· Typography and language ·

We got started with the following statement:

Typography can be treated as an image itself

Text doesn’t need an image to stand by itself. Actually there is a metaphor that Beatrice Warde (1900-1969), who was a typography expert and publicity manager for the Monotype Corporation, uses in her book “The Crystal Goblet” that explains it pretty well: you have to worry about what’s inside the goblet not about the goblet itself. That is to says that the content is much more important than the contender. Despite so, the typography needs to have a relation with the content because, otherwise, it would be just decoration.

Beatrice Warde (1955), ‘The crystal goblet’ or ‘The printing should be invisible’.

We were supposed to understand that typography interferes somehow with how we read and also that the typography needs to be entertaining by its own. This is one of the main principles of 8vo, a graphic design firm founded by Simon Johnston, Mark Holt and Hamish Muir back in 1985. They created, for instance, a new -and weird- disposition for a essay to make it more entertaining, engaging and appealing to the eye.

Design by 8vo.

To sum up, the typography has to work for the text and it is graphic designers jobs to create the relationship between these two subjects. As once the American famous graphic designer, David Carson, (1954) did. He tried to fit a text he was given to the blank space he had by using a 5p font.

Nevertheless, to be able to play around with the text, first you need to know some basic keys about storytelling and narrative processes. The main thing that not even a graphic designer can modify is the Story Classical Line which is roughly the initiation of a conflict until it reaches the climax and its decrease until a resolution is found.

Moreover, we went through an introduction about semiotics which is about signs and its meanings, something very useful for a graphic designer. It all began in the mid 19th century with the Swiss linguistic Professor Ferdinand de Saussure and the American Charles Sanders Peirce. Both of them realised in a short time of difference that there are some meanings that comes naturally, the signifier, and other that are both personal or cultural interpretations, the signified. The first one is called the denotative meaning of the item and the second one, the connotative meaning of it. So we can get the connotation of an X subject by our own reading or because it’s a global cultural and conventional agreement.


For example, the traffic lights: everyone understand the meaning of each colour, red, orange and green, -signifier- but when we apply these colours to the traffic lights they become ‘stop’, ‘cross quickly’ and ‘cross’ -signified-. The meaning of each colour is a convention as they mean the same for everyone and yet there’s no logical relation between the colour and its meaning, the society created these links.

Colour of the traffic lights -signifier/sign- & their meanings -signified/concept-.

Taking this into account the designer can mess around with the different meanings of the words to get the word that fits the best the purpose of the text, its content and its look.

Reference List

Eyemagazine.com. (2016). Eye Magazine | Feature | Beatrice Warde: Manners and type. [online] Available at: http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/beatrice-warde-manners-and-type [Accessed 6 May 2016].

Mitchell, W. (2005). What do pictures want?. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Slatter, A. & Homer,N. (2016) ‘Typography and language’ [Lecture to GMD1] T303: Contextual and Theoretical Studies. UAL

Warde, B. (1955). The crystal goblet. London: Sylvan Press.


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