The type set deserves to be heard by designers at large

There was a time when typographers felt under threat. The onslaught of what was then deemed ‘new’ technology put the ability to create – or rip off – fonts in the hands of anyone who could use a computer and the new world of Photoshop and Flash put a number of traditional skills under pressure.

But there has been a welcome backlash by type activists, manifested now in the UK tour by renowned type-masters Erik Spiekermann, Derek Birdsall and Andy Altmann. News of the tour coincides with a host of other type-related events, including typography shows at a couple of London ad agencies.

These moves bring to a head a movement that has been stirring for some time. Type gurus such as Spiekermann, Birdsall and Freda Sack have continued to ply their trade. But, amid a sea of mediocrity from the homemade type brigade, new stars have risen, including Altmann and his colleagues at Why Not Associates, Neville Brody and Jonathan Barnbrook.

We’ve witnessed the 1990s fashions of surfer type, on the one hand, courtesy of West Coast wonderboy David Carson, and Fabien Baron’s elegant headline overlaps at Harper’s Bazaar.

But, while there has been a cult around type, designers at large haven’t really taken it on board. However, enlightened clients as diverse as the Church of England and telecoms giant Orange have espoused it as a key element in communication design. They have recognised that it can be as important in creating a tone of voice for their organisation as the words the type conveys.

So we wish the type set the same success as writers have had in recent years in pleading their case to the creative community and beyond. Good communication and branding design are, after all, the sum of many parts, with a great idea expressed in the most appropriate and elegant way.

We urge you to do the typography tour and get the T-shirt. It could even become a collectors’ item, marking the moment when the design world changed.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor – Design Week

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