More than words


Typography at its best is a visual form of language linking timelessness and time

Typography is a form of art. It ‘s a huge field. People devote years of their lives to this ancient craft, and yet there’s always something new to learn.

The power of the font goes back to the Greeks, says Julie Strawson, director of Monotype Imaging, an international type-design company. “The Greeks created handwriting and that’s one of the most personal ways of communicating.”

A typeface may never quite be able to replicate the intimacy of pen and ink but with an estimated 200,000 fonts to choose from today, there are no shortage of different styles to choose from.

Selecting a font is like getting dressed, Ms Strawson says. Just as one chooses an outfit according to the occasion, one decides on a font according to the kind of message you are seeking to convey.

According to Jonathan Barnbrook, founder of the website Virus Fonts, a good typeface creates an emotional response in relation to the message it is conveying. You’re trying to get that tone of voice right – you can shout or whisper. And you want to sum up the spirit of the age, because they do date quite quickly.

People have become more aware about the impact of fonts because of computers, but the power of a typeface is still largely subliminal, he argues. Mr Barnbrook is best known for producing provocatively named, subversive fonts such as Exocet, Bastard, Prozac and Nixon. He also designed the cover of Heathen, David Bowie’s 2002 album.