Calligraphy and Typography

Gunarta's picture

Simple question that i haven't the answer yet:

"Is Calligraphy branch of Typography?"

Please answer freely, it can be link or anything else and I ask you permission to quote your answer,

Best Regards
Gunarta

etahchen's picture

"Is Calligraphy a branch of Typography?"
No. How would calligraphy be something branching out of typography, when calligraphy came first in history.

etahchen's picture

doesn't calligraphy seem closer to art, and typography closer to design? Seems like they not trying to head in the same direction.

HVB's picture

"Is Calligraphy a branch of Typography?"

That's like asking whether handwriting is a branch of typography. There are typefaces that emulate calligraphy, just as there are typefaces that emulate the appearance of tire tracks. Automobiles aren't a branch of typography, either.

dumpling's picture

Here's some food for thought:

One of my family members is an engineer. When I was younger, I used to browse through his reference books. One of them was a book on making engineering drawings. This was from the days before everything was done on a computer. The book had a whole chapter on lettering. It was very specific about what style of lettering was to be used. It even did the whole grid-circles-and-ovals thing.

It was essentially a typeface intended to be produced by hand.

My guess is that this discussion is not so much about the nature of a thing, as about the definition of a word: the word "typography", and maybe also the word "calligraphy". If typography is by definition strictly about letterforms produced by machine, and calligraphy strictly about letterforms produced by hand, then the answer to the original question is self-evident.

Here's some more food for thought:

I read somewhere that the traditional method for producing a Japanese font was for a calligrapher to write each character separately, and these handwritten characters (calligraphy) would become the font (typography).

Okay, maybe it's not so self-evident...

Té Rowan's picture

@dumpling – There are several official standards for lettering in technical drawings. CAT Design has some fonts based on East German TGL documents.

dezcom's picture

Leroy

riccard0's picture

Typography is a branch of calligraphy: the art of composing beautiful texts using specialised tools.

eliason's picture

That seems way too broad a definition of calligraphy. Isn't InDesign a specialized tool?

hrant's picture

Riccardo, that's just crazy talk.

hhp

etahchen's picture

Typography has advanced so much in it's own direction, and calligraphy in it's own other direction, that they're not even in the same dimension anymore. this is like saying graffiti is a branch of typography, it'd be silly.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Unlike calligraphy, typography is assembly and arrangement of prefabricated elements.

etahchen's picture

maybe the thread should be called "Is type design a branch of calligraphy"

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

"CAT Design has some fonts based on East German TGL documents."

Yowsa! Another hideous website maintained by a type designer.

I am very much interested in the books where the assembly of these faces are described though. Could you name a few titles?

quadibloc's picture

While it is true that type design should not limit itself to what can be achieved by traditional calligraphy, in one respect type design and calligraphy are inextricably connected.

The basic letterforms - or the characters, in a non-alphabetic writing system - are limited to what can be written by hand. A "writing system" composed of a repertoire of characters so complicated that they could only be uttered by a phototypesetter or a laser printer - which is the case for some typefaces, of course, but that is a property of the specific typeface and not of the basic character repertoire - would be of significantly limited utility.

And, thus, since type design translates to a printed form characters which were originally designed to be written, it's not surprising that writing remains influential.

hrant's picture

The basic letterforms - or the characters, in a non-alphabetic writing system - are limited to what can be written by hand.

Not really. Consider this: you can draw a recognizable human face, but how the actual face itself looks has nothing to do with drawing. But drawing that realistically takes talent, skill and time - and that's the clue here: we should not insist that something intended to be read easily also be easy to write.

In fact theoretically there's nothing stopping us from having two alphabets: one for writing (which does have to be legible) and one for reading (which doesn't have to be writable in the least).

hhp

dezcom's picture

"it's not surprising that writing remains influential."

Yes, but people do so much less writing today and so much more typing that the influence now becomes only a historic one. I can see a time in a couple of generations when writing by hand will be almost unheard of in all but third world societies. Handwriting will soon be a novelty. Calligraphy will still survive in the same way that horseback riding survives, as an art form or recreation but not as a continuing dominant force. The current generation of youth communicates with one thumb typing on a mobile device. Imagine what the next generation will see?

JamesM's picture

> but people do so much less writing today

Yep, the New York Times had an article last year which said that many young people have difficulty reading cursive writing, since they encounter it so seldom.

> I can see a time in a couple of generations when
> writing by hand will be almost unheard

I think cursive writing will largely disappear (except for artistic/decorative uses), but simple block lettering will remain useful for the forseeable future for things like writing short notes, making labels, etc.

riccard0's picture

That seems way too broad a definition of calligraphy.

It is. It also happens to be etymologically correct.

typography is assembly and arrangement of prefabricated elements.

And calligraphy is assembly and arrangment of predetermined stylistic elements.

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