Telling a Textual Tale through Typography

Telling a Textual Tale through Typography

“Typography is what language looks like.” -Ellen Lupton

What’s in a word? Well, if you’re a web designer, or any other creative for that matter, it means astronomically more than the literal. However, you don’t have to be a ‘creative’ to be influenced by the power of type. If you’re simply attuned with emotions and imagery, you’re much more affected by typography than you think.

What is typography, anyway?!?!

The traditional definition lends itself to the following:

Any design or selection of letter forms to be organized into words and sentences and printed or displayed electronically.

That’s a pretty generic statement about type, though, considering all of the intricate craft involved in creating it. There’s much more to type, typography, and hand lettering in the world of design, and that consists of portraying a visual meaning to language. As a writer, I like to think of brilliant typography as the “design of content.”

Sure, words can be powerful in their own right. We all fancy a good quote about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness. But, how can a quote become magnified by our emotional receptors?

GREAT TYPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The chosen, or created, type for a given statement will either reinforce, or destroy, that quote’s meaning through visual cue. But they’re just letters, making up words, making up sentences! Sure, “pretty” words might appear to be just that: PRETTY. But, high-quality, custom type also has the power to emotionally connect viewers to the statement at hand. At this point, it’s probably best we consider some master typographic designers, to exhibit just how valuable and effective quality type is! Because, great TYPE is truly about the VISUAL!

After many years of working within the design, web design, and online marketing industry, I’ve come across a fair share of typography designers and hand-lettering masterminds! I would like to take this opportunity to highlight two of my personal favorites!

Jay Roeder
Jay Roeder is a freelance designer and illustrator with a strong affinity toward Brooklyn, the lyrics of the late Notorious B. I.G., eclectic ‘pop-art’ inspired illustration, the hip-hop community at large, and playful hand lettering. After a mere glance at his work, it is evident that Jay not only possesses a trademark aesthetic, but that he’s just super talented. I know this because I can’t stop smiling and nodding when I look at his work: his hand-written, illustrated WORDS and animated illustrations!

A signature “Brooklyn” inspired type design. The type reflects an upbeat, hip-hop infused aura. And, the way he subtly connects the language with the microphone design is really simple yet effective.

This playful design addresses Dr. Dre’s highly sought after trademark headphones (Beats) with the “punny” concept of changing the ear piece to the actual food, beets. Anyone who knows what Beats are will utter a chuckle after seeing this one.

Just another fun life proclamation about typography and drawing. Any creative will appreciate this one, as the variation in type hand lettering and simple grammar lends itself to authentic honesty.

There’s something so wonderful about seeing text and quickly learning that it’s the lyrics to one of your favorite Nirvana songs. Jay creatively does this lyric-driven type design with hip-hop, but it was surprisingly and refreshingly cool to see this Nirvana type design.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the perfect example of the quote at the beginning of this blog post: Typography is what language looks like. Jay beautifully embellishes his loud statement with an appropriate shade of glowing gold. We dig!

Again, another hand lettering proclamation from a typography enthusiast! In order to show his preference for hand crafted type over computer fonts, Jay includes a plethora of hand lettering variations in his signature exciting design.

This one just makes me smile because it’s so creatively beautiful. He collides his undying love for Brooklyn with a cult-like Notorious B.I.G. hip-hop lyric, and the addition of the Brooklyn Bridge. The eclectic hand lettering also makes you feel the emotion behind each word, which is a powerful thing to achieve in typography.

Another playful, witty, and smile-inducing type poster. There’s really not much to explain, which is the fun part about this simple and easy to digest world of excellent type. This is signature Roeder! It makes you smile because it’s authentic, honest, and real.

Brilliant! This one truly lends itself to Roeder’s design chops and artistic merit. It might be hard to notice at first glance, but Roeder has sketched a vector image of the late Notorious B.I.G. and included another classic hip-hop lyric. Beautiful work!

Like Roeder, Sean McCabe is an exceptional type designer and illustrator with a sophisticated trademark expression. Growing up, McCabe perceived himself to be strange due to his attraction for letters and words; however, that tenacious attraction paid off because he has become a truly amazing typographer, with a poignant ability to implement emotional language and LOUD wit through SUBTLE illustration.

One of the first things you notice about Sean’s hand lettering is his CLEAN and precise aesthetic. This quote came from a TV show, “How I Met Your Mother,” articulated by Neil Patrick Harris. Aside from the quote just being, well, AWESOME, Sean’s type only reinforces it’s awesome-ness!!

Super funny! Sean pays homage to the culturally robust HIPSTER movement that’s occurring rampantly right now. It is a largely design-centric poster with hipster-infused artifacts, but the type lends itself to perfect encapsulation of the theme. Bravo, Sean!

Truth! Most of Sean’s type designs coincide with the simple, yet powerfully honest, realities of LIFE! The subtle light bulb only accentuates his crisp type with even more subtle type variation.

As a coffee enthusiast, to put it lightly, I am particularly attracted to this design. It MOST CERTAINLY is always coffee time. The subtle slant in the “A” of “Always” is just enough to make this design genius. When you look at this, you feel happy and calm, much like when you’ve got that morning cup ‘o’ Joe in your hand!

Sean has creatively enclosed his beautiful type in a scientific beaker glass, which resonates with the language wonderfully. His use of color also helps the viewer see the glass as half full (or empty, depending on your viewpoint!), which is yet another playful element.

Here’s another TRUTH quote! if you really break down the hand-lettered type of each word, you understand why Sean chose to implement a bold type for one word and a more translucent font for another. Subtle wit!

There’s not much to this statement, but it’s powerful nonetheless. People DO matter and the way Sean has BOLDED the word “people” is not an accident. He chooses a more fluid, calm font for the word “matter” to initiate and honest and wholesome final tone.

Like Roeder, Sean often writes about type and hand lettering. This poster is coming from the heart, and that resonates in the type design. The magnification of the words “Letters” and “Music” are strategic. And, the subtle addition of music notes is playful and fun.

A unique color-embellished type poster by McCabe! This one is inspirational, hence the suggestion of color, and the variation in hand lettering also facilitates the reader’s emotion as they make their way to the end of the statement. Clean and effective! Signature Sean McCabe!

It should be clear how AWESOME type is after reading this blog. What I love about type is that, though it encompasses language and letter design, each typographer has an intrinsic aesthetic. When I SEE a Roeder piece, I KNOW it’s Roeder. The same can be said for McCabe. Letters truly are like Music, as McCabe stated, because we can hear the writer’s voice by looking at their art!

I feel very passionate about type and hand lettering and think that the value in its presence is something irreplaceable by sheer design. This was just an inspirational design blog post that I think everyone will enjoy!


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