|/ octavo 86.2 editorial — written by s.j. with input from mark holt,
hamish muir and michael burke.
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|It is a fact that typography is rarely noticed and of little interest
to most people, including some graphic designers: perhaps the raw
material, the type forms, are too familiar. This disinterest,
coupled with a lack of inspired typography in the environment, has
brought us almost to the point where type is either applied as ‘the
grey stuff at the bottom’ (centred of course), to bring a basic
level of communication to an image-based design, or used as
structureless decoration in the latest attempt to appear
contemporary. Typography, however, is a visual language in itself,
whose syntax and grammar of form need to be learned if type is to be
used as an effective and intense tool of communication. Fluency in
any language requires serious study of that language’s particular
structure and vocabulary: proficiency is not achieved by merely
being able to quote a few hastily learned phrases. Type is used by
many people in design and related professions; admen, architects and
illustrators, some of whom have no formal typographic training.
Consequently type is often abused and devalued (misquoted as it
were), which lowers both standards and expectations. But it is too
easy to criticise without being constructive. Better to try to raise
the level and volume of discussion. Better to keep looking and
working, keep learning the language.