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Design student typographic survival kit

Here is some advice for students starting a new term on how fonts can help your studies, from Sarah Hyndman’s book Why Fonts Matter.

1. Use fonts to give your words a personality

Helvetica, Times New Roman and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The barman turns to Comic Sans and says ‘sorry we don’t serve your type in here’.

This familiar joke demonstrates that fonts have personalities that we recognise easily. Some are unassuming, whilst others are larger-than-life like Mike Lacher’s version of Comic Sans, who says, ‘People love me. Why? Because I’m fun. I’m the life of the party’, then goes out and gets drunk with Papyrus.

2. A font could make you appear more intelligent

When student Phil Renaud was nearing the end of his third year at university he noticed that his grade average had improved. He wondered why, since he did not think he was putting any more effort into studying or writing. He realised that the one thing that had changed over time was his choice of font, and so he looked back at the 52 essays he had submitted and compared the grades and typefaces. He found that when he used Georgia his grade average was A, with Times New Roman it was A-minus, whilst the essays written in Trebuchet only averaged B-minus.

3. Change the font to improve your memory

An unfamiliar typeface slows our reading down and makes us pay attention, which takes us off autopilot and our brain invests greater time and attention in what we are reading. A high school in Ohio discovered that when students studied from texts in an unfamiliar font, their exam results were higher than those who had been given the books in a more familiar and readable one. Try switching your notes into a difficult-to-read font when you are trying to memorise them.

4. Use a font to make a difficult task seem easier

Psychologists at the University of Michigan ran an experiment to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise by giving them instructions for an exercise routine printed in one of two typefaces. They found that those who read the instructions in Arial, the easy-to-read typeface, estimated the exercise routine would take around half the time to do, and said they would be more likely to incorporate it into their daily routine than those who read the instructions in Mistral, a hard-to-read font. The participants misread the ease of reading the instructions for the ease of actually doing the exercises.

When you are working on a topic you find difficult, try selecting an easy-to-read font while you work, like copywriter Michael Everett who creates his invoices in Century Gothic because this makes the task seem less of a chore.

5. Avoid font faux pas

Select the ‘wrong’ typeface and you can unwittingly commit a font faux pas with the potential to overshadow, or even undermine, the credibility of your message. In 2012 CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, or ‘God’ particle. This was a momentous scientific event but, within hours of the news, “Comic Sans”, the font in which the announcement was made, was trending higher on Twitter than the discovery itself. It became a major talking point that such an important scientific breakthrough should be announced in a style inspired by comic books.

Find out more in Why Fonts Matter by Sarah Hyndman, Penguin/Random House.

Win a student survival kit

Head over to Type Tasting on Instagram to win a design student survival kit containing a signed copy of Why Fonts Matter and essential goodies including a typographic tea towel, sketchbook and stickers to tag your belongings. September 2017.

REPUTATION TAYLOR

Taylor Swift, Blackletter and typography-fuelled gossip
By Sarah Hyndman

The announcement of Taylor Swift’s new album, Reputation, is a great example of typography used as a visual code. It has resulted in a furore of debate on social media that Swift is reprising her well-known feud with Kanye West, yet if you look behind her you see her name repeated over and over in the styles of the media mastheads and logos—from high brow to gossip tabloids. This is a clever double meaning, and one that is inherently meta, because it is fuelling the media machine to obsess over a reference that ultimately appears to be about itself.

#TaylorSwift

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Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions is an interactive sensory exploration of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, created by AVM Curiosities & Type Tasting for the British Academy’s Literature Week.

Taking inspiration from the typography found in three editions of this classic novel, Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions uses type, sound, sight and scent to serve one story three ways.

Below are some great photos to give you a glimpse, but this installation is best experienced in person and you can find answers to the following questions:

Cabinet I: Classic, the First Edition.
1. What two scents have we combined for the smell of a traditional printing press?
2. What phrase is revealed in the mirror?
3. What sound can you hear?

Cabinet II: Opulence, the Peacock Edition.
4. What is the book scented with (flick through the pages to smell it)?
5. What does the peacock feather represent?
6. What art movement is the lettering inspired by?

Cabinet III: And Zombies, the Graphic Novel.
7. How many zombies can you see?
8. What does our interpretation of the Zombie Apocalypse smell like?
9. What happens through the final peephole?

Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions presented by AVM Curiosities & Type Tasting
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH
Monday 15th to Friday 19th May, 9am to 6pm. FREE ENTRY
For more information please click here.
Part of the Open Senses Festival

“A thoughtful and contemporary way of deconstructing Pride and Prejudice” Marisa Smith, The British Academy

“Beautiful and so original, I could have spent hours looking at (and hearing and smelling) all the details” Tora Orde-Powlett, Penguin Books

“Black lobster and Jane Austen—of course! And the aroma of the printing press mingled with violet and patchouli oil scented books, it is a sensory delight. Inspired by the typography found in three editions of the classic novel—a delightful and diverting indulgence” Rosalind Freeborn

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Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch features history and fashion in type with Sarah Hyndman

Sarah Hyndman interviewed on Sunday Brunch on April 9th 2017, this is available here on catchup TV in the UK (the interview starts at around 01:10). This is an overview of the conversation that covered 550 years of type in eight and a half minutes, with a few supporting facts added in.

The production team and graphics department at Princess Productions sourced and created most of the examples, we all had a lot of fun because they were excited about the segment. Presenter Simon is also a very big type fan and had his copy of the book stashed in his bag to take home with him.

   

Tim: Welcome back to Sunday Brunch live. We’re here with graphic designer and author Sarah Hyndman. You’re going to teach us a little about the history of typography, what is it first of all?

Typography is written language made from preformed letters that can be repeated over and over. During the centuries many shapes and styles of the letters have been designed, all of which have absorbed their own set of associations or meanings. We might think that we don’t notice these meanings, but we do because reading is a complex task performed by our non-conscious (like driving or walking), and as a result the type communicates directly with our non-conscious brain.

Looking at type in context is like code breaking. The shapes and styles appear in all aspects of our everyday lives and form a mirror for social history and cultural change. Looking at the typefaces gives you many clues about historical context, origins and genres.

Simon: I like the word typeface better than font, what’s the difference?

A typeface is the design, like Helvetica. A font is the physical form of a typeface—this could be the metal type we print with, or the digital file on your computer. However, the terms are used fairly interchangeably outside the professional world of graphic design and typography.

Tim: You’re now going to take us through the history of a few well-known fonts. First we’re going to look at this gothic font, when was this first used?

Printing first came to Europe in the 1400s and at the time, like many new technologies, it copied the format of the existing technology—in this case hand-written books. Books were huge and prestigious artefacts, carefully hand written by monks and scribes in ornate and calligraphy style that we know as gothic or Blackletter.

Simon: You wouldn’t expect to read a book in this style today?

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Vinyl Type: Guess the music genre
We took the Type Tasting record collection along to Letterform Live’s ‘Vinyl’ night with Grafik and Monotype. The record player and vinyl records were set up in the bar as a fun game to play before and after the talks. We invited the audience to guess the music genre from the typeface on the record label, and then to play the record to find out whether they were right. Best played with lashings of beer.

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