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(The final chapter of my still-born 1998 book.)

Chapter 21  •  Killer Web Design: Typography
Peter Fraterdeus • Hayden Computer Books • Feb 1998

What Can We Expect in the 21st Century?

Fuzzy, not blurred!

_The visual makes for the explicit, the uniform and the sequential in painting, in poetry, in logic, history. The non-literate modes are implicit, simultaneous, and discontinuous, whether in the primitive past, or the electronic present... _ McLuhan [p57]

Typography has, over the last twenty years or so, become the poor country-cousin of graphic design. At least, it seems that type is often shoved off to the side, behind the edge of the vast colorful and attention grabbing images that dominate contemporary visual communication. Even when letters are used to create a graphic image, they are stripped of their identities as members of the alphabet. Instead, like unwilling traitors, they are forced to overwhelm their subservient sisters, who continue to carry the weight of the apparently secondary value of who what when and where. Nonetheless, in book design, and today, in designing for the screen, there is no substitute for text. Not every book can be a livre d'artiste, nor every web page a wormhole into a virtual reality nexus. In fact, we don't want them to be!
The promise of the web is not that it allows every giant media conglomerate to pour tens of millions of dollars into ‘content creation,’ but that it allows tens of millions of people to create and publish their own content. 

The last 200th part of the second millennium CE is a time of massive dissociation of our social and personal timelines. While society and economy continue to jam the throttle towards a purported materialistic nirvana, we are faced with a more highly developed internal landscape than humans have ever experienced before. Within this landscape, our thoughts and emotions are displayed on the living movie screen of our brains. Our individual identities are under constant pressure to succumb to the mass market culture. The denial of time and the hyping of the youth culture are evidence of the disconnection of our biological natures from that of our culturally induced thought forms. Inevitably, to communicate with such confused and complex persons as ourselves, we need to attract both the external-rational-apollonian-linear and the internal-perceptual-dionysian-spacial. Neither left nor right brain is enough. We need whole-brained people!

While the typographer deals in contrasts, the goal is not necessarily to harden the edge between opposites, but rather to find those places where they meet and naturally entwine each other: the spiraling fractal edge between figure and ground. The rational and the perceptual can and must exist on the same page. The union of opposites is the beginning of creation.

In the last decade, another revolution has taken place in the abstract world of mathematics. In place of over two thousand years of western, Aristotelean ‘binary’ thinking, a new paradigm is arising. Instead of always demanding that either something is TRUE or NOT TRUE, the fuzzy logicians are saying, ‘well, it may be that it’s 71% true and 26% not true, and 3% is too fuzzy to tell!’

In typography, and in graphic design, inevitably, the designer walks a fine line trying to balance the intuitive and the intellectual. While type had been getting sharper for centuries (John Baskerville was accused of trying to blind people, his typeface was so crisp on the sheen of his hot-pressed paper, and digital type reached an epitome in the 80s with 3000+ line photosetting), we are now in the age of anti-type, blurred, distorted, fried and bludgeoned. What happened? I think it’s the pendulum swinging. 

What’s really interesting to me though, is that we’ll be able to combine the two in a fuzzy dynamic. Jan Tschichold went back to his classical centered arrangements, but never lost the ability to work in Die Neue Typographie. Some designers are complaining that their colleagues are ‘retreating’ to the International Style, as if it’s necessary to always push ‘forward.’ But this is not the nature of the pendulum. It’s far more likely that the use of image and type will always ride the fuzzy edge between past and future, between clarity and obscurity, legibility and noxious offense. The important thing for the discerning typographer will be to recognize the elements that drive a successful mode or style. In this recognition is the ability to extract the fuzzy essence and use it deliberately. 

The typography of the 21st century and beyond will appear in places we can’t even imagine. Perhaps by the end of the next century (and possibly quite a bit sooner), neural induction displays (or retinal rasters?) will simply stimulate the optical cortex to create letters for reading, the aural cortex for sounds, and everyone will have their own private little info-theatre in their brains. Of course, imagine the potential for the neuro-hacker to break in and tweak your control circuits!

The mechanism of typographic messaging will not change, at least until the human visual-neural mechanism mutates into some other form that is today unknowable. What some people seem to think of as "progress" in these millennial days is actually a retrogression of literacy accompanied by a cultural addiction to television, fast-cut editing, and caffeine. In fact, as long as there’s a need for recognizable letters, the basic forms that have evolved over the last 2000 years will continue to function as efficiently as they always have. Let’s not give in to the simplistic equation of ‘style’ with ‘progress.’ Graphic Design is a fashion industry, and new snappy letterforms will always be needed to make last year’s stuff look out of date. But again, change isn’t progress, or at least, not always!

The order, placement, emphasis through color and size, orientation, and dynamic character of words in the field of vision will remain the appropriate study of typographers well into the next millennium, and indeed for centuries long after the current fads of consumerist  culture have evaporated. The hot software product of today, whether for print, netcast, broadcast, or digital smoke signal, is tomorrow’s non-recyclable junk heap. But the consciousness of the designer, the awareness of subtlety, the consideration for the author, the reader and the text; these things will only grow more important, not less, as the amount of information we are daily exposed to grows into an ever increasing deluge.

There is Hope. In talking to design students in 1997, I find a feeling that the downward trend toward chaos and designerly indulgence is passing. There seems to be a renewed interest in clarity and an understanding of the structure and the heart of visual communication, rather than simply the coloring and geegaws of its exoskeleton. Today’s 22 year old is more interested in the history of type than her brother was ten years ago. Digital typography has left the cradle and now must succeed or fail on the same merits that the greatest monuments of human communication have done.

I look forward to the increasing richness of a visual culture that can take full account of the 40000 year traditions of human mark making. This richness will be ever more integrative, and meaningful, as we continue to design with an awareness of the internal landscape of our common experience of the world.  

At the turn of the millennium, a global aesthetic is emerging. If anything, the typography of the next century will absorb more eastern influences, as the great Asian visual traditions begin to resist the encroachment of petty materialism. When Japan and China and Korea turn the tables of trade and culture, the history of typography will never be quite the same. Yet, even then, the structure and mission of type on the page will remain the same.

Noise and visual clutter are the communiciation equivalents of friction: energy wasted through inefficient design or implementation. As humans grow to realize that we, ourselves, are also an endangered species, as a result of our own habits and addictions, we will begin (and indeed, are beginning) to modify the culture of consumption into a culture of consciousness. Typography and culture are interwoven by the inevitable demands of language, whether in the service of commerce, or of community. We who understand the power of these magical symbols should also consider how our works may shape the future of our planet.

With this thought in mind, I will leave you with the web address of the World Studio Foundation, a not-for-profit (whose web site I sponsor on the designOnline server) dedicated to bringing issues of sustainability and opportunity into the process of design. WSF also provides education assistance grants to disadvantaged high school students who have shown potential in the design arts. Please visit the WSF web site at www.worldstudio.org for more information!

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Figure 1
World Studio Foundations’s SPHERE Magazine (See www.worldstudio.org)


F I N I S
Imagine you had everything you needed to share your vision with the world: talent, desire and dedication. Everything, that is, except money. Each year, Worldstudio AIGA Scholarships receives hundreds of applications from young people in this very predicament – desperate to influence the world ...
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It's truly like a family reunion :-)
 
Lovely recap of this year's Hamilton Wayzgoose; miss everyone desperately
Every year we look forward to the annual Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum Wayzgoose, which attracts type nerds (i.e., all of our best friends) from around the world. And while the 'Goose us...
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My calligraphic flags on Echizen Unryu (Cloud Dragon) paper. These were done in part for the Atmospheres exhibit of Cloudscapes and Calligraphy. I gave most of them away in Europe over the past month ;-) #calligraphy   #shodo  
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letterpress typography

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"S" my 1990s font Prospera fabricated about 3 meters high in Cor-ten steel. Bibliotheca São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
In good company — the B is Bodoni, the P, Helvetica :-)
Design & photo : Marcelo Aflalo
http://univers.com.br 
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letterpress typography

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Peter Fraterdeus originally shared:
 
new pics.
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PRENSA handmade journals's profile photo
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Annotated slides from my recent +Fontlab Ltd.​  webinar.
Mostly examples of my printed work, some personal, much commercial. (repost w correct link) 
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What we do! Please share!
 
Please join me next Tuesday morning (11am CST) for a free FontLab.Com webinar on adapting digital fonts for contemporary letterpress printing, as well as the practice of typographic finesse. When you spend real money on your printing, you want to spend a little more time on your type! #letterpress #typography #slowprint 
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Really gorgeous carving in the cemetery at Glendalough. The oldest ones I found are mid-18th C, very direct, not mechanical, but straightforward 'writing in stone'. The majuscules in the Quin stone are particularly dynamic and beautiful. While they are nothing like classical Romans, they have elements of the Celtic nature somehow, and the overall effect and pattern is striking.
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I love seeing my letter out there in the real world... In fact Prospera has been quite an ambassador over the years, as it introduced me to some of the world's most renowned type designers and typographers. Next year in São Paulo! #ATypI2015
Prospera is best used in monumental scales so the subtleties can be appreciated. If not at 3 meters, then at least 36 point. Or else it works great in small sizes with photo polymer on letterpress, with long serifs and light stems.

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Dave Peat telling Silvio Antiga & Sandro Berra of Tipoteca Italiana how he became interested in printing in 1945, finding a small volume in a bookshop in Cincinnati! Three Minute video #hwtwayzgoose   #wayzgoose  Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum Two Rivers Wisconsin 2014
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In their circles
57 people
Have them in circles
195 people
PRENSA handmade journals's profile photo
Nabor Etienne's profile photo
Chais Meyer's profile photo
Nuno Alecrim's profile photo
Arzum Erbay's profile photo
Daniel Briesemeister's profile photo
Angermann / contend based aesthetics's profile photo
indeks grafis's profile photo
Tom Pursey's profile photo
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Typography for Letterpress!
Introduction
Written and curated by Peter Fraterdeus, founder and master printer at http://slowprint.com, type designer and typographic consultant at http://fraterdeus.com