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3.3 Is Digital Typography ‘Art’?

Does the fact that typography has migrated from print to online damage its value as an art form? This lesson explores the ways that web designers are pushing creative boundaries and taking typography in a new and exciting direction.

3.3 Is Digital Typography ‘Art’?

The question I want to ask in this lesson is this. Is Digital Typography Art? In Ruari McLean's Manual of Typography, he defines typography as being the art, or skill, of designing communication by means of the printed word. So far, in this course, we've looked at how typographists approach book design and poster design and also how they design signage and magazines. So, all printed media. But, it now seems likely that much of the typography that you'll see today isn't printed at all. You'll see typography on websites, on apps, ebooks, phones and tablet devices. If a poster is animated on a digital screen, does this make the text design any less typographic than if it were on a printed billboard instead? Is The New Yorker's website a poor imitation of it's printed incarnation? Well I would answer no to both of those. Digital typography is just as much of a skilled art form as print typography. They both share the same roots and in most respects abide to the same rules and principles. What digital media does mean, however, is that typography has had to evolve and adapt to a whole new way of rendering type for audiences. Traditional typographers might argue that much of what makes print typography an art form, such as the hand drawing process or adapting type to a specific print method like letterpress is taken away when typography becomes digitized. But what I'd like you to take away from this course is that typography is multi-faceted. There are so many different branches of typography, just a few being typesetting, type design, logo design and designing typography for digital media is just one of those branches. And if this branch floats your boat, that's great. There's a huge demand for designers who specialize in optimizing type for web. And as the quality of web design continues to grow and grow, the need for cutting edge, digital typography is only growing faster too. Let's take a look at some of the ways typography is diversifying to meet the demands of the digital era. And it might give you some ideas as to how you can find something that sparks your interest. What I think is one of the most interesting and one of the fastest moving sectors of digital typography can be found in website design. Simply the fact of being online is no longer a good enough excuse for your site's typography to not up up to scratch. The key element that makes a site look dated is a very poor application of typography. Eww, yuck. And now there are so many businesses and organizations that are enlisting designers to create websites with beautiful typefaces and expert typographic arrangement. Let's look back to The New Yorker's website, which I think is just a really lovely example of digital typography done well. The website was redesigned in 2014, and it's been very carefully created without losing any of the qualities that made the print edition of The New Yorker special. So here we've got two main typefaces in use, NY Irving for the headers, which give the site that slightly retro, art-deco look. And the teams stuck with a nice simple Seraph for the body text, which is Adobe Catalan Pro. We can see from this article page how the designers have mixed up different weights, regular, bold, and italic to break up the type into sections and create structure on the page just as we would have in a print magazine or newspaper. We've also got this quirky slab drop cap, which is a bit tricky to achieve through simple coding alone. But it's been integrated into the design with care. And we've also got consideration across the site about the alignment of text. Flushing the article text left improves readability, but on the homepage headlines and summaries are aligned center to create a symmetrical, balanced designed. And, look here, we've even got a baseline shifted upwards and an underline stroke to make this header look particularly pretty. Whoever says digital typography isn't an art needs to take a look at this site for sure. You can also see how typographic considerations have been made in relation to other design elements on the site. Like the use of simple black and white color to help the type faces stand out. And use of lots of white space and simple bar dividers to organize the page and make it more tapular. Yep, that's right, just as print documents are stricted onto a grid, so are webpages. And the designers have to channel type onto the page in just the same way, thinking about the structure of that grid all the time. It's not just The New Yorker, that's doing great things with digital typography. There are tons of websites out there that are doing fantastically creative things with type, such as aquatilis.tv. So here we've got big slap type and experiments of high contrast color. Website design also allows you to break some of the rules of tradition print typography and really make a feature of lots of big headers to grab the viewers attention. Another great example, don-guri.com/music. And here we've got animation adding a really special quality to the type design which is only achievable through digital technology. Ariastudio.co.hk, here allowing strong type designs to interact with images makes this home page for Hong Kong based Aria Studio really immersive. And just in case you're dying to know what this lovely seraph font is, this is felix titling. Another great example is vitosalvatore.com. This portfolio site is a great example of balancing a minimal type menu with images to achieve that great user experience. So as these examples show you, creating high impact typography that helps to create an immersive online experience for the user is an integral part of designing websites. It's a completely separate field of typography as the methods for achieving the results you want might be quite different than for prints. Firstly your typography ideally needs to be coded which can place restrictions on the typography techniques that you can apply. But on the plus side you can enhance your type designs with animation and video to create a more interactive design and this helps break down the normal restrictions that you would be working to for print media. I'm sure you'll agree, looking at some of these examples that digital typography is a really creative, exciting branch of typography. And it presents some really fresh, new opportunities for typographies. Another aspect of digital typography that goes hand in hand with this explosion in fantastic web design is a wave of increasingly awesome fonts that are tailored for use on the web. Whereas ten years ago you were looking at a really limited choice of website fonts like Verdana or Georgia to use on your site. Now there are thousands of fonts to choose from. If you want to get a sense of the growing range of fonts that web designers can use just pay a visit to Google Fonts which is google.com/fonts. And also check out the huge range on Typekit which is Adobe's web font library, which is Typekit.com. What does this big range of web fonts mean for designers, and for the practice of typography online? Well, for one thing, it's going to help web typographers produce print standard work. There is now way more font choice for web designers when they come to create a site. And the sheer breadth of choice means that web designers can now start to create the sort of typographic effects that have been the exclusive domain of print designers until very recently. Now that web designers have the choice of high quality fonts, they can also start to prioritize typography on their site designs. We can see this happening on sites like The New Yorker. Web designers are moving away from maximalism and over the top decoration and they're looking instead to this understated minimalism that good typography promotes to help create websites that are clean, elegant, and much less cluttered. Of course, with better typography comes improved readability as well. So, skillfully applied typography is only going to make a sites content more legible and engaging. And we can see this trend continuing to develop as more people replace traditional print media, like magazines, newspapers, and books, with digital alternatives and website app and e-book form. So what does this all mean for you? As a designer and a budding typographer, this is probably one of the most exciting times yet for you to be working with typography. Particularly if you focus on digital typography. Both website and font design are expanding constantly to keep up with the demands of businesses and their consumers. And typography is an essential part of helping those businesses get their message across. So don't dismiss digital typography as a lesser art to its traditional print sister. The future of typography is looking bright and that's in part due to its pivotal role in digital design. In the next lesson, we'll be looking at how you can directly contribute to the world of print and digital typography and create your own type faces, digitizing them ready for use across print and online media. So it's gonna be a good one. It's another project lesson. So stick around and I'll see you over in the next lesson.

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