Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video Form vs. function, part of Learning to Set Display Type.
- All typefaces have both form and function and both matter. By function, I mean how clear a typeface is, how easy it is to read, how flexible it is to work with. An example of good function is the typeface Myriad. It has very simple letter forms, open terminals, and because of that, it's incredibly readable. I'd say if the sole job of a typeface is readability, we could set everything in Myriad and be done with it. Most text, book type, newspaper type, the stuff you read everyday, has high function, very easy to read, that's its job.
Display type is more about form. It's job is to look good, like a model. Readability is less important. An example of good form is the typeface Erotica. I didn't name it, but it's appropriate. This is the most beautiful script that I know. Its job is to take your breath away. That's extreme, but most display type trade some function for form. You're going for looks first. This is the typeface Vinyle.
Easier to read that Erotica, but still, you wouldn't use this for text. The colors, the slant, the condensed style, the swashes, they're there to make a splash. Display type usually works through its associations. Associations are what come to mind when we see a typeface. For example, stencil type says Cargo and Shipping in the military, rough duty. In real life it's rolled, or stamped, or sprayed-on through utility and we feel that.
Type that's worn or weathered can have a similar effect. This typeface called TT Octas looks regal. It evokes kingship, the monarchy. It's masculine, that's the chiseled edges. Calligraphy can be elegant, and formal, and sensual like we just saw. Block type says college and athletics. Black letter type evokes medieval times.
Unsealed type looks Irish. Comic book type is its own genre. Storybook type can convey fantasy and romance and so on. These are associations. They can be obvious like these. They can also be subtle and nuanced, and it's fun to find that voice. Display type can also be conservative and very functional, like a big version of text. In fact it can be text. You might do this to convey authority.
An example is the New York Times. All of its type, text, headlines, sub-heads, by lines, call-outs, captions, is understated. It's nuanced. It's designed to establish a sense of quietude, that the paper's a place to go for thoughtful conversation, discussion, debate, and so on. That's the message of its typography.
Join John McWade as he explains how to design in a variety of styles and voices using display type, which is type that's set at headline size and above. He discusses type families that include strikingly expressive characters, shows how to combine typefaces, shares how to avoid common design flaws, and takes you through working with type in photos. This art form is applicable to print advertising, brochures, magazines, posters, fliers, slide decks, and much more.
- What is display type?
- Form vs. function
- Setting display type
- Combining typefaces
- Tightening or loosening a setting
- Using display type with images
- Avoiding common mistakes
- Typographic voice