Preface: I asked some of my most trusted names in typography "What lesson do *you* feel most important to readers with little or no 'formal' training in typography?" Most of them didn't respond. But Alex is a true educator and never passes up the opportunity to help further the ideals of good typography...
Alex White: Design's Function & Typography
by Alex White
Design's function is to convey meaning. Type, by the way, is the hardest third of the material designer's use. The other two thirds are imagery and space
Design is easy - and largely invisible - when type is type, imagery is imagery, and space is in the background.
Design is hard - and much more visible - when the line between ellemnts blurs: type is imagery, imagery is space, and space is type. That's why the red heat appears at the tips of the arrows, where pairs of design elements become indistinguishable.
Design is a two-step process:
Make people look and then convey content effortlessly. These purposes are seemingly at odds, because attention-getting design must be interpretive and slightly abstract. On the other hand, effortless content requires legibility. This contradiction is what makes design such an interesting field.
The Challenge for Designers
Getting inside a message, understanding it fully, and revealing its value to the reader is "value-added design." It is far more challenging than just decorating a message with a fun typeface or by illustrating the first noun that happens along. It takes sensitivity and practice and an inherent talent with telling stories.
Questions for Designers
Teaching this is very difficult, but the essence is to ask two questions:
why is your design solution precisely like that? And
what is right with your design solution?
It is easy to have "nothing wrong" with a design, but it is immeasurably more difficult to have something right with it.
In addition, "liking" a design is immaterial to its effectiveness as an applied tool. "Liking" a design is always pleasant, but why you like it is matters more. Train your brain to discern what makes truly good design. And truly good design is both visible and effortless.
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