Thursday, 28 May 2015

Some thoughts on titling and typography

To give an example of typography in title design, the work of Danny Yount, a designer who specialises in title sequences come to mind. Danny is Director of a company called Prologue.

Copyright symbol from the Copyright Authority.
Why Danny's work is an interesting example is from the perspective of his career having been shaped from being self taught.

I think that great examples of experimental titling or use of typography in film can be discovered by way of the film form poetronica; adding motion to text to visually create an intertextual environment. You can view a fine array of poetronica through the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, and the links provided therein.

Typographical ideas such as:

Priming - Stimulus effected by previous stimulus.
Asemic Writing - wordless writing that forms new meanings and aesthetics.
Calligram - Words are arranged to present a visual.
Semantics - The meanings behind words.
Semiotics - The meanings behind symbols, signs and imagery.
Intertextuality - Forming new meanings or blending preexisting meanings using other texts.

All of these concepts can help shape using text and imagery, in a creative way.

What you can and can't get away with commercially in the field of digital design, as an independent? Fonts, are considered software, if you want to use them, you have to have a license to be able to personally print, edit or view that particular 'font' set. When I say font, I don't mean typeface which is the family of which your font may derive from (Sans Serif, Script, Monospaced), I am talking about the design of characters that make up the font from which belongs to a particular typeface. Mostly the fonts commonly used already have the license paid for by whatever software or operating system you use. This covers a certain degree of distribution from the output using that os or software.

But if you stray from the common font family packages, and want to use something unique for commercial use, you will have to make sure you have a license to use that font design for your commercial purposes. It is a very good idea to understand the length and breadth of typeface and font use in your designs, not only for the well being of your business but your own peace of mind also, that you are following guidelines as best you can in a complicated area of design law, and remembering that even if you feel certain copyright loopholes may be jumped through, there are always design patents where someone has registered that font or typeface to protect it from piracy or plagiarism. Most independents ignore this, but if you have a look at the amount of cease and desist cases going 'round, you'll start to get an indication of why best practice could save you a hell of a lot of future headaches if your project takes off and starts getting noticed.

You may have to contact the foundry that has created a particular font, such a foundry may be Linotype, that creates a particular Font that for instance Woody Allen uses for all his credit and title sequences, I read somewhere that he even has that particular font written into his contracts.

It is a good idea to hunt down some information on the font you are planning on using, here Adobe has some information of locating this. If you use a Mac, simply open up Font Book, goto Preview and select "Show Font Info" where you will see an extensive display of information attached to that Font. Here are some examples:

I recommend reading Norman Walsh's FAQ on fonts and typeface. For further reading is an interesting article called "Call it what it is" by John Downer on the merits of good design practice and typography.

So with all this copyright and license business about the place, you may be wondering where my open source plug is, as I usually try and support open source as much as possible. Well here is a nice little Free Font Manifesto by Ellen Lupton (curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at MICA in Baltimore) - her webpage here - and a program I have yet to try out myself which is Font Forge created by George Williams. Most commercial font design software will cost you near to $500.00, so it is worth looking into anything that is open source.

Without getting noses dirty with too much sniffing into the nitty gritty, an overview of Outline Fonts (The Fonts formats we use on Computers) are:

True Type developed by Apple Computers.
Adobe Postscript Type 1 and Type 3.
Open Type developed by Microsoft and Adobe.

There is metafont and clear type also but the above are the most common formats in use.

Below is a video of put together of some of the ideas behind graphic design as expressed by Paul Rand. Here he expresses the importance of form and content. The video seems to cut-off abruptly but I think it is worth listening to what Paul has to say as his graphic design work is some of the most successful and widely used in the world today.

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