing a typeface to use we tend to look more at how the characters all work together, come together to form words and sentences. That's how we use most typefaces -- in rows and columns of words. Some sites offering fonts for free or for sale now include a mechnism that allows you to enter your own custom phrase. Seeing how the typeface looks in words of your choosing can help you find the right fit for your project.
"Type production has gone mad, with its senseless outpouring of new types… only in degenerate times can personality (opposed to the nameless masses) become the aim of human development" — Jan Tschicold
This Tschicold quote makes me laugh. It's from 1928 — before the more recent era of software that gave just about anyone the ability to churn out twisted, tortured, half-baked, poorly kerned fonts. Yes, I've designed a font or two and no, they aren't great, probably senseless. Perhaps I knew back in 2002 that they'd make a good "do as I say not as I do" example for this article in 2010?
"Are some free fonts a gift to humanity rather than a blight on typographic civilization ?" — Ellen Lupton
I don't know the context of this Lupton quote — only found it mentioned on one Web page -- but it poses a good question. Or several. There are some fantastic type designers out there creating free fonts. And often commercial foundries and type designers will release a freebie or too as an enticement to explore their other (paid) offerings. But you'll find an awful lot of bad type design on some free font sites. Do these free fonts hurt or help type design?

Continue to page 2 for font design quotations that reveal why good type design is invisible.

Pick Your Path to Desktop Publishing
Get Started:Basic Guidelines and Requirements for Desktop Publishing
Choose Software:Desktop Publishing and Design Software
Make Something: Things to Make Using Desktop Publishing
Tips & Tutorials:How to Do Desktop Publishing
Training, Education, Jobs:Careers in Desktop Publishing
In the Classroom: Back to School With Desktop Publishing
Use Templates: Templates for Print and Web Publishing

Readers Respond: Best Ways to Mix and Match Fonts

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