Visual Rhetorics is coming to a close — it’s been a challenging course, pushing many to the bleeding edge of their comfort zones. Myself included. Something that surprised me was our attention to typography. I learned much in our ongoing discussions about how type makes language visible.

As Matthew Butterick says:

Typography mat­ters be­cause it helps con­serve the most valu­able resource you have as a writer—read­er attention.– from Buttericks’ Practical Typography  

Now, I’m starting to get curious.

Why do we so often stick safely to the same two or three fonts? Do we choose our typefaces mindfully? When do we take risks? Push the limits? Express something new through our design choices?

And why are fonts and typography so often overlooked on the web? The letter’s arrangement, line length, spacing, and color all do powerful communicative work to hold the reader’s attention. It seems we’ve known this for ages.

In the project below, a student demonstrates the power of typography in communicating a specific message. She describes her process [cleverly combining lessons on typography and advanced slide presentation techniques from the course] in this blog post.

Typography is a powerful tool. And yet, I don’t think designers have embraced type’s full potential on the web. What role does typography play in effective website design? What communicative work does it do? Do you have favorite examples of effective type?


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