If the image of the text … has more value than its content …
With visual culture triumphant and content marginalised, how can typography be defined?
In this essay, the authors try to find out what can still be meant by the word typography today. In the first section, Wigger Bierma works on a redefinition of typography. In comparison to Morison’s 1930 definition, he recognises a complete shift in content, and a wide gap between the tradition of book typography and lettering. Nowadays typography seems to be ‘doing something with letters’ – a definition inadequate for a discipline with a tradition lasting over 500 years.
In the second section, Ewan Lentjes reflects on Bierma’s thoughts, and wonders where the distinctions he makes might take us if we look for a more proper definition of typography in the digital era. Like any information, typeforms function as signposts in a dynamic structure of communication. But, against the triumph of the image and the celebration of the informal in Dutch design today, the precise notion of the ‘typographic eye’ can be brought to mind again as an interesting approach to genuine plurality in design discourse and education.
Wigger Bierma, designer, co-founder, Werkplaats Typografie, Arnhem
Ewan Lentjes, writer, Nijmegen and Breda
Read the text in full in Eye no. 54 vol. 14 2004
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