Type Tales - Design Research Proposal

Type Tales - Design Research Proposal 

Typefaces are time capsules. All through history, from the earliest alphabets to modern images, different forms of typography have expressed their era. The myriad letterforms serve as a reminder of the journey of human thought and ideas. Visually, they detail the societies, cultures and technologies that created them.

History moves in random ebbs and flows, and the knowledge - and typography - of today has been formed by a rich tapestry of ideas and developments. These have combined over thousands of years to build the vast knowledge we take for granted today. 

My Bachelor thesis is born out of my personal frustration with not knowing enough about typography and its origins. It is my firm belief that a thorough understanding of evolution and history is necessary for my growth as a designer, building on what other practitioners have already achieved. In order to break the rules, we must first understand them. But, what if we haven’t been taught the rules properly? 

“A typographer determined to forge new routes must move, like other solitary travelers, through uninhabited country and against the grain of the land, crossing common thoroughfares in the silence before dawn. The subject of this book is not typographic solitude, but the old, well-travelled roads at the core of the tradition: paths that each of us is free to follow or not, and to enter and leave when we choose - if only we know the paths are there and have a sense of where they lead. That freedom is denied us if the tradition is concealed or left for dead. Originality is everywhere, but much originality is blocked if the way to earlier discoveries is cut or overgrown.” (Bringhurst, 2012)

A typographer himself, Bringhurst argues that an understanding of the historical context of typography is crucial for there to be progress. It is the goal of such research to deduct new knowledge and understand typography as a subject. However, even though an established map of roads (i.e. typographic rules and principles) may already be in place, it should not prevent oneself from exploring and cutting across unexplored territory. 

“That is precisely the use of a road: to reach individually chosen points of departure. By all means break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately and well. That is one of the ends for which they exist.” (Bringhurst, 2012)

Inspired by this depiction of typography and my research to date, I wish to explore the typographic zeitgeist and suggest an idea of what could be next. How can an understanding of typographic rules, history and context enable designers to communicate more effectively and break the rules deliberately and well? And maybe beautifully?