Discovering Helvetica and Appreciating Lupton!

Part 1: While watching Helvetica, I live tweeted quotes that I found interesting or applicable to my journey as a (very early beginner) graphic designer. As I looked back on my tweets, here are some of the comments I found particularly intriguing:

  • “The designer has an enormous responsibility. Those are the people putting their wires into our heads.”
  • “Creating order is typography.”
  • “There is a very fine line between simple, clean, and boring, and simple, clean and beautiful.”
  • “Designing typefaces is like music. It’s not the notes, but the space between the notes that make the music.”

I find pleasure and value in these remarks because the designers who made them speak about typography so admirably. They feel as if it is an art form – and this documentary opened my eyes to truly see it as one. Before this class, I never gave too much thought to typefaces. I did not realize how much work goes into their development, nor was I aware of the vast history behind their progress.

Something else I became aware of through this documentary is how important white space is – and that the space outside the letters is just as important as the letters themselves. Contrast between letters and backgrounds are crucial to creating a good typeface, and the beauty of this contrast comes in the seamless incorporation of this so that the viewer appreciates the letter without noticing what makes it work.


Part 2: In “Letter”, the most interesting sections to me were the “type crimes.” These sections are unique because they point out many faults that I would never have known before studying graphic design. Some examples of these “type crimes” are using slanted letters as italic letters and shrunken versions of caps instead of integrated true small caps. These “type crimes” are sloppy and unprofessional, but I can definitely see myself committing a type crime before taking GRA 217 or reading Lupton’s oh-so-interesting textbook. Type crimes, like a lot of mistakes in graphic design, are a short-cut, an easy way to find a temporary solution to a problem that does not use the correct problem-solving skills. Good typefaces will not commit type crimes.


Part 3: The most important part of the “Text” chapter was the intro, where Lupton was talking about the importance of text as a whole, rather than words or phrases individually. This reflects Gestalt’s principle that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It is also great to visualize the way that Lupton describes a body of text, in terms of liquids or solids, body or blood, firm or flimsy. This chapter brought to my attention the importance of how text looks in relation to the rest of a page and its layout – and how you can paint a picture using text through the not only the typeface but the entirety of how it all interacts on a plane.

Lindsay Igoe

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