A response to the TWP definition of typography

“We define typography broadly as the solid form of language and situate it in any physical or virtual spaces where visible language is originated, mediated or experienced”.
Paul McNeil, Typographic Working Party LCC

Paul has asked me to write a response to the TWP definition above. Here is my draft response.

Typography provides an interface to information. Its considered use can make information more accessible, understandable and useful. Communication can be described as the successful transaction of information. Poor typography can provide a barrier to successful communication.

The basics of typography are neither hard to learn nor difficult to teach. This is dependent on the student’s willingness to learn and the teacher’s competence. Most people have the capacity to learn and be functional typographers. Students of typography should initially acquire a knowledge of the mechanics of typography (experimenting with the impact of changing type size and weight on information). Designers need to develop an understanding of how typography serves information on the one hand and engages interest with the form it takes on the other. Skillful judgement lies in determining the balance between form (visual) and function (cognition), based on context and an understanding of the user.

Typography is not merely choosing a typeface – its arrangement (syntax) and form related to meaning (semantics) has arguably more importance when considering how information is to be communicated and to who, when and where.

Caution should be exercised in elevating the status of a practical discipline (more akin to plumbing) to an elitist, esoteric pursuit. Typography is utilitarian and belongs to everyone.