| December 1, 2010 7:22 pm

Note: Still working on the book.

In my readings in typography, I’ve come across two distinct schools of thought about what typography “should” be.  Hermann Zapf succinctly summarizes the position of the first school:

Typographic design [has been] misconstrued as a form of private self-expression for designers. But as Bringhurst puts it: “Good typography is like bread: ready to be admired, appraised and dissected before it is consumed.”

In the first school of thought, typography is seen as a way to enhance a message by conveying it clearly. To a member of this group, personal eccentricities are dangerous because they detract from the spirit of the text.  To quote from Bringhurst (The Elements of Typographic Style):

In a world rife with unsolicited messages, typography must draw attention to itself before it will be read.  Yet, in order to be read, it must relinquish the attention it has drawn.  Typography with anything to say therefore aspires to a kind of statuesque transparency.  Its other traditional goal is durability: not immunity to change, but a clear superiority to fashion.  Typography at its best is a visual form of language linking timeless and time.

The second school, in contrast, sees typography as a form of self-expression.  Amongst proponents of this way of thinking, what the typographer wishes to convey is at least as important as the message of the author.

Personally, I think that both schools have their place.  Moreover, there may even be a third school in the middle which combines elements of the two.  It is possible to both clearly communicates the message while still providing room for personal expression.  For example, consider this book design beauty from Behance, which consists of interpretations of Bob  Brown’s essay, The Readies.

Clearly, the typographer has something to say, but I would hardly argue that he usurps Brown’s message.

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The book was created by Jihad Lahham.  More examples from his portfolio can be found here.  Again, this looks like a portfolio piece, which means that copies are nowhere to be had.

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