Re: Spartan typography

Subject: Re: Spartan typography
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- AXIONET -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 1997 21:44:23 -0500

Michael Lewis wrote:

>All this is true enough. Still, "utilitarianism" is the key. >Aesthetics > (forgive the Br sp) are secondary to the >requirements of effective information transfer.

Excuse me if I take your comment and run with it:

This statement is exactly what Eric Gill objected to: the seperation
between utilitarianism and aesthetics in modern thought.

Gill's contention is that something that is perfectly designed for its
purpose has a simplicity and strength of design as well. I'd liken this
idea to the concept of an "elgant proof" in mathematics.

I haven't seen too many things which are elegant in the sense I mean.
However, they occur in the most unexpected places. A classical Chinese
garden is one. A few pieces of poetry. A hand-turned cedar bowl on my
counter. A canvass haversack that I once had, that was so close to the
Platonic ideal of a carrying bag that nothing else has ever measured up
since.

Or, to apply the idea to something relevant to this list, consider Gill
Sans. It's a sans serif that's readable, yet compact. It goes with just
about any serif in existence. In short, it's clearly as utilitarian as
you could want.

Yet, if you look at the strong sense of line - especially the curves,
Gills Sans is an abstractly beautiful font, too.

Gill went on to say that such a combination of practicality and beauty
is only possible when the makers of the artifact have an interest in
what they are doing, and a determination to do it well.

If that's so, then I suggest that ugly, utilitarian technical writing
exists because someone, somewhere doesn't care about they're doing.
Sometimes, that someone is the client or the company, and writers can
only do so much about that.

However, even then, writers and designers who care about their work can
mitigate the effect of this lack of concern.

Yeah, this is idealistic, and I don't know what reason I have for
idealism these days. But if I can't care about my work, I don't want to
do it, thanks very much.

--
Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
(bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com) (604) 421-7189
http://www.axionet.com/outlawcommunications (Updated December 13)

"Granite Years
Harbour lights, city nights and bitter tears
And you don't care where you're going,
Say that I was foolish,
Say that I was blind
Never say that I got left behind."
--Oyster Band

http://www.documentation.com/, or http://www.dejanews.com/



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