Chapter 4Letters and Type

The lingua franca, or common language, of graphic design is type. You can call yourself a designer only when you understand the rules of type and how to break them. Not long ago, type design was almost an airtight profession. Only the very skilled and highly motivated were allowed entry. One reason was the intense amount of time that it took to design a typeface in its various weights and point sizes. Breaking into this realm of design required years of apprenticeship.

Today, the computer has changed all that—some argue for good, others for ill. Type design software has increased the capability of serious type designers to create many more custom and proprietary typefaces and has made it possible for neophyte and fly-by-night designers to develop personalized type. Somewhere between these two extremes, graphic designers who are interested in or passionate about typefaces have entered the field, either developing the occasional face, which they then sell or license to a digital type foundry, or establishing their own digital type foundries. The computer has broken down the barriers.

The technology is available for neophytes to experiment at designing typefaces on the desktop and then testing their applications in real documents. Never before in the history of type design and type founding has this been so technically and financially accessible. Lettering is another indispensable component of graphic design. Lettering is the design of one-of-a-kind, often ...

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