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Semantic Strategy for Communication and Design
Semantic Strategy for Communication and Design

Semiotx's posts

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Typographic Finesse
Specializing in Architectural & Monumental Letterforms, Logotypes, inscriptional design, etc
We adapt type, and fine tune spacing for the specific instance to which it is to be applied.

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New post on the original Information Architect!

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Typographic Finesse: Language is the Key

"Is there such a thing as typography without typographers? Yes indeed – but it now belongs, like the best folk architecture, the best oral literature, and the best logging practices, almost entirely to the past. It belongs to the preindustrial time: the time before the printed press was used and before the word typography was spoken, It belongs to the age sof the quintessentially proto-typographers, the scribes." – The Typographic Mind Robert Bringhurst [1]

The problem with much design education is that there seems to be no real appreciation for the LANGUAGE being communicated. Without a clear understanding of the context and intent of the communication, there is no way to define its hierarchical structure.

We are the inheritors of an amazing legacy, a hoard of wealth which we largely squander day to day in our poor attempts to understand this hierarchy. That legacy is the first systematic application of information architecture. With a clear fool-proof definition, a 9th century British Monk in Charlemagne's service at Tours laid out the pre-eminent progenitor of all style sheets. 

Alcuin of York[2], himself blessed with the education and other benefits of the Irish scriptoria, became teacher and advisor to the Holy Roman Emperor who charged him with simplifying and standardizing the primary command-and-control mechanism of the day: hand-written missives, manuals, books of orders, and of knowledge. Not to say that his work came out of a vacuum. Surely there are other examples earlier, but Alcuin was the one to change the world with his application of the Hierarchy of Scripts and the "Carolingian Minuscule".

The outposts of the new empire, had, in the six centuries since the decline and fall of the Romans, evolved—or devolved—methods of writing, conceptual models of the alphabet itself, which were so far from the mother lode that, except for those raised with the peculiar models of their region, it made for dire comprehension in the councils of other nations.

Alcuin saw that the only path forward was to standardize on a single 'protocol'. Effectively, he also produced the first "RFC" which he sent to all the imperial scriptoria, requiring that their best scribes be brought to Tours, both for consultation, but also to learn the script, carefully designed and specified, much as any modern systems engineer might do.

The masterful design principles that the scribes of Tours applied to the creation of books and written documents have never been surpassed. To correctly design typographic specification, particularly in the context of large bodies of text, the designer must read and understand the semantic structure of the document and its context.

Masthead, section title, body text, footnote, citation, TOC, bibliography, sub-head, pull-quote, etc etc. All are structural elements of the document. The typographic styling of these elements is not merely the icing on the cake, however. When the visual typography is entangled with the semantic meaning of the text, there is an integration which surpasses the merely decorative.

© copyleft 2013 +Peter Fraterdeus 

[1] +Robert Bringhurst

#typography   #informationarchitecture   #alcuin   #designeducation   #bringhurst  
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