When Matthew asked me to write a fore­word to this trea­tise, I first checked out his de­f­i­n­i­tion of typography:

Ty­pog­ra­phy is the vi­sual com­po­nent of the writ­ten word.

Well, at first glance, that doesn’t sound too dif­fer­ent from what I have of­ten written:

Type is vis­i­ble language.

Ac­tu­ally, these two de­f­i­n­i­tions are quite dif­fer­ent from one an­other: I de­fine type; Matthew de­fines ty­pog­ra­phy. I am not sure whether I agree with his de­f­i­n­i­tion. But as he is a good friend and a law­yer to boot, I’ll in­dulge him for a bit.

Type ismech­a­nized” writ­ing—as op­posed to writ­ing by hand. One could ar­gue that even a hand­writ­ten shop­ping list uses some arrange­ment on the page, but I wouldn’t go as far as call­ing that typography.

Printed type, how­ever, does not ex­ist with­out a re­la­tion­ship to the page it is pre­sented on. This is what I call ty­pog­ra­phy: the arrange­ment of pre­fab­ri­cated el­e­ments on a page. These el­e­ments may in­clude im­ages, words, sen­tences and—above all—the space be­tween those el­e­ments. Ide­ally, this arrange­ment vi­su­al­izes and thus re­in­forces the hi­er­ar­chy of the mes­sage. As Matthew puts it himself:

Good ty­pog­ra­phy is mea­sured by how well it re­in­forces the mean­ing of the text, not by some ab­stract scale of merit.

With­out ty­pog­ra­phy, one could ar­gue, mes­sages will still be leg­i­ble, but if one really wants to com­mu­ni­cate rather than sim­ply dis­play a heap of al­phanu­meric data, some con­sid­er­a­tion would be help­ful. Paul Wat­zlaw­ick’s first ax­iom of com­mu­ni­ca­tion—one can­not not com­mu­ni­cate”—puts it very suc­cinctly. If you fail to con­sider the ef­fect of your mes­sage on the re­cip­i­ent, you may in­ad­ver­tently com­mu­ni­cate that you do not care how your mes­sage may be received.

A few hun­dred years of type and ty­pog­ra­phy have es­tab­lished rules that only a fool would ig­nore. (Or a graphic de­signer keen to im­press his peers.) For all those who need to com­mu­ni­cate clearly and even add a mod­icum of aes­thetic value to their mes­sages, this pub­li­ca­tion pro­vides every­thing you al­ways wanted to ask but didn’t know how to.

That’s one thing us mere de­sign­ers can learn from a de­signer who is also a law­yer, like Matthew: if your ar­gu­ment is easy to fol­low, it will be a win­ning one.

—Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiek­er­mann is an in­for­ma­tion ar­chi­tect, type de­signer, and au­thor of books and ar­ti­cles on type and ty­pog­ra­phy. Two of his type­faces, FF Meta and ITC Of­fic­ina, are con­sid­ered to be mod­ern clas­sics. In 1979 he founded MetaDe­sign and in 1989 FontShop. To­day he is man­ag­ing part­ner and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Eden­spiek­er­mann. He is also Hon­orary Royal De­signer for In­dus­try in Britain.

(Erik’s book Stop Steal­ing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works is in the bib­li­og­ra­phy; his fonts FF Unit and Fira Sans are fea­tured in Cal­ibri al­ter­na­tives.— MB)