cendres.net

Duong Tam Kien
Architecte de l'information
Sociologue

Vignelli on typefaces

14.01.2009

The advent of the computer generated the phenomena called desktop publishing. This enabled anyone who could type the freedom of using any available typeface and do any kind of distortion. It was a disaster of mega proportions. A cultural pollution of incomparable dimension. As I said, at the time, if all people doing desktop publishing were doctors we would all be dead! Typefaces experienced an incredible explosion. The computer allowed anybody to design new typefaces and that became one of the biggest visual pollution of all times.
In order to draw attention to that issue I made an exhibition showing work that we had done over many years by using only four typefaces: Garamond, Bodoni, Century Expanded, and Helvetica. The aim of the exhibition was to show that a large variety of printed matter could be done with an economy of type with great results. In other words, is not the type but what you do with it that counts. The accent was on structure rather than type.
I still believe that most typefaces are designed for commercial reasons, just to make money or for identity purposes. In reality the number of good typefaces is rather limited and most of the new ones are elaborations on pre-existing faces. Personally, I can get along well with a half a dozen, to which I can add another half a dozen, but probably no more.
Besides those already mentioned, I can add Optima, Futura, Univers (the most advanced design of the century since it comes in 59 variations of the same face), Caslon, Baskerville, and a few other modern cuts. As you can see my list is pretty basic but the great advantage is that it can assure better results. It is also true that in recent years the work of some talented type designers has produced some remarkable results to offset the lack of purpose and quality of most of the other typefaces.
One of the most important elements in typography is scale and size relationship. Naturally there are many ways of understanding and expressing typography. I am not interested in describing all the different possibilities as much I am in expressing my point of view and my approach.I see typography as a discipline to organize information in the most objective way possible.I do not like typography intended as an expression of the self, as a pretext for pictorial exercises.I am aware that there is room for that too, but it is not my language and I am not interested in it.I don’t believe that when you write dog the type should bark!I prefer a more objective approach: I try to make as clear as possible the different parts of a message by using space, weight, and typographic alignments, such as flush left, centered or justified.

There are times when a specific type design may be appropriate, mostly for a logo or a short promotional text, particularly in very ephemeral or promotional contexts. These are not our typical areas of involvement but whenever a brilliant solution is found I appreciate both the intent and the results.
I strongly believe that design should never be boring, but I don’t think it should be a form of entertainment.
Good design is never boring, only bad design is.