Wednesday, January 26, 2011

History of typography vs. typography as history

As I've been reading about the history of typography, I see that the history of type fits into the history of Germany (and everywhere else) as evidence cultural and political trends. Like any other aspect of aesthetic culture, especially those that are so closely tied with perception bzw. consumerism bzw. politics, etc, typography has changed with various movements like Modernism, Expressionism, and Punk (yes, Punk is included in encyclopedias of typeface, CS). So, why is typeface just as or more important to history than art, music, photography, etc (in my opinion)? It might not be, but for the sake of argument, here's mine:

Type, as a subset of graphic design, is both art and communication. A lot of things are art and communication, but, in our society (I'm going to go ahead and be ethnocentric for a moment), almost everyone can read. Definitely everyone who has power can read. So, our perceptions of information like personal messages, advertisements, laws, etc. are all conveyed through type.

If you read the link I posted yesterday about the Eszet, or even some of it, you know that Germans take spelling very seriously. I think typography is particularly significant here because of the cultural meaning type and spelling have taken on throughout history. In the United States type has similar effects as far as how we perceive information, but I would argue that the historical/aesthetic significance is less. The fact that Germans still argue about the Rechtschreibreform (which stems from a debate over the extent to which Fraktur should still be a part of the German Roman alphabet!) is testament to the importance of type here in Germany. This is not to say it's not important other places; I always think back to the designer on the film Helvetica who said that she always equated the font Helvetica with the Vietnam War.

This is getting repetitive with my previous posts, but I'm working on how to fit all this into my academic life, so the repetition is helpful, please bear with me.

Even though I somewhat take issue with some of Weidemann's ideas, his book has a long section on "Schrift und Geschichte" that I need to revisit. Also, I think I'm going to try to set up some interviews. I need to pose some questions before people who know what they are talking about.

I checked out the Mauerpark today. Very cool, but I still don't really know what to say about graffiti. It's a subculture I find mysterious and daunted by. On the agenda for tomorrow: more Weidemann, Berlinische Galerie (maybe) and a trip back to the Buchstabenmuseum.

Also, I saw this on Sch├Ânhauser Allee and I found it interesting:


P.S. Double post day! Exciting!

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