Project 2: Exercise 1- Mixed Messages


• What kind of messages are the statements below sending? Describe what is being communicated through the combination of what they say and the visual feel of the typography.

As discussed in the course, typography conveys its messages via both the actual words presented and the way those words are presented.

1. In this first example, the literal message suggests that you have arrived somewhere. My first thought was the obvious one – a hotel or other place where you’d stay the night. It could also be somewhere you’d stay for a more than a few minutes like a theme park. It could refer to the wider area of a town, city, national park, or even a country.

The typeface used is a lighter looking version of blackletter, the typeface used to produce documents and manuscripts from the 12th century onwards. When printing was invented, it was based on the manuscript styles of the time, and so blackletter continued to be used. To me, this typeface has a gothic, medieval feel and words like traditional, solid, strong, stable, reliable, and historic spring to mind. Brands that I can think of using this type of font are broadsheet newspapers and beer bottles. It also conjures up images of rison tattoos.

My firsts thought on seeing this statement was that it could belong to a medieval themed hotel or somewhere like the Medieval Times restaurant brand. A blackletter typeface was used for the main sign at Disneyland in the 90s and that may be what make me think of theme parks, as that would have been the time I would have visited.

2. The message implies that this sign is somewhere that dangerous animals are present. Most like a zoo, or other type of animal park. Perhaps a safari, but it seems unlikely a sign would be sufficient if you were amongst dangerous animals out in the wild.

The font chosen here is a serif font, which is formal and traditional. Serif fonts can be easier to read when there are lots of words. There is some research to show that using sentence case or lower case for warning signs (along with a possible upper case header) works better than all uppercase, as people are used to lowercase and can read and understand it quicker. The statement here could have been more effective if it had declared WARNING in capitals and then gone on to explain about not feeding the animals in lower case.

3. The message here is ambiguous – what kind of professionals are ‘we’? Are they specific professional, such as a professional sportspeople, or professional workmen? Or is it a group of people who consider themselves professionals, but come from mixed backgrounds and jobs.

The typeface is a monspaced font, ie. each character is the same width. It was invented for use with typewriters and that’s what springs to mind for me when I see it. It’s a practical typeface rather than attractive, and has a vintage feel. The only professionals I would imagine using it nowadays would be computer programmers as it’s used in code to make the various syntax’s more legible. The other image it conjures up for me is old fashioned newspaper journalists who typed their stories up on typewriters.

4.  The definition of luxury is as follows:

“A material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity.”

There are other definitions, bit this is what I imagine when I see the word luxury here.

This is the type of decorative typeface that would be used in advertising, as headers, and on products. You wouldn’t want them as body text, or the reader would probably get a headache! Decorative fonts are there to get your attention. On it’s own, this does not scream ‘luxury’ to me, but I could imagine this as part of a logo for a luxury spa or beauty range. It makes me think of cave paitnings, or stone carvings, for some reason, and leads me on to imagine natural springs whose water is used in these products. It’s a simple font, but unusual, with some letters being very wide, some narrow, and the crossing points of the X and Y, seem much lower than usual. It’s a wide font with lots of space around the letters, giving an open, airy, unrushed kind of feel.

5. Again, without context, the phrase is ambiguous. It’s also all lower case, so did something come before it, after it? My first reaction is to think of hand made craft type objects.

The typeface is sans serif – simple and no nonsense, with no decorative elements to distract the eye or obscure the message. The font here is neutral and makes no suggestions about what it might describe. If it was part of a label for some kind of hand made craft, then it does it’s job of describing the product, but is not suggestive of any of the qualities of the product. As mentioned previously, lowercase is more familiar to us and therefore easier to read. It is something of a trend to use all lowercase in brand logos, but there is actually some research that shows consumers perceive a high level of ‘brand friendliness’ from all lowercase designs. This would match the message portrayed by the words. When you think ‘hand made’, you think of someone slaving away to make something to sell, and you imagine that person is a one man band who can be very close and ‘friendly’ with their customers.

• You may want to extend this exercise by finding your own examples. Look for examples where there appears to be a discrepancy between the written message and its typographic form as well as examples where the two  complement each other.

The first example is a piece of handlettering in ink on a wooden desk by Alison Carmichael. The typeface is in a gothic styke and, at first glance, could have been there for a hundred years. The actual meanng of the words though is clearly more modern and belies the elegant, historic looking font.

Nasty words written beautifully – Michelle is a Slag

An example of typography that is in agreement to the message is this ad from the Dairy Farmers of Canada for their cheese rolling festival. The font is strong and thick, and looks like it could be carved out of some delicious strong cheddar!

typography in advertising

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