Monday, 21 September 2009


I wonder if it is a result of lazy typesetters that many designers love to force type into rigid shapes; in my own typesetting experience I did find it easier to lock the shapes down if they were in a nice tidy block. The sheer number of occasions I’ve noticed type forced into a quadrilateral shape has baffled me.

The above posters by Kurvers and Wijdeveld are attractive on an aesthetic basis but reading them is another issue entirely. The difference between Wijdeveld’s Bind Werk poster and Max Bill’s work, below, in terms of typesetting is that Bill has not changed the letter-spacing in his text but his word-spacing. Bill has chosen to keep all letter-spacing and text sizes the same; where feasible, Bill begins text from the left and ends a line at the right edge of the box. He does not increase the text size to ensure a word ends at the right edge, nor the letter-spacing. His text box was clearly drawn to appease the subject of the poster (the cream-coloured area) and allows the orange circle to attract the viewer’s eye to its left edge.

An example of modern use of justified text is in the type design of Costa Coffee. One visit to a Costa café will no doubt give you square eyes. Justified text has clearly become a typographic style of the café’s visual identity but does not seem to serve a useful function. Mostly, the text of their sales messages appears to be forced into blocks and this sometimes abuses the nature of text sizes; a larger word is usually more important.

No doubt the frequency of instances today where text is forced into a quadrilateral shape (by text sizes, letter-spacing and word-spacing) is an off-shoot of the over-use of ‘centred’ text. ‘Typographic form must be organic, it must evolve from the nature of the text’ — Jan Tschichold.

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