Not neutral/invisible- no type can be invisible all caryy connotations, Helvetica example. Mian idea is to deliver a message. what if the message is non-verbal? Semiotics- the message is more then what the words say. The idea of modularity gave rise to the letterpress technology and also influenced the shape of graphic design, establishing principles that were crucial to later industrialization. Beatrice Warde’s Crystal Goblet, through extraneous metaphors, proposes the idea the good typography is typography that is invisible, in that the type should adhere to the readers expectation so as not disrupt their immersion in the content.
The basis of this idea is that type’s main purpose is transfer While generally accepted at the time of its publication, current styles of typography challenge and even dismiss this notion of invisible type. David Carson, well known for his While Warde focuses mainly on book publication, where the notion of invisible type works best, she ignores the role of display type specifically in the role of advertising, where smaller examples of content rely less on readability as apposed to a full body copy.
If current advertising followed Warde proposed rules of not disrupting the readers “mental picture” it would follow that no design would challenge the audience, resulting in a homogenized Beatrice Warde’s employment to Monotype was not an unknown fact, however what is not often questioned is her commercial gain via publishing the Crystal Goblet. Monotype, a type caster and composing machine manufacturer that collected and issued typefaces, produced multiple infamous typefaces; Times New Roman, Baskerville, Gill Sans.
Warde, being in charge of the advertising and marketing communication department for Monotype, worked with Eric Gill to produce the successful Gill Sans typeface during 1929 for the London Underground. The artistic and typographic style developing during the 19th century was that of clean, quiet and purposeful. The traditional designs utilizing flourishes and visual ornamentary was seen as the antithesis of modern design.
Being a redesign of Edward Johnston’s original typeface – rounded and natural in appearance- Gills Sans, though reminiscent of ancient Greek lettering, exemplifies the clean modern styling of the 19th century influenced by the accessibility of type casting and setting machinery. In the Crystal Goblet Warde states that type that draws the eye to focus on it rather then through it, say with an ornamental script font versus the simple orderly lines of Gill Sans. This stance is questionable considering her position in the Monotype Corporation. However Warde’s pro-modern mass-produced stance was not entirely uncontested.
Coming off the tail in of the Arts and Crafts movement several prominent designers were against the move to mass-producing and considered designers who accused their talents for advertising to be part of a “filthy business”. One such person was co-worker Eric Gill himself, who despite his working relationship with Warde was vehemently against her ideals concerning advertising, specifically of his own typeface. Warde, in a letter to Gill, defend and advocates for advertising and mass production comparing books to meals and lack of mass production would cause men to starve 1.
While her condemnation of scarcity of book as immoral endures from a moral standpoint it brings into a question Warde’s ideals in relation to homogony. The Crystal goblet raises the idea of readers mental picture, a conceptual image that when disrupted causes loss of mental focus. While Warde may be purely alluding to book typography, despite broadly stating all of these typographic rules are “fifty times more obvious with advertising”, the idea of purely adhering to the expectation of the audience, which would be based on past experience, constricts typography to remaining stagnant.
If such an ideal was adhered to, while content may be readable, the challenge to differentiate between content would become increasingly difficult. To use Beatrice’s own metaphor, while a single crystal goblet may allow the drinker to appreciate the content, however when that person is faced with thousands of glasses all sporting the same crystal design non-reflective of the content inside, it may become difficult for them to appreciate or even distinguish the content within.
Type, much like other elements of design, assists the viewer in deciphering the type of content without actually having to read it. This is invaluable in a world cluttered with content, this arrangement allows consumers to identify the content they want to read and helps designers deliver messages to the audience they want. By avoiding “uncomfortably alien” Warde advocates, perhaps unintentionally, the homogeny of type design . However the concept of using neutral type is inherently flawed, in that no typeface is without social and historical connotation.
Even the modern Gill Sans, free of embellishments, has the connotation of the British post war type and the aesthetic style of monoline sans serif based on humanist structures is very indicative of 19th century style typographly. No design is without subtext as even Warde recognizes the social and political dimensions that type can have. Warde states that the utility of the commination is the main purpose of design, rather then the aesthetic. However she denies exploring how the aesthetic can influence the communication except in a negative light.
While she does address the difference between legibility and readability, Warde ignores the potential for type to be used a purely a visual component. Scott Makela’s Crankbook design: the new discourse, depicting the juxtaposition of the human brain and the machine, employs type a to viewed graphic element over its readability 1. The text is overlaid on the two hemispheres of vivid orange brain before accumulating in a distorted swirl of -unreadable letters. This arrangement clearly illustrates the idea of discourse, and while reading the text does enhance on the subject it is not necessary to understand the layout.
Another modern name in typographic design that takes the balance of legibility versus aesthetic communication towards the latter is David Carson. Carson’s typographically heralded magazine Raygun, a 90’s alternative music magazine, destroyed the commonly used grids and conventional legibility1. Quit the opposite to Warde ideals of invisible type, Carson realised that, for Raygun to be successful it needed to stand out and draw attention from potential consumers. Carson has been quoted saying “My basic feeling is that I want somebody to walk past the newsstand, stop, and do a double-take”1.
In a spread featuring an interview with Too Much Joy, a 90’s rock band, Carson utilizes explosive deconstructive typography in attempt to represent visually, the noise of the bands interview1. Various different typefaces are used to represent the different voices, densely cluttering the text towards the middle to represent the band members speaking over one another. By overlaying the text in a manner that reflects the bands responses provides an insight to the way the band members interact, such a portrayal would not come across in a traditional interview structured on gridded lines.
Through this method Carson communicates his desired message but this layout, as he favored aesthetic over legibility, by Warde logic would be condemned as bad typography To further critically explore Warde’s Crystal Goblet, it must be established whether invisibility refers to the most appropriate type to convey the message or to use unchallenging, classically gridded and technically readable type. If the first is assumed, as the later example has been explored above, Beatrice still casts a slim net around what qualifies a good typography.
Warde condemns attention grabbing headlines and “pretty type pictures”, such as Carson or Makela’s work, to be only used in the situation of a useless copy. While it could be argued this situation is reflective of Carson’s work, Makela’s Crankbook design is further enhanced by the content of the text. Other examples of discourse typography being used in conjunction with valued content would be Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel: House of Leaves1.