We have all seen airplane banners advertising a new attraction or mega sale while stuck in traffic or at a sporting event. This kind of messaging achieves a basic level of informing – a direct message to you from the advertiser.
While putting an advertisement on a banner tells a message quickly, what happens when you need to communicate an emotion or feeling, elicit a response or encourage an action? This is where the use of visual typography begins to transcend the basic function of simply informing.
Visual communication begins and ends with typography. Just like the atom, typefaces and letter forms define structures that serve as building blocks for messages being sent and received through different forms of media all across the world. Typography is by definition the work of setting and arranging characters or letter forms, but the implications of such an action go well beyond typing letters on a keyboard. Within any visual piece there is a message trying to be said and typography plays a key role in the formation of this message in the viewer’s mind.
Some typefaces have strong personalities while others more subtle. With this in mind, it’s extremely important that the right personality is matched with the right application. Finding the right typeface for your project is a key trait for a good designer to have. For example, using an elegant, thin stroked serif typeface on a hard rock concert poster might not pack the punch your visuals need.
Searching through the finer points of each typeface reveals this personality, and like a complex math formula, the many parts and details of a typeface can add to your visual to create an engaging solution. When it comes down to it, choosing the correct typeface will either make or break the message you’re trying to convey.
Certain traits or details of a person make up their personality. The same can be said of typefaces. The angle of the serif, styling of the letters, or how one letterform interacts with another are all traits of a font’s personality. One of the reasons designers have such a passion for typography is because individual typefaces have their own beautiful details hidden within them. Identifying these is how a designer develops a sense of whether or not the type will work within a given application. An expert in typography will be able to identify the strengths, weaknesses, how a its voice or a particular detail translates into communication.
Typography is one of the ultimate resources in a designer’s toolbox, and the most elementary unit of visual communication. By spending more and more time looking out for typography and what it’s trying to say, you’ll be more attune to what sort of communication is involved in typographic choice and how it can strengthen or weaken your message.