Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Positive Effects of Typography: Calligraphy

As designers, we hear about and see a lot of hand written type, but do we ever focus on how the letters are made and how it can actually help our brains?

Chinese calligraphy is an ancient art that can be traced back to 4000 BCE. The word calligraphy in Chinese literally means, "the method of writing." This implies that there is a force behind each character that is written. There are rules to follow when writing proper calligraphy, they are: The characters must be written right, they must be legible, concise (no flourishes or ligatures), fit their context, and finally they must be aesthetically pleasing. People generally learn calligraphy by copying stroke for stroke from a master's work.
As we all know there is something very soothing about using a brush, and copying from a master takes most of the mental energy out of the writing, allowing your brain to focus only on the strokes and movement of the brush.
Calligraphy is proven to aid in cognition and stress relief. Because of all these positive effects, something called calligraphy therapy has come into existence. I looked at two studies talking about the effects of calligraphy on groups of people. The first was studying "Cognitive effects of calligraphy therapy for older people." They did the test on older people (65+ years) in Hong Kong with mild cognitive impairment. The individuals either had calligraphy therapy or they did not, and they examined the effects over two months. After, the individuals took a test that tested cognition. The results were that "The calligraphy group was found to have a prominent increase in CMMSE global score, and scores in the cognitive areas of orientation, attention, and calculation after two months, whereas their counterparts in the control group experienced a decline in CMMSE score."
This is amazing because not only did calligraphy therapy upkeep their cognition, it improved upon it.

The other test was called "Calligraphy and meditation for stress reduction." They tested 30 graduate students and staff members of a university in Taiwan who said they were stressed. The results were that people who practiced calligraphy had a decrease in heart rate and an increase in skin temperature. The conclusion that the studiers came to is that calligraphy is "is a particularly promising new approach to reducing stress.

Another more specific study of the effects of calligraphy on the brain came to the conclusion that, "The many clinical studies and control trials that we have conducted can now have greater pool of theoretical, empirical, and clinical trials foundations to testify the successes of our professional applications over the years of this system of behavioral therapy, particularly in the areas of cognitive maintenance, cognitive treatment, and cognitive rehabilitation and, generally as well, in such other areas of health promotion and disease intervention as psychosomatic disorders, emotions, psychiatric conditions, and behavioral problems." Basically saying, that  calligraphy therapy can treat a wide array of mental and physical problems.

Another type of calligraphy that is more challenging (in appearance) is Arabic calligraphy. There is a woman who is starting an Arabic calligraphy therapy program for children refugees that write and speak Arabic. She pitched the idea to a company called Watanili in Turkey, and the supplies are cheap and easy to transport to refugee areas. This will help the children take their mind off their situation, improve their writing and artistic skills, and most importantly help their confidence and mood.
This is a video of Arabic calligraphy. (In my opinion the more beautiful calligraphy)

Calligraphy therapy should be more widespread because its something easy to get started with (that almost everyone can have access to), and much cheaper than certain drugs and programs that have the same effect on the brain and mood. It also can help heal people globally.

Here is a video of how calligraphy can be a full body experience.
Here is a demonstration of different kinds of calligraphy, quick cursive style, and the slower, methodical kind.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dynamic Type

From my experience working with typography so far, I’ve always treated it as a static, fixed element. It is rooted in print and publication design, after all, which makes it difficult to see it any other way.

But in the modern context of the web, designers and typographers can choose to approach type in an open-ended, fluid way. I am interested to see how people are using technology to push the boundaries of type. These include motion graphics, web animations, and other experimental projects.

Franchise Animated

Motion graphics or kinetic typography was first used for the opening credits of movies in the 1950s – Hitchcock films being a prime example. It came out of a need to portray the mood of the film; the novelty was that motion could add character and emotion to information. Since then, kinetic typography has spread to television, advertisements, and the web.

One project I found that used kinetic typography in a collaborative way was Franchise Animated. Animography asked 110 animators around the world to pick a glyph and animate it in 25 frames and a 500 x 600 px canvas in After Effects. Each person had total creative freedom over their animation, so you’ll see in the video many different animation styles and techniques. This project stood out to me because it shows how expressive letters can be with motion. Even though the letterforms and color palette are kept consistent, each animator brings a personal touch to their share of the typeface.

Type Snap

Type Snap is an experimental web project made by graphic designer Masato Nakada. He wanted to create a typeface that is as dynamic as animated images like emojis and GIFs and efficient as texting abbreviations like OMG or BRB. Type Snap is a website that plays with how much one can read with letters cut in half.  Site visitors can drag letters around to create and test their own words and phrases with the system. According to Nakada, “Typography will always evolve according to its new environment or context. Type Snap explores what typography can perform on the web. Not only does [splitting letters in half] increase reading speed, but we can now pack in more words and meaning. It’s no different to how a printer started to use movable type ligatures to increase their typing speed and legibility.”

Mutable Type

Mutable Type is a thesis project Rolando G Alcantara at the MICA cumulating in a zine and exhibition. “A typeface becomes mutable when it gives the typesetter many different ways to typeset the same message while maintaining a cohesive aesthetic,” he writes. “With mutable type, typographers have more power to change how they set the type, how that typesetting is displayed in any given media, and what parts of it might vary over time.” Below are works that he referenced as inspiration:

Ed Interlock | Ed Interlock is a mutable typeface from House Industries. As the word ligature is being typed, the typeface actively searches for the best combination of glyphs to achieve a more hand-done feel.

Ed Interlock is a mutable typeface by House Industries. The typeface actively searches for the best combination of glyphs to achieve a more hand-done feel.

History is a mutable typeface by Peter Bil'ak.

Hipstory, a typeface made with the additive layering method

I was impressed when I learned that typefaces can be made mutable in different ways – using a large collecting of ligatures, ornamental character glyphs, and additive layering, where each style in the font family acts as a different version of the character. Some examples below are taken from Alcantara’s project that showcase these different methods.

Santeria | Santeria is a mutable typeface I designed to look like lettering when it is typeset.

 Santeria, a typeface designed to look like lettering when set

AlphaBeta, a typeface made using different character glyph variations

Hipstory, a typeface designed using the additive layering method

There is definitely a lot of potential when typography takes advantage of the medium of the web.

Other links I referenced:

BONUS / Mutable Type Publication Design
With our Type Catalog assignment in mind, I digged a little deeper and found great examples of good layout and typography design in the thesis publication.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Typographic Portraits

Typography has come a long way since its origins in ancient societies. It has been an incredible form of communication throughout history, and it is constantly being improved, modified, and pushed new limits. Originally, typography was used to communicate messages, but now, it can communicate in many different ways.  One of the ways typography is used by artists today is to create image- portraits specifically.

Portraits have also been around since the beginning of civilization. They are able to communicate a lot about a person’s status and emotions in a relatively simple image. Today, many artists combine typography and portraiture to represent specific people.

I find it really interesting to look at these portraits and first see the expression on the subject's face, and then to read some of the words that are making up the image. The face of the person says one thing, and the meaning behind the words add a completely different layer to the story.

Stacy Benson: Self Portrait

DilsJ: Mos Def

Some of these artist don't have their own pages for their work, but it is interesting to look at these portraits of themselves, or their depictions of others in this form of portraiture. 

These posters were 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

License Plate Typography

The processes of designing license plates, especially in the U.S., are thought about and created a little differently than how graphic design is usually developed. Typically, the ones who are designing American license plates are trained draftsmen, mechanical engineers, and/or product engineers that work more with industrial design methods and tools than a designer might work with.

Even though this picture is the perfect license plate for every graphic designers out in the world, the design processes made to create the plates are heavily influenced by the tools that are used by these professionals. Therefore, when they design these metal plates, they have a very industrialized looking style, using precise geometrically shaped arcs and lines that work together to create letterforms that are evenly stroked with equal line weights all throughout the letterforms. It is important that these steps are taken very seriously, and thought out very carefully, making painstakingly exact measurements and details, because drivers need to be able to visually read and understand license plates very clearly and quickly. When designing some letters like D and O for example, which we can see very easily are similar in how they are round in forms, it can be easy for some people to mistaken one for the other at times, especially when driving. Without a readable typeface, a dangerous situation is at risk.

That being said, license plates typefaces have been going through this process over the course of many, many years, being sorted into categories. There are 3 specific groups, as well as one that is a hybrid group. They are based on the structures of curves on characters like B, C, D, G, J, O, P, Q, R, S, 0, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9, since characters like A, E, F, H, I, K, L, M, N, T, V through Z, 1, 4, and usually 7 remain usually very similar ­with straight lines.

The first category is called Semicircle Curves and Din-Style. The characters that    belong in this group are ones that have straight, left/right sides joined by semicircles, on both the top and bottom.

The next category is called squarsh. This usually involves letters with curvy sides that are more box-shaped, with straight sides on left/ right/ top/ bottom with rounded corners, almost always have perfectly round 90-degree arcs. The style and look of this typeface is very similar to the one of Eurostile, although Eurostile does not form perfect ninety-degree curves and edges.

This typeface is oval curved. This style of typeface forms curved characters that have oval/ elliptical bowls and arcs that usually measure into a 90 degree curve. This can be compared surprisingly to humanist sans fonts. Although of course they have such an industrial look to them, due to AutoCAD shapes, and it’s consistently balanced line weight quality, the way these letters come together, letters can obtain slight human-like qualities.

And last but not least is the hybrid group, called mixtures of hybrids. This one involves having two types of pattern all in one single character. Mixing up different design elements into one like this can be viewed as inconsistent and random, not really having much of a point that it is trying to get across, and not really having much of an organized plan. This can be seen in graphic design for showing typographic hierarchy. And even though this is meant to make something standout beyond the rest, this is known as a hybrid.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Alphabet City

If you ever find yourself walking through Manhattan along Avenue C, make your way down to the corner of Sixth Street and check out an amazing mural. The mural lies in a small East Village of New York City known as Alphabet City. This area got its name from particular streets: Avenues A, B, C, and D, which happen to be the only avenues in Manhattan to be named with a single letter. The mural on the corner of Avenue C and Sixth Street takes a literal approach to the neighborhood’s name by depicting all twenty-six letters of the alphabet through unique graffiti styles. The mural was completed by artists Sheryo and The Yok. Their work is comprised of various elaborate graffiti pieces, but this one in particular stands out to me. To take imagery and stylize it into various letters of the alphabet is a unique, illustrative typographic solution.

What I find extremely neat about this project is that the artists chose to stay true to the nature of the neighborhood while tying in its history. Before the Alphabet City mural, these exact walls were covered with various works of graffiti that often lead to a great deal of controversy. Even the process leading up to the new mural created controversy as the building tenant RCN decided to use an outside mural group instead of choosing an artist form the neighborhood. Many thought in doing so that RCN was trying to “whitewash” the history of the neighborhood, but that was not the case.
The agency, Green Village, ultimately received permission to repaint the walls. The agency’s goal is to find “graffiti-ridden properties and then approach owners to create free public art on them.” Artists Sheryo and The Yok took what they saw on the wall previously before it was repainted and integrated that style into their mural, thus staying true to the neighborhood and its history. In a statement regarding the mural, the artists said, “The mural represents Alphabet City in a more literal way, we painted all 26 letters of the alphabet that wrapped around the block on Ave C. Some of the letters are inspired from the community some are inspired by NYC as a whole, some are the artists personal work twisted into the letter form.”

Overall, Sheryo and The Yok made an extremely interesting work of art solely out of letterforms. They stayed true to the neighborhood and New York City while integrating in their own twists. Each letter tells its own story, and each has the ability to stand alone as an individual work of art while also coming together to act as part of a whole. I think this is a very unique, fun, and beautiful way to integrate type into works of art that people can admire. Doing so through a graffiti approach only makes it that much more relatable to younger generations of today, thus making it a piece that everyone can enjoy, young and old, whether for its history, significance, or style alone. Overall a fantastic way to use letterforms as art!

Works Cited: