Talk like a pro

Teaching typography is complicated. Typography covers so many different components of visual communication; one could establish an art school that deals with typography alone.

As a typography teacher, the most frequently asked question I get is: ‘How do I choose a typeface?’ My answer: ‘Start with learning about the characteristics of the characters first’. Knowledge is half the battle. Well, in this case: it’s the whole battle.

Teaching typography is complicated, because talking about typography easily becomes a conversation about taste. ‘I think this font is ugly; I looks so aggressive’. ‘I think this type is really nice because it makes me feel warm inside.’ A conversation that ends up in disagreement: subjective terms seem to justify every choice. ‘I am not you, you are not me, so I can do whatever I like.’

Teaching typography is complicated, if we keep talking in subjective terms. We need objectivity to be able to understand. Why?
Typography is embedded in the lives of everyone. People hold on to visual reference for organising their world. To understand the complex role of typography in this, we need crystal clear words to describe what we see. Words that cut right through the noise. We need tools to talk sense: stroke, line, contrast, balance, letter classification, legibility versus readability, micro versus macro typography.

Gaining this knowledge makes sure that you can underpin your design decisions to an audience, whether that is five hundred people or your own mind, without using vague, subjective terms as an amateur would do. So step one: learn to talk like a pro.

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