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.
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—
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 we 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 is an art historian, printer, type designer (FF Meta, ITC Officina, FF Unit, FF Info, Fira), information architect, and author. Founder MetaDesign (1979), FontShop (1989), Edenspiekermann (2008). Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Britain (2007). TDC Medal & National German Lifetime Achievement Award (2011). He lives in Berlin, London, and San Francisco. He now runs p98a.berlin, an experimental letterpress workshop. A book about his life and work, Hello, I am Erik, was published by Gestalten Verlag in 2014.