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Helvetica & Lupton

Part 1:

As I watched the documentary “Helvetica”, I was surprised to discover how often the typeface is actually used. Before watching the documentary, I could identify the typeface on any document and recognize it as a default typeface. What surprised me most were how many companies, billboards and mundane objects utilized Helvetica.  America Apparel, Bloomingdales, parking signs, JC Penny, and Crate & Barrel are all familiar to me and I have never focused on the typeface outside of the entrance. During the cold Syracuse winters, I will recognize the bold Helvetica printed on each North Face coat. I doubt the amount of times I come in contact with the “default” typeface will change since I watched the documentary, but I am confident that I will become aware of the products of design that surround me and recognize when Helvetica is used.

            Typography is a new concept that I am beginning to take notice of and appreciate. Part of why I am so interested in different typefaces and the significance of individual typefaces is because I have discovered how important they are in telling your message through design. Everyone’s mother has always said “words mean something”. Yet, for the first time I am beginning to realize that not only do the words have meanings, but the letters themselves. The design and construction of each letter plays a vital role in delivering design that tells a story. Without a wise choice of typeface, the story can easily be misinterpreted or not comprehended at all. “Helvetica” has opened my eyes to the millions of designs and typefaces that surround me everyday and I am eager to start interesting designs that appear to be simple and written in Helvetica.

Part 2: Letter

One concept in particular that I identified with in Lupton’s chapter is that the point of studying different typefaces and styles is not simply to familiarize yourself with a wide array of options while you are designing. Fonts and weight can add significance to any piece of work but the importance of studying letters and type is to understand the history of each typeface so you can apply a typeface accordingly. On page 47, Lupton reassures us that “this is not a book about fonts. It is a book about how to use them. Typefaces are essential resources for the graphic designer, just as glass, stone, steel, and other materials are employed by the architect.” Lupton repeated this paragraph seven times using different typefaces to demonstrate that even though each paragraph consists of the same words, each paragraph holds a different significance. The typeface used to convey this to the reader suggests a certain wit or significance beyond the meaning of the words. Diction and syntax play a large role in the deliverance of meaning, however typeface is a necessary selection that presents words with a particular tone. All of the letters inscribed in a sentence relate back to history and the origin of each typeface. As a designer and a visual audience member, it is important to remember both the role of words and the importance of the letter’s presentation.

Part 3: Text

A key concept that I took away from Lupton’s text chapter is the strategic planning of spacing. Spacing is a complicated component of text for me because the art of writing and words is to deliver a sense of fluidity and continuation of both ideas and words. Spacing has the power to alter the designer’s intended message. As a writer, I struggle with how I want to present my ideas. The spoken language is an on-going flow of words that combine together and communicate with your intended audience. However, the words I write and inscribe on the page, compete with so many other distracting elements. For instance, the way I format my sentences, how many words I choose to include, the colors on the screen, my typeface, if I decide to use traditional black ink or perhaps a color, and spacing. I need to decide how close I want the letters to one another and analyze the significance of the space that stands between each one. Lupton draws light on the effect punctuation has on the way text is perceived and the effects is has on spacing. I am going to pay more attention to the spacing I apply in all my works of design and art. I am confident that by becoming more aware of how I adjust the spacing in my work, I will gain more control on how my audience perceives my work.

Danielle Hay

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