Let us work with love and without fear of our faults, those inevitable and habitual companions of the great qualities. Yes, faults are qualities; and fault is superior to quality. Quality stands for uniformity in the effort to achieve certain common perfections accessible to anyone. Fault eludes conventional and banal perfections. Therefore fault is multiple, it is life, it reflects the personality of the artist and his character; it is human, it is everything, it will redeem the work.
You cannot understand typography and typefaces without knowledge and you can’t keep that knowledge for only yourself. ¶ Type design is a cultural act, not just a few lines of data in the corner of a hard disk.
This then is the scribe’s direct purpose: the making of useful things legibly beautiful.
In reading, for example, the enunciation of a proposition, we are apt to fancy, that for every word contained in it, there is an idea presented to the understanding; from the combination and comparison of which ideas, results that act of the mind called judgement. So different is all this from the fact, that our words, when examined separately, are often as completely insignificant as the letters of which they are composed; deriving their meaning solely from the connection, or relation, in which they stand to others.
After the semitic invention of the alphabet, the invention of the word is the single most important invention that I know. The word – and with it reading – is what has made western civilization possible. I want to take stock of this turning point in the story of civilization, but I cannot find reference to it in the history books, nor in the paleographic corpus. Even in cultural-historical literature the concept of the word does not make an appearance. I had to seek out the invention of the word on my own from reproductions of old manuscripts. If I can rely upon the dating of their origins, then the word appears to have been invented in Ireland in the first half of the seventh century.
Faces of type are like men’s faces. They have their own expression; their complexion and peculiar twists and turns of line identify them immediately to friends, to whom each is full of identity.
The letters of the alphabet, the characters of a typeface, are building blocks. Besides being symbols to construct a written language, they can be used to compose any visual impression imaginable. To me, typography is the visual arrangement of letterforms and symbols. Its style creates identity. If the composition contains coherent content, this visual identity will convey the message in a distinct and original way. A new expression. A new impression. A new corner of the mind is opened. How exciting!
By all means break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately, and well. That is one of the ends for which they exist.
In typography there is a fundamental relationship between the physical image of the text and the visual apparatus of the reader. For 2600 years of making and re-making, the breeding of the Roman letter has been under way. Traditional type sizes are the product of a lengthy accumulation of human attention. Like a star crystallized out of the heavens, like a species of creature, each size of type is relatively absolute. It represents a reduction, a cooking down of the reading and writing experience of many generations.
Type design is a craft. All fonts are hand-made. One learns by doing, not by theorizing. Designers think with their hands, drawing on the left side of the brain. If you think only with your right brain, your designs will lack grace. Isn’t this why you are studying calligraphy?