What Ever Happened to Typography?

Triste | 45 x 35 x 25 cm | Molded books | 2011. @ Ana Sánchez.

I’m going to sound like an old curmudgeon. I’m sorry, but I miss the days when typography was an art. The days when we would struggle to decide if the point size should be 7.5 or 7.25. (Today I probably can’t even see either . . . so small.)

Coming from a creative background, typography was often the focus on my designs. It provided a solid foundation when other creative resources within me were stifled.

I have fond memories of the hours spent proofing hot metal galleys, scraping off imprints left by the lead slugs or re-kerning letters to my own satisfaction. If I wanted the type to follow a curve or a circle I would carefully slice between each letter, making sure to leave the base connected, and then play and replay with the placement so that it wouldn’t look as sliced and reset as it really was. How many hours were spent deciding on the correct visual white space between each letter? What satisfaction when I felt it was right.

Today, as I create for the web, read on my Kindle Fire, or view the posting on my Facebook community, I don’t look. I forgive. And every now and then, I am thrilled when I see fonts displayed artfully.

This brief look back in time was inspired, admittedly, by a class Visual Media Alliance will be producing in conjunction with Houlton Institute called The Provocative Life of Type. Beginning April 9, Professor Alex W. White / @alexwwhite will attempt to bring typography back to the design playing field in using a uniquely hi-tech education format that combines asynchronously presented seminars, social interactions, videos, take home exercises and more. He will introduce ways to reveal meaning and add spirit to display type. The design processes used to elicit typographic feeling is an integral aspect of this course. Understanding these dynamics can inspire more expressive, dynamic, and stimulating design. I look forward to bringing the past back to the future! If you’d like to learn more click here.


Perusing a company my soon-to-be graduated son has been courting, I found myself engaged in this very interesting video – part of 2010 Conference on Entrepreneurship. It is a fascinating overview of the threats and opportunities to business sales and customer service presented by the transparency of social media. It really is a marketing quandary and one not to be ignored. The video is a bit long but take in whatever you can. I think it might make for some interesting discussion.
And I’ll start with a few questions:
• Is your company maintaining on online presence?
• Have you had to address customer complaints publicly? If so, how did you deal with them?
• Who in your company is responsible for addressing these issues?
• Is there a defined standard by which employees use social networks to communicate on behalf of your company so they can move the consumer-company relationship in a healthy direction?

Encyclopedia Britannica going 100% digital.

Encyclopedia Britannica announced they are going 100% digital. No more volumes of books with glossy picture. No more impressive bookshelves boasting intellectual curiosity. No more PRINT. http://ht.ly/9EfP3

“The print edition became more difficult to maintain and wasn’t the best physical element to deliver the quality of our database and the quality of our editorial,” Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., told Reuters.

As to whether print editions of books will be viable products in the future, Cauz predicted, “print may not completely vanish from the market, but I think it is going to be increasingly less important. Many publications will never have a print analog and will only be printed on digital formats.”

A month earlier Proctor &Gamble announced cuts to their marketing budget by $10 Billion to focus on digital. http://ht.ly/9Eu20

News? Hardly. These changes have been coming and will most likely escalate in years to come. Some members criticized Printing Industries of Northern California reorganization to Visual Media Alliance two years ago. As an organization committed to supporting the printing industry, some wondered if we were jumping ship. Others who lauded this transition understood. The best we can to for our valued members as well as our important community that has supported our trade for decades, is to educate them. The term “Opporthreats” applied precisely. What’s going on is clearly a threat if we continue with business as usual. It is as well an opportunity if we can morph ourselves into the broader  communications industry we need to be. It’s not that we’ll all disappear. After all, there is still an industry who succeeds by chiseling words onto stone as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. Of course, even the headstone industry is being affected by technology today.

“Computers have made the process of engraving and etching much easier and more detailed. A computer can quickly scan an image and transfer it to a stone in a matter of seconds. In fact, engravings and designs that took months to create now take only a few hours or days. Even pictures of the person, like a ceramic picture or laser etched portrait, can be placed onto a headstone.” http://ht.ly/9ErG0

So when we invite you to VisualMedia012 this April 26 in San Francisco, take a second look. It might be the look into your future as you learn about the latest trends and technologies and how printers, designers, marketers can embrace these “Opporthreats” and flourish from the opportunities.

How do you communicate?

Communication used to mean a telephone call, a letter, a mailer, an email. Today, web technologies and social media continue to offer us more and more options. It’s gone way beyond the vehicle of communication. What we say, how we say it, who’s listening and what’s in it for them are not new concepts but with so much to consider about every conversation, just writing this little blog post can be mind-bloggling.

We are looking forward to learning the magic of new communication techniques at this years VisualMedia012 event on April 26. Perhaps we can start the conversation early. With all the amazing experts we’ve got lined up, we’re bound to get some answers. So we invite you, here, now. What bloggles your mind? We’ll see if we can find the answers.