Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Swiss are also known for their sense of design.

The Swiss style is a typographical format utilizing left-justification and minimalist typefaces to foster a sense of standardization. The movement began shortly after World War II as a solution to the growing issue of miscommunication in the midst of cultural integration. After the war, the governments of several European countries decided to make use of the extensive rail system constructed for the war effort as a means of connecting Europe in a way unrealized at any point before. The rail systems were linked and facilitated cross-border travel, but many travelers found themselves at a loss understanding signage across the continent.

Enter the Swiss style. It was decided that a standardized system for formatting rail signage was necessary. From that point onward, all signage would be left justified, set in either Helvetica or Akzidenz Grotesk, which are both sans serif fonts.

The picture at the top is an example of Swiss style typography.

I suppose I should mention the differences between serifed and sans-serifed typefaces, as I spoke of them above.

The term "serif" refers to a graphical "base" at the top and bottom of a serifed font. These bases came into prominence as older civilizations began imprinting type into clay columns. The ends of letters tended to dry thinner than the middles, creating cigar-like shapes that were unpleasing to the eye. This was compensated for by adding flat lines at the ends of the legs of letters, which balanced the weight of the legs with the fatter centers of letters.

The above is an example of a serifed font.

The term "sans-serif" refers to type families that do not have these bases. These fonts are typically more minimalistic and have been used to express progression, modernism and clean class. The first words, or even symbols beforehand, were written in this style. Cuneiform, an ancient writing style, utilized an instrument with a pointed end and a flat end that was pressed into wet clay to form rudimentary symbols. Cuneiform is one of the oldest methods of recording data and is the progenitor of the sans-serif style.

The above is an example of a sans-serifed font.

Modern examples of each have strayed from prescribed forms and shapes while sticking to the fundamentals. Here are some examples of typefaces popular right now.

Slab Serif

Future Sans-Serif

Another way of looking at typefaces is type width. Most fonts have a proportional width, in which the space a letter takes up varies depending on the letter. Some other typefaces are fixed-width, or monospaced, in which the space a letter takes up is predetermined and every letter is made to fit within that space.

Here are some examples.


Fixed-Width (Courier New)

So there you have it. That is my meager introduction into typefaces. I may supplement this in the future with some insight into how one might use each kind of type, and what emotions or image each kind evokes.



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Daniel Stewart Mueller at 6:13 AM |


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At November 11, 2009 at 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said........