Variant Letterforms

Monica Maccaux
Assistant Professor
Graphic Design

University of Nevada, Reno

When considering the multitudes of typeface choice on the market, how does one approach the challenge of designing a typeface that is different from the competition? With the abundance of typeface choices, why is there a need for yet another typeface to be designed? These are valid questions when approaching the creative process of typeface design. There is the potential for there to be as many typefaces as there are people in the world; meaning, the possibilities are endless in the personalities and function of typefaces, and have the potential to grow along with the population.

The typeface ‘Motorix’ solves the fatigue to a gluttonous font market by challenging the rules of form, beauty, and function all the while pushing the limits of what language looks like. The Latin (or Roman) alphabet, as it stands today, has undergone centuries of change and evolution which has resolved itself to current norms in letterform recognition. What will our letterforms look like in another couple of centuries? Will the letter ‘A’ still look the same? Will there be new letterforms added, or old ones removed? What can the letter ‘A’ look like? With the typeface ‘Motorix’, these questions were considered, along with how the expectation of aesthetics, and practicality drive the finished product.

Beauty and aesthetics aside, when approaching typeface design, one has to acknowledge that to design type, is to design language. As the designer of language, there are certain considerations that need to be made when formulating the letterforms: legibility, readability, beauty, form, versatility, and utility. It is no easy feat to design a typeface that is beautiful and practical, and has many applications (headlines, body copy, etc). But to design a typeface that confronts the notions of what beauty and practicality are, along with pushing the unspoken ‘rules’ of what language should look like, is something altogether different, and continues to be a modern-day challenge in typeface development.

This research was presented at the Affiliated Society Meeting: Design Incubation Special Program on Typography on February 23, 2018.

Black and White: Basic Color Terms

Grace Moon
Adjunct Professor
Graphic Design, Dept of Art
Queens College, CUNY

Black and White: Basic Color Terms is the first chapter from a manuscript titled, An Illustrated History of Color, in theory and practice. The overall scope of this book, as the title implies, is to set out a comprehensive account and analysis of the development of color as it has been used by artists, designers, and craftspeople, as well as the history of its theoretical framework and language. The first chapter title is “Black and White; Basic Color Terms.”

First, the impetus for embarking on such a large and generalized topic is that color in academia has been reduced to modernist tropes that leave little to the imagination in its actual implementation especially as we move from pigment and ink to digital space. So entrenched have our ideas about color theory become that in all of the most current books published on the subject none stray from Modernist basic methodology and worse, many are rife with superficial anecdotes without proper reference and incorrect definitions of color terms and concepts. Also the topic of color crosses over into other non-visual disciplines such as anthropology, linguistics, child development, visual science and comparative literature. In exploring the topic of color at the intersection of the arts and sciences I believe we, as visual creators, will have a better grasp of what color is and means within our disciplines.

The first chapter is looking at “basic color terms,” —a label linguists have given to the general hue of a culture’s essential color palette. Industrial societies have eleven basic color terms; black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, purple, brown, orange, pink, grey. Linguists have also determined that color terms have historically developed along a specific path. For instance, preindustrial Black and White; Basic Color Terms societies have four or five basic color terms; black, white, red, followed by green or yellow—and if a culture has a sixth term, then it is blue. But, blue never precedes the other colors. While the sciences have puzzled over these curious findings; why is red always the third term, and why is blue not a term before green or yellow, artists and designers have not yet weighed in on this debate. Visual creators have innately understood the importance and relationships of colors and their dimensions and have a lot to add to this interdisciplinary study. The key points in the basic color term debate as well as point towards its impact within the arts and design fields will be addressed. That is, the impact of artists and designers’ upon basic color terms and the nature of how societies understand color itself.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 1.3: Parsons The New School on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.