When Typography Speaks Louder Than Words by C. Knight, J. Glaser

Clever graphic designers love to use typography to explore the interaction between the look of type and what type actually says. In communicating a message, a balance has to be achieved between the visual and the verbal aspects of a design.

Sometimes, however, designers explore the visual aspect of type to a much greater extent than the verbal. In these cases, the visual language does all the talking. This article explores when the visual elements of typography speak louder than words.

Cal Swan, author of Language and Typography, makes this point well when he says, “These two distinct areas often come together in practice as there is clearly a very strong relationship between the conception of the words as a message and their transmission in visible form.”

To avoid any misunderstanding, let’s clarify what the terms “visual language” and “verbal language” mean. In professional graphic design, visual language refers to the meanings created by the visual appearance of both text and image. In this article, the term “visual language” refers to the character and significance created by carefully selected typography. Verbal language is the literal meaning of words, phrases and sentences.

In this first of a two-part series, we will look at the powerful effect that typography has in taking control of meaning. We will discuss a range of examples, from verbal language that inspires and shapes visual treatment to visual language that dominates verbal meaning. The implications of typographic choices in meaning and interpretation will also be examined. And we will show how the same message can be presented in a number of ways to convey and encourage a diversity of responses.

(source)

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