space in typographic design

anab's picture

Hi all,

I'm a book designer who is at present undertaking an MA in graphic design. For my final project, duration of 1 academic year, I shall attempt to expose the significance of the space in typographic design, starting from exploring form & counterform, then moving onto figure and ground, foreground and background and finally object and environment.

Seeing as there are many of you who are absolutely fanatical about type and design I would greatly appreciate if you could put your views across about the importance of space when using type. Also, if you have done any experimental work on this subject I would be very interested in seeing it - or if you have any other information (exhibitions, articles, books etc) that you might think it would be useful.

At present I have done an extensive amount research and have read many books. If anyone is keen on this subject I'll be happy to give you reading references an other materials I've come across.

I look forward to hearing from you all.

dezcom's picture

Ana,
Space is an equal and integral partner in both typeface design and page layout of typography. The two forces of positive and negative require each-other to exist. I am not sure what is meant by experimental work since all work has some degree of it. Gui Bonsieppe of the Ulm School (Hocheschool Fur Gestaltung, Ulm), published an article in about 1958 in the Ulm Journal about the use of space in layout and how it improves comprehension. I wish I could find my copy for you! There have been numerous experimental movements in typography from DaDa, Bauhaus, Russian Constructivists, Swiss Modernists, and many more contemporary ones that have pushed the space and interaction threshold.
Is there some specific notion you are looking at?

ChrisL

anab's picture

thank you for your reply Chris. I probably haven't made myself clear enough. I'm new to these forums. When I said 'experimental work' I guess I was referring to for example the works of Sandberg, Peter Willberg and more recently the alphabet created by Mathias Schweizer.

I have done an extensive amount of research not only about space in typographic design but i have also tried to compare it to use of space in fine art such as Matisse's paper cut outs, installations by Rachel Whiteread, type design 'miniscule' by Thomas Hount-Marchard etc.

To my way of thinking, space is the core quintessential of typographic letterforms and typographic design. My aim is to visually express my statement.

So far I have broken down some existing fonts such as Bebmo & Gill and created a typology of that font.

William Berkson's picture

Ana,if you do a search on Typophile for 'notan' and 'spacing' you will find a lot. If the typophile 'search' function is still down, do a Google search starting with the web site, like the following

typophile: notan

You could also start with the relevant terms in the typowiki.

Then do join the conversation with whatever comments or questions you like. Please capitalize consistently, as it makes your sentences more readable, IMHO.

Mark Simonson's picture

William, this is probably what you mean for searching Typophile with Google:

site:typophile.com notan

William Berkson's picture

Mark, a google search on

typophile: notan

and

site:typophile.com notan

seems to get the same results.

Google is frightenly smart :)

dezcom's picture

"Google is frightenly smart "

Yes, it even fixes my spelling errors :-)

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

seems to get the same results.

Hmm. Not when I do it:

typophile: notan

site:typophile.com notan

The second way only shows results from typophile.com.

kris's picture

I thought about this virtually all weekend:

"After the semitic invention of the alphabet, the invention of the word is the single most important invention the I know. The word—and with it reading—is what has made western civilisation possible. I want to take stock of this turning point in the story of civilisation, but I cannot find reference to it in the history books, nor in the paleographic corpus. Even in cultural-historical literature the concept of the word does not make an appearance. I had to seek out the invention of the word on my own from reproductions of old manuscripts. If I can rely upon the dating of their origins, then the word appears to have been invented in Ireland in the first half of the seventh century."

—Gerrit Noordzij, The Stroke, pp45.

anab's picture

Thank you William. I've already got hold of Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design. Very related to my subject. I've undertaken some experimental work where I've cut up Bodoni alphabet into pieces and asked designers to put the pieces together on an A4 black white page. Some struggled more than others. I've attached a few outcomes. See samples attached.

PS I will ensure I capitalize consistently.

William Berkson's picture

Kris,

Noordzij's history is not really correct, or at least is misleading. Hebrew and I believe other semitic languages had word spacing all along--you can see it in the Dead Sea Scrolls and even more ancient stuff. The Irish were re-introducing word spacing, not inventing it. Apparently with vowels--which Greek and Latin used and Hebrew did not--it is more possible to read without word spacing.

I got into a discussion via e-mail with Peter Enneson and Gerrit Noordzij about this, and ended up quoting to them the rules from the Talmud--well before the 9th century--specifying precisely how much to space words and letters.

So the Irish monks were re-introducing word spaces, and I would think were probably aware of Hebrew, Syriac, etc, which used them.

That being said, the reintroduction was, as Noordzij says, a big deal. I recently saw the exhibition of early Bible manuscripts here at the Smithsonian museum, and it was thrilling to see the great jump in readability of the Carolingan minscule--in the hand of Alcuin himself!--and the introduction of word spaces by those Irish monks.

Ana, when you cut up the letters and re-arrange parts you are destroying the 'notan' that is there (strongly) in Bodoni.

Mark, you're right. Sorry for my sloppiness, I didn't check carefully.

dezcom's picture

I don't understand the Bodoni experiment. What instructions did you give them? Was there an objective they were to work towards?. Years ago, when I taught design, I gave students enlrged segments of typeset lines that were cut into abstractions. We used them to discuss spacial interaction without interference from word meaning. We used different typeface and noted the interaction of dark and light space variatrion from face to face.

ChrisL

anab's picture

Letterforms on a printed page can only be comprehended in conjunction with the unprinted areas (on the same page) as they activate and regulate light. The objective was to analyse how familiar are we with the structure of these letterforms if they are not in their usual form ie. cut up. I was also intrigued to find out not only how a person will construct a letterform but also where it will be placed on A4 page. This was a very simple experiment, you might think even childish, but it was very interesting to see how designers react when asked to put a letterform together. Some were nervous because they struggled with what looks like a simple task, some took a long time and some appeared frustrated with themselves.

anab's picture

Letterforms on a printed page can only be comprehended in conjunction with the unprinted areas (on the same page) as they activate and regulate light. The objective was to analyse how familiar are we with the structure of these letterforms if they are not in their usual form ie. cut up. I was also intrigued to find out not only how a person will construct a letterform but also where it will be placed on A4 page. This was a very simple experiment, you might think even childish, but it was very interesting to see how designers react when asked to put a letterform together. Some were nervous because they struggled with what looks like a simple task, some took a long time and some appeared frustrated with themselves.

dezcom's picture

I see, so you actually asked them to reconstruct the letterform to its original state.

ChrisL

Rob O. Font's picture

" I shall attempt to expose the significance of the space in typographic design, starting from exploring form & counterform, then moving onto figure and ground, foreground and background and finally object and environment."

This is great, and I wish you well. I also would like to point out that type made for reading, has three distinct "grounds." Wheather one considers white space inside or outside of the letter, "ground" is clearly one thing, Among the forms, on the other hand, I consider those that repeat with any sort of frequency, like the main stems of H, E, L and P for example, as a secondary background against which the unique forms play. It is the unique forms then, like bottom of j or bar of H that are what we read with, and by the way design with.

Cheers!

anab's picture

Thank you very much David. You have summed up very well a crucial point about type and its structure. I haven't thought about it this way yet, so simple and it makes so much sense.

enne_son's picture

Very nice, David, and great topic Ana.

Ana, when you speak of the importance of space, do you also mean:
1) 'space craft' David Kindersley's term for spacing in typography;
2) spatial positioning of text blocks, folios, standing and running heads, etcetera, on the page?

If so, you might want to browse through some material I made available here: http://typophile.com/node/32108

hrant's picture

{I just found this old thread thanks to an edit in another one...}

I'm sorry I missed this discussion! :-(

hhp

Rob O. Font's picture

I was so much older then... What I said about the division of the black space is just as true of the white space.

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