social and cultural sustainability

Chris Allen's picture

Hi everyone,

I'm hoping some of you can help me out.

I'm currently in the process of developing an online design archive to aid design education and research, as there appears to be a lot of focus on sustainability by design, however very little on sustainability of design.

As an in-house designer, my font selection has been limited to a mere 5, and the more I speak to other designers I find that they are having the same problem. As more focus is put on legibility and readability, the range of usable fonts that are deemed acceptable appears to get smaller and smaller.

My question is, what happens to all those great fonts that represent sometimes years of work, as well as decades of culture? There are museums and book sure, but I am yet to find a constantly growing record of the design industry online.

The idea of the online design archive, is not only to create a permanent record of design created by designers, but also to encourage creativity and a sense of social and cultural sustainability within design and the design community in general through the support of peers; for students, researchers and academia.

I am now looking for a small test group of designers to interview for this, to find out their views on the viability of an online archive for this purpose and also their views on supporting design education. Hopefully they will also be able to give feedback on the archive itself and how it can be improved to act as a positive tool throughout the industry.

I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback on this, and if being interviewed or helping as a tester for the site is something that you may be able to help with then all the better.

I ought to add that this is part of my MA research that I am hoping to carry through and sustain past the end of the course, and in theory is to act as a not for profit operation.

I can be contacted through here or by email at contact@christophernallen.com.

I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks again.

Kind Regards

Chris Allen

eliason's picture

As an in-house designer, my font selection has been limited to a mere 5, and the more I speak to other designers I find that they are having the same problem. As more focus is put on legibility and readability, the range of usable fonts that are deemed acceptable appears to get smaller and smaller.

I'm not sure I follow this - is the world running out of fonts? I thought quite the opposite was true!

My question is, what happens to all those great fonts that represent sometimes years of work, as well as decades of culture? There are museums and book sure, but I am yet to find a constantly growing record of the design industry online.

Have you seen myfonts.com? ;-)

More seriously, is this type design or typography? digital fonts or all technologies? What would it look like to use, and what would it offer that's not already online?

blank's picture

As an in-house designer, my font selection has been limited to a mere 5…

Only having access to five commercial typefaces and whatever free faces you use, in any size you want, is still a pretty good situation for a in-house designer. Plenty of in-house designers are doing almost all of their work in a house style that only includes three typefaces if one counts using Verdana on the corporate web site. It’s no secret that the big trade-off of in-house work is less variety for a more secure and conventional job.

As more focus is put on legibility and readability, the range of usable fonts that are deemed acceptable appears to get smaller and smaller.

More focus as opposed to what? Was there some time in the past when fonts (novelties aside) weren’t meant, and chosen, to be legible and readable?

…what happens to all those great fonts that represent sometimes years of work, as well as decades of culture?

Some great typefaces, like great music and poems and paintings, will fall by the wayside and be swept into the big dustbin of history. That’s the way the world works. We move on because we can only carry so much of the past forward without running out of arms. It’s like in that old Van Halen video: “Right now God is killing moms and dogs, because he has to.”

I am yet to find a constantly growing record of the design industry online.

The internet is still pretty new. Building and maintaining online archives of anything, especially copyrighted designs that may be owned by clients, is expensive and challenging. Far more challenging than maintaining hard copies of design annuals and survey books. Keeping said archive working and up to date over decades is even harder. This is not a task many organizations want to take on.

aluminum's picture

All those great unused fonts end up in our landfills. I encourage everyone to please consider putting them up for adoption at your local font shelter instead.

Chris Allen's picture

I’m not sure I follow this - is the world running out of fonts? I thought quite the opposite was true! and More focus as opposed to what? Was there some time in the past when fonts (novelties aside) weren’t meant, and chosen, to be legible and readable?

My point is that as more research is done into legibility and readability, I have noticed that people (designers) are increasingly using the same fonts. I have noticed a large increase in the use of DIN recently (as one example). I appreciate that there are increasingly more fonts available, I read somewhere that in 1996 there were somewhere around 60,000 known and regular typefaces available, so who knows how many there are now? But when companies are told 'these are the top 10 fonts' then increasingly they go with those fonts to comply with legislation (not that I think this is a bad thing), so why shouldn't there be something that says "what about these great ones". I personally think that all forms of design are an important piece of culture and that they should be recognised and remembered as such, just like music and art. THey only fall by the wayside if we let them.

More seriously, is this type design or typography? digital fonts or all technologies? What would it look like to use, and what would it offer that’s not already online?

With the main basis for work in the archive being graphic design (whether it be print or digital, etc.) the idea is to have the type referenced alongside the work so that not only the design but the type can be researched in an easily navigable format. As for what it would offer, it would offer an archive where you can search by agency/designer, font, year, awards, etc. I'm looking to create something that would cover an international audience, and would grow based on industry and peer participation.

...Keeping said archive working and up to date over decades is even harder...

I'm unfortunately very much aware of this, and sometimes feel as though I have bitten off more than I can chew, but I feel that it is important to look into the feasibility of the format, and how it could be improved and how that improvement would benefit the model.

All those great unused fonts end up in our landfills. I encourage everyone to please consider putting them up for adoption at your local font shelter instead.

That may seem funny, but one idea I had was to create a gallery of sorts where designers create self initiated type art, in whatever format, this could then be referenced to the type and create examples of the type in use that they could be viewed by others. Why not have a 'typograhical graveyeard', somewhere where we can remember all those old and great fonts that for some reason or another won't be used again, something where designers go "this was my favourite font and why, but now I can't use it, thanks [insert font name here] for being a great piece of design" and then create some sort of homage to that font?

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