Typographic Personality pt 1

It seems that everywhere I look, type is being personified. Whether it be the countless “Which typeface are you?” quizzes that can be found all over the internet (including Pentagram’s classy version password: character) or the far less common, but far more entertaining examples of the reverse. Such as this fun example of dogs representing typefaces.

Now why is this? I don’t think anyone has a complete answer for this. I think it has part in the relationship in which is it humans are the creators and users of not only the glyphs that have evolved over the years, but now there is a style that can be applied to them. It is from this style that the personality comes out of and all typefaces have a style. Even before there were choices in how a letter would look, there was still a style to it, which often has a cultural context.
uncial lettering
In it’s time, uncial lettering was as normal and plain as Times New Roman today. It is at that point, where the use of type is without choice behind it, that type has it’s least amount of personality. Nowadays, uncial lettering is almost always representative of a celtic tradition, because of it’s cultural roots.

Now that we have so many choices and access to fonts from all over the world, we’ve become a bit more aware of the style and character between the choice of a typeface. Early letterers were mainly focused on legibility, readability and printability. While these are still principle foci, there is also a strong consideration of the style behind a typeface.
Humanist Lettering from franscesco_torniello
This lettering borrowed from proportions found in the human body in order to find perfect form.

However, I digress. It is with this abundance of choice, that we become much more aware of the personality of a typeface and thus there are more opportunities to make a right or wrong choice. It is described as the “congeniality” of a typographic choice.

“congenial typography is the result of the successful use of a typeface, where atmosphere value and the actual content of the words set in that type share meaning. Harmony of form and content is exemplified by a love story printed in a delicate and warm typeface. If the atmosphere value of the type used would be one of rigidity and anger, the effect of that same story on the reader would be gravely disturbed, whether the reader would be consciously aware of this or not.”


However, this is not just limited to the typeface itself, but how it is set. There is as much personality in a typeface itself as there is in the spacing of a typeface.

To be continued

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