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Subject:Re: Connotations of Typeface From:Nancy Burns <nburns -at- NOAO -dot- EDU> Date:Tue, 30 Nov 1993 11:03:27 MST
> Can anyone out there ever recall reading information on typeface connotation?
> I am working on a term paper on the topic and can only seem to find ancient
> articles. Any info would be greatly appreciated!!
> Kathy Angelucci
> Drexel University * *
Someone recently posted the article,"Let's Make it Clear!" by Paul Trummel
(copied below) with a note that the article had been published in IEEE
Professional Communication Society Newsletter" (USA), January/February
1993. (Thanks to the individual who posted the article; sorry I didn't
copy your name to credit you.) This may be of help to you. (If the article
doesn't come through, pls. let me know.)
-Nancy Burns (nburns -at- noao -dot- edu)
Let's Make it Clear!
by Paul Trummel
Department of Technical Communication
University of Washington, Seattle, USA
The design of legible typographic images demands that graphic designers
consider the diverse considerations of authors, readers, editors,
publishers, and many other technological mediators. They must then chose an
appropriate medium and devise an efficient plan. Such a plan, together with
the inherent perceptual attributes, education, and training of the
designer, constitutes the initial step toward legible output of
multivariate typographic or kinetographic images. Designers must,
therefore, possess knowledge of the human factors that relate to the
communication process as well as the skills that enable them to use
electronic tools. This sophistication derives from a comprehensive
education and training in typography and type design. It does not derive as
a by-product of using elec- tronic tools.
Typographic legibility contains the properties of text/images that
symbolically represent readability. It forms an integral part of the
design algorithms of visible language. Therefore, legibility results
from an interpretation of readability: a prop- erty of text that results
from developing verbal language in an easily understandable rhetorical
style. It requires the expert consideration of a set of infinitely
adjustable, concatenated, multivariate, overlapping, geometric modules
and complexes known as typographic style.
Graphic designers and typographers variably define the typographic element
in graphic design as either visible language, visual language, or visual
literacy. This causes confusion as visible language depends for clarity
and purpose on verbal language and requires literate comprehension, whereas
visual lan- guage does not. However, both visible and visual language
embrace arts, involve crafts, and adopt similar techniques. The glossarial
definitions show the contrast between visible and visual language and
describe the very different meanings. The ambiguous term visual literacy
has no place in graphic design.
Legible typographic design comprises a codirectional concatenation governed
by a reader profile that relates to style or visible rhetoric. The
profile results from analysis of comprehension levels relative to age,
education, and culture. The term kinetography defines the combined
verbal/visible, rhetorical function of typography in technological
The typographer must take three distinct actions to achieve legibility:
1. Analyze and comprehend the author's and editor's intention.
2. Translate the intention through symbolic reference into typographic signs.
3. Arrange the typographic signs into recognizable and compre- hensive gestalts.
Legible typography has two attributes: it serves as a separate and
independent sign and as an interpretable function. These attributes relate
to important processing considerations: as an independent sign they include
typeface selection with reference to weight, height, stress, serif,
x-height, extruders, and medium; and, as an interpretable function they
include type size, character and word spacing, measure (line length),
leading (line spacing), spatial disposition, and grapholectic
affiliation. All facets of the interpretable function affect and control
the use of negative space within geometric constructs.
Notably, geometric constructs (visible algorithms) contain the factors that
control typesetting and imagesetting and act as an important guide for text
and graphics integration. Composed as grids based on Cartesian coordinates,
they result from the design function, relate to both text and graphics, and
may ultimately control a variety of output peripheral devices. An example
of bad typography might consist of randomly selected typeface (no
significance to the readable symbol), loose or tight character or word
spacing without grapholectic identity (no interpretable function), and
design without geometric consideration (no grid coordinates).
For summary, typographic legibility contains the properties of text/images
that symbolically represent readability. It forms an integral part of the
design algorithms of visible language. Thus, legibility results from an
interpretation of readability: a property of text that results from
developing verbal language in an easily understandable rhetorical style
(verbal language). It requires the expert consideration of a set of
infinitely adjustable, concatenated, multivariate, overlapping, geometric
modules and complexes that constitute typographic style (visible language).
Typographic designers must possess knowledge of the human factors that
relate to the communication process as well as the skills that enable them
to use electronic tools. The knowledge and ability to interpret readability
into legibility derives from a comprehensive education and training in
typography and type design. It does not derive as a by-product from using
 Multivariate: exhibiting diversity conditioned by the variables in
communication (human factors) and/or communications (technology) criteria.
 Legibility: the property of text/images that results from the symbolic
aspects of readability and several other factors that aggregate as design
algorithms and typographic style.
 Readability: the property of text that results from the development of
verbal language written in an easily understandable rhetorical style.
 Visible Language: a graphic art constituent and a communication channel
or medium, the counterpart of verbal language, describes a system of
arbitrary orthographic signs or rebuses that correspond to phonetic sound
or have specific meaning. It also describes paragraphic, diacritical, and
extraneous signs (punctuation, accent, mathematical and orna- mental
signs). Visible language embraces typography, iconography, and
kinetography. It adds emphasis to, and helps the interpretation of meaning
in, chirographic, typographic, or rebus statements, and parallels verbal
language in the dissemination of information.
 Concatenation: Unification of concepts or methods as a series or system
in which the cognitive or perceptual modules function as links in a chain.
 Visual Language: a fine art constituent and a channel for personal,
cultural, edificatory, erudite, and subjective expression. Visual language
also deals with cultural enlightenment, moral and spiritual uplift,
scholarship, and depiction of objects and ideas. It does not describe the
functions of graphic communication.
 Visual Literacy: this term contains ambiguities that do not convey
meaning. Visual describes sensory perception and literacy describes
cognitive process. Consequently, the conjoined words become an incompatible
term that classifies as non-sequitur because it contains inferential
supposition and paradox.
 Rhetoric: The theory and practice of discovering the most effective
means of persuasion. The art of public relations and the presentation of
images. The denotative or connotative, persuasive, metaphoric, or metonymic
use of both verbal and visible language.
 Kinetography: a dynamic secondary orality, or technological
verbal/visible rhetoric, that applies to multivariate online, interactive,
and broadcast media.
 Grapholectic: Written vernacularisation of transdialectal language.
Let's Make it Clear!
Copyright 1993 by Paul Trummel