Know and tell vs show and tell: type design process – an epistemological enquiry

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In his 1680s authoritative overview of printing and all its related disciplines, Joseph Moxon identifies a problem in the designing and production of typefaces that still persists today. ‘Letter-cutting is a Handy-Work hitherto kept so conceal’d among the Artificers of it, that I cannot learn any one hath taught it any other; But every one that has used it, Learnt it of his own Genuine Inclination.’ Joseph Moxon – Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (1683–4), (Davis and Carter (Eds) 1958, p87). What Moxon does describe, are the processes of letter-cutting, the processes of designing the letterforms are not explored in any great depth. Type design is often a lengthy and solitary endeavour on the part of the designer. An endeavour in which, there is little in terms of guidance to draw upon regarding the processes involved in the designing of type. Few books or resources exist regarding this subject – this is not only a contemporary problem but also an historical one. The presentation will discuss some of the historical and contemporary aspects and problems in relation to type design ‘knowledge’ and present some research findings in relation to this. Is there more to type design than creating interesting, beautiful and functional letterforms? Why is it that there still relatively little in terms of the literature that describes type design process compared to other areas of design? What exactly do we mean by ‘Practice’ in relation to type design? What is it that type designers ‘do’ in relation to what they ‘know’? The current PhD research is supervised by: Professor Phil Baines Professor Janet McDonnell Dr Catherine Dixon
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010
EventAssociation Typographique Internationale: The Word Dublin 2010 - Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 1 Sept 2010 → …


ConferenceAssociation Typographique Internationale: The Word Dublin 2010
CityDublin Castle, Dublin
Period1/09/10 → …


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