EDITORS NOTE: NEW TYPE SURVEY
Recognizing the growing power of online communications, we have begun to release selected stories and surveys in special enewsletters and on our website. Here is the first look at our latest survey, which deals with type and related matters; more details will be forthcoming in the upcoming October 2007 magazine. We are grateful to the good people at Adobe, responsible for the new launch of Adobe® Font Folio® 11 software, for sponsoring the special report. Other 2006 and 2007 reader surveys of note can be found at www.gdusa.com
— The Editors
Our annual reader survey on type purchasing and specification was sent to one thousand GDUSA readers, all creative professionals at ad agencies, graphic design firms, corporate, publishing and institutional inhouse departments. It was conducted amid several unfolding developments in the graphic design world: first, control of the production and purchasing process in graphic arts continuing to move upstream; second, today's digital workflow which makes it easier than ever for designers to integrate new and different typefaces in their work; third, the growing demand for cross media and multimedia design projects; fourth, the breakdown of traditional type education in schools; and, finally, the ease of purchasing type online that complements and accelerates the other four trends. Not surprisingly, 85% of GDUSA readers report being actively involved in the specifying and purchasing of fonts and font collections. For three years, the running average has been 86.5%. Also not surprisingly, the demand for traditional and new typefaces is growing unabated, and the ability to access an enormous range of typefaces with relative ease only seems to whet the appetite for more.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY
Perhaps the most intriguing finding of the survey is not a number at all, but a mood, i.e., the enthusiasm that our respondents bring to the issue of type. Their deeply rooted sense of type's importance in the communications process sends a ringing message that type still matters in a most transcendent way. One manifestation of the sense that type is important lies in purchasing decisions. Clearly, the predominant factor is how well a typeface conveys the mood, the message, the communication needs of the design project in question. A well-chosen font, respondents say again and again, sets the tone, matches the feel, evokes the desired emotions and reactions, and speaks to specific audiences and demographics. Another manifestation is in the nature of the open-ended survey comments.
DO YOU RECOMMEND,
85% YES 15% NO
A few quotes make the point abundantly clear:
Type sets the tone of the design. Our projects mostly are posters, brochures and web pages, and type plays a big part in all such projects. They have to communicate with the readers; in other words, type is the key.
There is nothing more important than the message. Typography is the glue that holds it all together.
Type is very important. It sets the tone of a piece. Type leads readers into the piece without them knowing it. Type is the silent factor of design that creates a strong impact.
Type is extremely important. It makes or breaks any project. Having readable type is a plus when it comes to communication.
Type is extremely important. I began as a typesetter, just post-Linotype. I can sometimes work my way through dozens of faces before finding the right look and feel for a project.
Typography is crucial to any layout and can make or break a winning piece. All projects require careful attention to typography. As with the strength of a chain, a weak link is an expense no layout can sustain, be it print, web or multimedia.
WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE PURCHASE OF FONTS OR FONT COLLECTIONS, WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS IN THAT DECISION?
(TOP 10 IN ORDER)
FUNCTION MATTERS, TOO
While achieving the right look and feel is clearly paramount, form is not the only concern of creative professionals. Function also matters in this era when graphic design and production increasingly blur together — and when creatives are increasingly working in multiple platforms and in multiple media. Technical, practical and trust issues are also important, especially as regards cross-platform compatibility and the quality and reputation of the foundry that is the source of a purchasable font. One of the surprises in this year's survey is the considerable degree to which these interests have crystallized around the promise of OpenType, a single file format that can be used on both Macintosh and Windows operating systems and which allows type manufacturers to build in extended linguistic support and other typographic extras, as well.
Again, a few selected quotes tell the tale.
OpenType provides many advantages over any other type of font classification. The fact that OpenType fonts can contain either PostScript or TrueType outlines in a common file set, and can be used as a single file on both PC and Mac platforms make this the ultimate purchase choice. Not to mention the robust selection of typographic features unseen in other fonts.
As technology is changing, it is important that the format is OpenType. This makes cross platform work easier, as designers use Macs platforms but the clients use PCs.
OpenType is important, because most of our clients are on PC basic. It is painful to deliver a job and then find out that the client needs to purchase a font for his or her own computer. It is time consuming for clients and limits the number of fonts that we can use.
Cross-platform ability is helpful. There is also usually more functionality included with the OpenType fonts.
Typically, we use PostScript fonts, but we've begun to migrate to OpenType and, in fact, to use only OpenType whenever possible.
I use both PC and Mac platforms and often send projects to vendors with solely one or the other, so having OpenType is essential. Converting the type to outlines is not an option, as the projects I work on are used year-to-year and need to be edited occasionally.
WHICH OPERATING SYSTEM DOES YOUR COMPANY USE FOR THESE PURPOSES?
MANY COMPANIES USE BOTH PLATFORMS
In our past type-related surveys, GDUSA readers have expressed a fear that the new generation of designers, divorced as they are from the traditional craft of graphic design, are not learning the basics of typographic excellence. This time around we queried readers about what they would tell today's graphic design students about the use of type. As you will see, the advice hones in on a bundle of related issues: simplicity, restraint, legibility, readability. It all relates, most fundamentally, to communication.
Selected responses follow:
I would advise current students that type is crucial as a design element and as a means to communicate. There is a time to make it interesting, and there is a time to make sure it is legible.
I would tell students that display faces are like salt — don't overseason a piece. Readability. The piece has to communicate. Simplicity.
Students are not being taught enough about type. There is not enough room to detail all the concerns, but among them are the use of too many mixed families in the same piece, the improper use of all caps and poor word spacing and kerning. And the type is often just too small.
Here is what I would tell design students: (1) Select a font that complements your subject. (2) In any one piece, limit the number of fonts to three. (3) Be sure selected font works for the size of the piece. (4) Letterspacing is very important when working the same art in various sizes; Larger items can use less letterspacing, while small items may need more to be legible.
My opinions are based on only a few schools and students. No doubt design students are being taught typography. There is also no doubt that the quality of the teaching varies a lot, just like everything else. It appears students no longer learn to "draw" the type using markers. Perhaps there is no need, but I think they are missing out.