Typography and Layout
Letter forms are art forms. Typography is the art and technique
of composing printed material from letter forms (typefaces
or fonts). Designers, hired to meet clients' communication
needs, frequently create designs that relate nonverbal images
and printed words in complementary ways.
Cultures throughout history have appreciated the visual aspects
of their written language. In China, Japan, and Islamic cultures,
calligraphy is considered an art. While personal writing in
the West has never been granted that status, letters for public
architectural inscriptions have been carefully designed since
the time of the ancient Romans, whose alphabet we have inherited.
With the invention of movable type around 1450, the alphabet
again drew the attention to designers. Someone had to decide
on the exact form of each letter, creating a visually unified
alphabet that could be mass-produced as a typeface, a style
of type. No less an artist than Albrecht Der turned
his attention to the design of well-balanced letterforms.
Constructing each letter within a square, Der paid
special attention to the balance of thick and thin lines and
to the visual weight of the serifs, the short cross lines
that finish the principle strokes.
The letters Der designed would have been laboriously
carved in wood or cast in metal, and they would have been
set (placed in position) by hand prior to printing. Today,
type is created and set by computer and photographic methods.
The design of typefaces continues to be an important and often
highly specialized field, and graphic designers have literally
hundreds of styles to choose from. Moreover, many type designers
are redesigning and updating old fonts, keeping in mind readability
and contemporary preferences. A layout is a designer's blueprint
for an extended work in print such as a book or magazine.
It includes such specifications as the dimensions of the page,
the width of the margins, the sizes and styles of type for
text and headings, the style and placement of running heads
or feet (lines at the top or bottom of the page that commonly
give the chapter or part title and page number), and many
other elements. Illustrations are placed to relieve and even
disguise page symmetry, and a page makeup artist may take
pains to arrange each spread in a pleasing asymmetrical composition.
Beginning in the 1980s, a number of designers began to experiment
with more radical approaches that sacrificed easy legibility
for visual appeal. Some contemporary designers rarely use
a consistent layout, preferring to create each spread as a
new composition. Text might be scattered, run upside down
or at an angle, printed over itself, or made to disappear
into a photograph. One spread often continues over the page
turn into the next, creating a free-flowing, cinematic feel.
To detractors who claim that such work is chaotic and illegible,
many modern designers point out that legibility and communication
are not the same thing. Communication begins by attracting
and engaging the viewer's attention. Readers attracted to
the mood of the design will be willing to make an effort to
decipher its message.
Presently, anyone who uses a computer can select fonts and
can create documents that look typeset, producing desktop
publications such as newsletters and brochures. However, computer
programs, like pencils, paintbrushes, and cameras, are simply
tools: They can facilitate artistic claims if their operator
has artistic sensibilities. Finally, designers frequently
work together. In printed design, a writer, a designer, and
often an illustrator or photographer work as a team.