Hello fellow lovers of type. This post kicks off a new series we call “Inspired Type,” which we hope inspires and educates with awesome curated creative typography work.
Today we’ll be looking at this short but excellent episode of PBS Off-Book about typography, which interviews several well known designers to get their unique insights and philosophy around what type means to them, to their audience, and to the world at large.
One fact they all make clear and celebrate is that type is more than just letters strung together to communicate—it’s a communication system in itself. Typeface, color and design work together to elicit a feeling, get a reaction, and establish an identity.
Typeface designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones outline the importance of selecting the right font to convey a particular feeling. To them, typefaces are design system that express that way things relate to one another and “help externalize your identity to the world.” Through color, form, and information, typefaces are “not toys, but tools designed to solve problems” and “should play second fiddle to the message.”
Graphic designer Paula Scher talks about building identity in messaging. With her innovative work on jazz record covers and in branding Broadway shows, she strives to push the audience to see something in a new way, with a goal of creating “a visual language as opposed to a logo.”
Designer Eddie Opara uses texture to create a reaction, specializing in texture. He even creates textured versions of existing fonts using code. In his work, “You’ll be drawn to it whether you like it or hate it” so it’s effectively “doing its job.”
One area where type has become more visible is in the burgeoning field of infographics. For example, love it or hate it, the Facebook Timeline was designed by a modern-day infographics guru, coming a long way from the pioneering data visualization work of Edward Tufte. Today’s infographics can be quite sophisticated, creative and digestible all at once, with contemporary typefaces a big part of this integrated “communication system.” We’re all familiar with the more simple stuff from mainstream publications like USA Today, but more forward-thinking (and creative work) is seen daily in magazines like Wired and sites like Good.
Infographic designers Julia Vakser and Deroy Peraza map complicated data sets into digestible imagery, mixing color, graphics and type, “taking all available data and deciding the most important piece of information we need to communicate…. Our process is to distill the info to a very key point.”
Some other inspiring thoughts from the designers featured in this piece:
Check out the movie and get inspired. For more creative inspiration from PBS, check out the other videos in the series.