Typography is concerned with the design of text and the written word in print and design. It is a fundamental part of graphic design and advertising and it is an art form in its own right. Typography in the 21st century is very reliant on computers, but things were not always so hi-tech! People have used symbols to describe something, long before the alphabet in its present forms was created. The ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics and Homer is traditionally credited with creating the Greek alphabet, which was made up of symbols rather than the characters that we recognise today.
If we go back in time, books used to be hand written, and as you can imagine this must have been a very labour-intensive exercise, but by the 15th century a form of printing had been developed in the form of moveable type. This technique involved a punch made from metal with the mirror image of a letter stuck to the top. This was then stuck into a softer piece of metal so that a 'cast' of that letter was made. This was then filled with liquid metal and once set, the letter/symbol had been created. This could then be dipped in ink and placed on paper, and the letter would be printed onto the page. During the industrial revolution in the late19th century, typesetting and printing was transformed by improved printing machines, and since the 1980s, typography has become more accessible to more and more people including you. When you write a letter or an essay on a computer, you are in fact a typographer. By choosing a font and the style, i.e. italic or bold, you are creating the look and feel of the document that you are writing and therefore expressing yourself through type.
Readability and legibility are of course important factors to consider. We come across typography everyday in the form of advertisements, books, letters and even graffiti. Newspapers use a larger size of type for the headlines, this draws the eye to a particular feature, and the type or fonts that are used for brand names and logos are designed to be instantly recognisable. For example, the BBC logo, Royal Mail or Boots the Chemist all have very familiar written logos.
Example areas of study
The study of typography is very broad and includes letter design and application, typesetting and communication. Examples of the type of modules that you may study on a typography course are listed below, but it is worth checking with the institution themselves as to the subjects you will study before submitting your application.
- Communication design
- Graphic communication
- Expressive messaging
- Typographic theory and practice
- Digital design methods
- Typographic detailing
- History of the graphic arts
- Image and text
- Letterforms and typography
- Twentieth-century book design
- Use of colour
- Media communication and design
- Visual and verbal language
- Visual research
- Type media
- Typographic design
- Graphic environments
- Editorial design
- Ideas generation
- Animation techniques
- Computer application in typography
- Professional studies
- Mass text applications
- Multimedia web authoring
- Drawing techniques and approaches
- Typographic information technology packages
Some career possibilities
Careers where a qualification in typography may be useful, include design, image making, art directing, animating, web designing, marketing, publishing, multimedia design and advertising. Further research and study is also available at postgraduate level.
What do I need to get on a course?
Entry requirements for typography courses vary from institution to institution, but please find some guidelines to the qualifications and grades you may need below:
- A-level: CCC-BBB
- Art Foundation Course
- UCAS Tariff: 200-320 points including relevant art and design subject
- BTEC National Diploma: Art and design
- HNC/D: Art and design
- Access: relevant subject for mature students
- International Baccalaureate: 30 points including relevant art and design subject
For your application or interview, the following may be useful:
- A good portfolio will be required. This should include designs and photographs of finished pieces that you have produced as part of previous study and in your own time. You should be able to discuss each piece with confidence at your interview.
- Further information on typography is available from the The Chartered Society of Designers
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk