Originally published in Artrocker Magazine issue 134
In our everyday lives we are surrounded by fonts and use them to navigate through our environment, understanding instinctively that they communicate a great deal of the information before we’ve even read the words. We choose typefaces to express our personal style or to demonstrate our allegiance to a philosophy, music style or band.
This is possible because there is such a diversity of font designs which have absorbed a multitude of references and intended messages during their centuries of development. Type we use today is influenced by everything from stone carving, handwritten manuscripts, the evolution of the printing industry and now the plethora of designs available online. When we look at type we don’t just see the words, we also see the letter shapes which—much like fashion or cars—are loaded with associations.
Typefaces absorb layers of references and designers continue to use them in a way that reinforce these to help them communicate their message. We all interpret these meanings readily, often on an instinctive level, and we’ve been learning to do this all our lives.
Band logos or album covers become iconic and result in a herd of spin off merchandising. We scribbled the logos on our school books, have the poster on our walls, wear the t-shirt, get the tattoo. They become so familiar that they become idols in their own right and can be reduced down to a simple typographic element and still be recogniseable.
How Punk changed Graphic Design Sarah Hyndman on Punk, which first exploded in the 1970s and, at the time, looked like youthful rebellion.
In actuality it was part of the Postmodernist movement which began as a reaction to the rigid restrictions of Modernism. Its DIY ethos encapsulated the anti-establishment mood of the mid 1970s, a time of political and social turbulence. The former British Empire was dissolving and a new era in British music, fashion and design was beginning.
Taking the stage to articulate the feelings of a dissatisfied generation calling for change were the Sex Pistols, who played their first gig in 1975 at St Martins College of Art. Their outrageous behaviour and contempt for established conventions announced the beginning of Punk. The DIY ethos and uncontrolled, home made style was revolutionary at the time and launched a new era in British music, fashion and design.
Type Tasting has been touring the streets of Dalston exploring the signs that illuminate our social rituals, rummaging around in record shops* looking at type on album covers, and next year we’re off to take part in SXSW in Austin, Texas. Typography is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll. We’ll tell you more soon…