New forms of Creative Expression Within Typography and Lettering


Session Title:

  • Technology (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • New forms of Creative Expression Within Typography and Lettering



  • My paper and presentation examines the expanding role of lettering and typography within media, design and the arts. I will present the history, usage and creative potential of primarily the Latin/Roman alphabet in various forms: inscribed, written, drawn, painted and printed. The differences between writing, calligraphy, lettering and typography will be described. I will focus on specific categories within lettering and typography and their adaption into forms of communication and exploration. Forms of writing and lettering can be traced as far back as cuneiform script and the technique of pressing cut reeds into wet clay. The creative potentials of writing and lettering were achieved through the development of a continuous line, variation of widths, and the breaking of the line into connected and harmonious strokes. These developments illustrate a desire to explore the creative potential of symbols, letters and words. They define an impulse to personalize, impress, add authority, and beauty to expressive forms of communication. Artists, illustrators and designers have always been drawn to letterforms and have added to an artistic legacy of lettering and typography in addition to images and illustrations. I will present a number of historical uses of letterforms within the arts by artists, illustrators and designers such as George Bickham, Platt Rogers Spencers, Albrecht Dürer, Joan Miró, Cassandre and Bruce Nauman. I will also present examples of continuous variation and adaption within letterforms as well as the role of technology in the writing and display of text. The digital revolution and the incorporation of the computer in defining how letterforms are created illustrates the potential of letterforms to be manipulated in ways that allow them to be more three dimensional, tactile, and ever present within our environment. There exists a tension between the art and craft of writing and calligraphy. Letterforms need to be useful and efficient in communication but also connect individuals to a human experience. I question how artists and designers can mediate the need for humanistic qualities within the letterforms we create and the openness and tolerance that needs to occur in order to explore new forms of visual communication. My creative research examines the possibilities and opportunities for new interpretations of traditional calligraphy, scripts and lettering using vector and three-dimensionally based rendering software and hardware. I will highlight the ways in which letterforms are disseminated and how their distribution methods determine the character of the letterforms we currently see and use.