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Typographic Design: Form and Communication, 6th Edition by Mark Sanders, Sandra Maxa, Ben Day, Philip B. Meggs, Rob Carter

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5

Syntax and Communication

Like typographic anatomy, typographic syntax has a language that must be learned if one is to understand typographic design. Syntax is the connecting of typographic signs to form words and sentences on the page. The elements of design—letter, word, line, column, and margin—are made into a cohesive whole through the use of typographic space, visual hierarchy, ABA form, and grid systems.

TYPOGRAPHIC SYNTAX

The letter

Our initial discussion of typographic syntax addresses the intrinsic character of the individual letter. This well-drawn form, exhibiting subtlety and precision, is the unit that distinguishes one family of type from another. It exists in various weights, sizes, and shapes (Fig. 5-l).

Although the letter typically functions as part of a word, individual letters are frequently combined into new configurations. As shown in Figures 5-2 and 5-3, combinations of letters A and g and P and Q are unified to create a stable gestalt. In the illustrated examples, there is an expressiveness and boldness to the individual letters. The syntax displayed here is an example of letter combinations acting as signs, extracted from a larger system of signs.

A typographic sign is visually dynamic because of its interaction with the surrounding void—the white of the paper. This form-to-void relationship is inherent in the totality of typographic expression. The repetition of the letter T in Figure 5-4 is balanced and complemented by its white space. In the title ...

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