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Type Design Quotations

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


body copy fonts

Body copy requires legible, easy to read fonts. | Font Design Techniques | How to Make Fonts

© Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com
Our look at type design through the words of others continues. In this section the type design quotes look at the invisibility of something that is in front of us daily. In type design, not being seen is a good thing.

Good Type Design is Invisible

"Type design is one of the most visible and widespread forms of graphic expression in daily life. It is still not noticed by all readers of newspapers, magazines or books. Nevertheless letter forms reflect the style of a period, and its cultural background. We are surrounded by them everywhere." — Hermann Zapf
It doesn't matter when a typeface was originally created — the 1920s or 2010 — it contains some kind of visual history. Certain font styles remind us of old movies, the days of the wild, wild West, the groovy Sixties, or specific countries and cultures such as Ireland or China. Yet, for the most part this history goes unnoticed by, is invisible to most readers. That doesn't mean we can use any old font though. On some level most of us recognize that a book or magazine has a newsy, Old World, current, or classic look and feel, in large part because of the type design choices. As a designer, be aware of the style reflected in your own font choices.
"Type design moves at the pace of the most conservative reader. The good type-designer therefore realizes that, for a new fount to be successful, it has to be so good that only very few recognize its novelty." — Stanley Morison
Again we have the theme of invisibility. It's there. We see it. But we don't really notice it. With our type choices that's a good thing. Novelty in display type for headlines intended to grab the reader's intention is one thing, but for the bulk of the text in a publication we need to choose more classic, conservative fonts even in the hippest, trendiest publications.
"Type well used is invisible as type, just as the perfect talking voice is the unnoticed vehicle for the transmission of words, ideas." — Beatrice Warde
On television, reporters and news anchors (especially on national news shows) seem to have the same voice. You don't notice much in the way of regional accents. But when they are out doing on the street interviews the different speech patterns that identify various groups of people are noticeable and sometimes distracting. A pronounced drawl or rapid-fire speech often becomes more of the focus than what is being said. Invisible type is the voice of news reporters and other on-air personalities. A snippet of an accent in a headline — novelty type — can serve to get the reader's attention. But if you want them to notice the message in your text more than the type your text is in, choose a type design that blends in.
"...the most important thing I have learned is that legibility and beauty stand close together and that type design, in its restraint, should be only felt but not perceived by the reader." — Adrian Frutiger
This follows in the same vein as the previous quotes. Good type design doesn't stand up and shout "Look at me!" It has a more subtle effect on the reader. It lets the words have centerstage. However, the right font (along with layout, images, color, and other elements of the design) can influence the reader by evoking certain feelings or emotions suitable to the purpose of the piece.

As I don't have ready access to the original source materials for most of these typography quotations, I've tried to find multiple secondary sources. Most of the quotations used here are not disputed. Unlike the Frederic W. Goudy quotation about letterspacing and stealing sheep. This Typophile discussion thread on Famous Quotes From Type Designers shows how many versions are out there of the Goudy quotation and some commenters attempt to explain why.

Resources and more typography quotations:

Readers Respond: Best Ways to Mix and Match Fonts

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