Words aren’t just for reading, why type matters so much

5 min readJan 9, 2020

How type can ignite your imagination

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

Type is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters.

This write-up is driven by what I learned from a month-long series of exercises using primarily type. The caveat, there are lots of contributing factors and other perspectives to consider — this is merely a short ramble on why I love type so much.

Minimalism & Simplicity.

What’s really typography? And why should we care? Well, It’s a letter, a word or a collection of them together. It’s our languages made visual. That’s it.

“What makes Helvetica more beautiful is the word “Helvetica” as a logotype in its typeface. It just makes the rest of the alphabets effective.”

It’s often a straightforward statement. Type offers a lighter-weight alternative to communication, since its our first line of it. This is not to rule out illustrations, photography or other visuals to aid in messaging, it’s merely to emphasize the need and beauty type can bring to (any) project you might be working on.

Sometimes all you need is a bold and tactically placed letter to get your point across. Okay, there’s more to it than that, but feel free to give it a shot, and we’ll go from there.

Sustainability & Timeless Design.

It’s interesting that if you look back on timeless patterns from not only the web, but print and other historical mediums, you’ll realize there are only so many form factors that hold up from century to century — (logos, fonts, even currency rely heavily on the simplicity of type).

From color and size to legibility and localization, the use of typography in design has played a serious role in so much of what we see today, but might be losing it’s edge with such a heavy influx of product design.

Product design offers a new world of creativity, yet often comes with a few limitations — typically due to emerging systematic design trends and hard edged principles to keep libraries and brands in tact for years to come. It can often involve overly complicated UI’s filled with actions, imagery and multi-step experiences, forcing designers down a less holistic and unique thinking path, especially with little room to lead with the simplicity of a type-first framework. But anything these days is possible.

From package sizing to platform support, typography is a great way to sell an idea, feeling or movement in a more universal way.

Transparent & Emotional.

The world we live in today is filled with saturated imagery and stories that may lack authenticity. It’s quite challenging to decode what’s real and what hasn’t been overly manipulated, and then to properly judge it at face value. Type is a great way to remove us from this conformity.

It conveys a more literal message, where as artwork (or something overly edited) is often left up to interpretation, potentially miss-communicating entirely. It’s just an art in itself and needs to be balanced properly/tastefully. It’s literal and often tugs at the heart strings for several reasons.

Figures are the most shocking things in the world. The prettiest little squiggles of black looked at in the right light and yet consider the blow they can give you upon the heart.

Some studies have tried to prove out how typefaces invoke emotion and why:(http://usabilitynews.org/perception-of-fonts-perceived-personality-traits-and-uses/):

  • Serif fonts were rated as “stable,” “practical,” and “mature.”
  • Sans serif fonts didn’t receive any particularly positive or negative personality associations.
  • Script fonts were perceived as “feminine,” “funny,” and “casual.”
  • Modern fonts were categorized as “masculine,” “assertive,” and “coarse.”
  • Monospaced fonts were called “dull,” “plain,” and “unimaginative.”

“When typography is on point, words become images.

Type in itself is a powerful image/set of images. It can exude confidence, from one side while creating a captivating pull for the consumer on the other. They themselves tell a story .The use of grids, negative space and color can play an insane role in the completeness of any type heavy project.

“… In a well-made book, where designer, compositor and printer have all done their jobs, no matter how many thousands of lines and pages, the letters are alive. They dance in their seats. Sometimes they rise and dance in the margins and aisles.”

We do not read everything that appears in print, but do read that which appears interesting.

Some of us love type and might not even know it.

It truly is a versatile and beautiful form of expression that will never disappear. This article by no means covers the vast cases or points that could be made about the usage of type in modern design.

From Swiss and foundry history to advertising and product design, there’s so much more and so many more reasons to explore it more than you probably have time to these days. Just food for thought and a short read to start your day.