Typeface for book on globalization and translatability

shessler's picture

I'm working on a book with essays on translatability in the field of aesthetics, i.e., the question of how works of art, literature, and other forms of aesthetic expression can be transposed from one cultural context to another. Most of the texts relate in one way or another to the caribbean post-colonial writer/philosopher Édouard Glissant. I'm looking for a typeface for these texts.

A tough nut to crack in terms of choosing typeface as it could easily and accidentally turn into exoticism – "illustrating" the problems of trying to convey ideas of post-colonial perspective and aesthetic expressions into typography. This is an example of cover that shows how wrong it can go: http://books.google.se/books/about/Caribbean_Discourse.html?id=4NJkQLa2L...

How would one approach such a problem?


J. Tillman's picture

Shessler, are you looking for a typeface for the cover or for the text? This is not clear to me.

Shessler and Nick Shin, maybe I am one on the few graphically unhip people on typophile, but I am not able to read your minds. If you could explain what's good or bad about these covers, I would appreciate it.

Nick Shinn's picture

The King cover is an example of détournement or culture jamming.
Its design is a pastiche of 1930s travel posters, employing politically incorrect typography* and imagery, but setting up a dialectic which satirizes it, while still cashing in on its exoticism.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad for the OP, which is why I asked for an opinion.

The point is, you don’t have to let the typeface choice carry the freight directly. That’s a heavy load, and besides, the layout always colours the meaning of the type. So to seek a typeface which checks all the boxes is futile, unless you want to produce a dull cliché.

*The Expressionist Neuland, which has become a signifier of ethnic primitivism.

J. Tillman's picture

Nick Shinn, Thank you. That's very helpful. Now I know why I had those mixed feelings about that King cover. Is this sort of thing okay for today's intellectuals? (I'm making a guess as to the target audience.) Or does the original poster have to answer that.

nicolacaleffi's picture

Simon, I don't necessarily see the point in choosing a typeface for its "ethnic" reference, just because your subject deals with a series of essays linked to post-colonial thought. I'd rather look for a typeface which works well for long text settings; if this is an Academic collection, I suppose you will have footnotes, small caps, different sizes for quotations, and even more layout issues. The point is trying to make the texts and the page structure clear and readable. I, for example, once set a book with a play by Aimé Césaire in Cycles for the text settings and in Avenir for the cover - in the latter case explicitly trying to avoid any specific cultural reference and going for a, more or less, neutral look. Just my two cents...

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