Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 1
Design in Typography Harmony in Display
Design in Typography Harmony in Display.
Contrast and harmony are the two great regulating principles of display, and under these heads all effects of form, color, and light-and-shade may be classified. Without contrast there can be no display; without harmony there can be no artistic effect. According as one or the other principle of arrangement predominates will the character of the work be determined. The greater proportion of work is printed in black ink on white paper. Here we have the contrast of color. In ultramarine on azure-tinted paper, we have a typical and beautiful instance of harmony of color. In work composed from one fount we have harmony of form and size; from various founts of the same series, harmony of form—but even here, in the varying lengths of lines, the diversity of effect produced by the use of caps, small caps, and lower-case, and the disposition of the lines by leading or otherwise, we can introduce the principle of contrast. There is no better field for the practice of display than the advertising columns of a newspaper where the compositor is strictly limited to a single fount. The workman who cannot produce good effects under these conditions, will fail lamentably in the use of ornamental types. Even in the plainest roman, the principle of contrast comes in. The heavy lines of the fount harmonize, being of uniform strength throughout; but the fine lines and the serifs supply the effect of contrast. So do the curved and oblique lines, as compared with those which are horizontal or vertical, and also the ascending and the descending letters of the text. Where harmony is the leading principle of display, either in form or color, or both combined, there is room for more subtle and beautiful effects than where contrast is sought. Harmony produces quiet, graceful, and dignified effects. Contrast gives us quaint, striking, and bold results, and is much more liable to abuse. The German punchcutters and printers excel in harmony; the Americans in contrast.
We have already said that contrast to some extent is an essential of display. This principle is easily illustrated. The characters most uniform in face are those known as sanserif, and even with these there is diversity in the forms of the individual letters. Here is an example of a job in which the element of contrast is as far as possible eliminated:
Here it is evident there is no display; and it is equally evident where the defect lies. The lines « kill » each other. We have seen quite as bad an effect in an elaborate handbill where a desperate attempt has been made to give prominence to every line. The result is precisely the contrary—no single line stands out from the rest, all emphasis is lost, and some hours of time and a great deal of trouble have been wasted in the « display » of a piece of work which would have looked far better set in paragraphs and leaded.—Here is one of the simplest examples of harmony, in which only ordinary advertising type is used:
This differs from the preceding chiefly in the varied length of the lines; but that one feature makes all the difference as regards display. The element of contrast has been introduced, with the effect of really bringing out the harmony. Let us now introduce an ornamental letter as a further illustration of harmony in display:
In this case, the letters harmonize, but the element of contrast is extended. The lines vary in size, and the third line has spaces between the letters. It may here be noticed that though good effects can always be produced by the use of one style of type only, as above; if more than one ornamental type is introduced, it is almost always necessary to interpose a line of plain roman or sanserif. Nothing so effectually kills display as playing off one ornamental line against another of somewhat similar kind. The rules of harmony and contrast are both set at naught in an instance like the following:
Where harmony is the leading feature, effective contrast can be introduced by the use of lower-case of the leading founts. The capacity of lower-case for effective display is much overlooked by compositors. As a rule, in English work, the only prominent lines in lower-case are in characters such as Old English and scripts, where caps are inadmissible, and the beautiful small letters of ornamental founts lie neglected in the cases. In German work in the Gothic character, where caps cannot be used, the various forms of lower-case are brought in with fine effect; and we have seen some really beautiful title-pages, in which there was not a line of caps. The following is an example of display in lower-case:
In an advertisement or title-page in which plain capitals only are used, it is manifest that harmony is the ruling principle. But as there are roman faces condensed, full, and expanded, and these again page 16may be either light-faced or heavy, there is considerable room for contrast. Here, for example, are two instances where a uniform character is used, the display being effected by gradation of size:
When this system can be carried out, it is decidedly the best for title-pages. We lately read in a trade paper that condensed romans should always be avoided in titles. That is simply nonsense. Again, we have read that a condensed letter should never be hair-spaced. « What is the use of a condensed face if you space it out? Use a wide one! » Arbitrary rules like these show ignorance of the fundamental principles of display. In an open page, the letters should stand a little apart, and any leading line, whether condensed or expanded, is improved by hair-spacing. The critic who laid down the above rule, was quite in favor of spacing expanded letters; but any one who has seen an expanded line thus spaced, in a close page, must have noticed how extremely bad it appeared. The fact is, that minute rules of detail cannot have universal application—the distribution of light and shade over the whole page must be considered. We now show an illustration of display in plain roman, into which the principle of contrast is introduced:
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It is scarcely necessary to add that the nature of the job to a great extent determines the style to be chosen. In a memorial card, for example, the strictest harmony should be maintained. Plain capitals, sanserifs, ionics, and small-faced blacks are admissible; but all florid and flourished styles should be excluded. In an advertising handbill, on the other hand, bold contrasts are quite in keeping with the nature of the work—always guarding against that over-display which defeats its own object. In such work, delicate fancy faces, card ornaments, &c., are altogether out of place. In admission tickets, programmes, and menu cards, there is great scope for tasteful work, and contrasted effects must be used with caution. Borders, ornaments, and decorations in general should always be in harmony with the types employed.
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