Furnishing with Type

Using the Bringhurst line of thinking, a typographer seems to furnish a page with letters the same way an interior decorator furnishes a room with furniture.

Robert Bringhurst’s idea of a typographer’s relationship with text, is to me quite similar to the relationship an interior decorator has with furniture.  I’m not an interior decorator so I don’t have the ability to articulate the exact process of interior decoration. However, I live and work in spaces that have been created by interior decorators and I engage with the space when I’m in it.

To me, a blank page is like an empty room. When I work with typographic projects I usually get words and content to put on that blank page(s). This content has to be designed in such a way that it’s stylistically usable to so people reading it are able to understand it. In other words It has to look good and that people can easily use it.

A blank page to me is like an empty room. An interior decorator has a level of context for the space so they know what needs to be in that space. The space must then be furnished so it looks aesthetically pleasing and people can function in it. Just like typography, it has to look good and people can use the space comfortably.

What I find very interesting with how Bringhurst looks at this sort of relationship is that the end product of typography design is a very engaging system for the user. As someone moves through a room they have to engage with their surroundings to accomplish something in that space. This is the same interaction process with someone reading a typographically designed document has to interact with what they are cognitively surrounded by in the document to reach the purpose of the document.

“Design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable”.
-Donna Karan

When we furnish a with type, we’re creating a space that people will ultimately want to be both aesthetically pleasing and  usable. One without the other probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable for any reader in any situation. A room that looks incredible but impossible to move through is to a designer a page that looks incredible but is unfortunately unreadable. Similarly, a page that does not bring your eyes to the easily readable text is just as worthless as a comfortable room that looks visually repulsive.

From a designer’s interpretive perspective it may be beneficial to treat a blank page as if the readers will live in that space cognitively. To create a comfortable experience, the designer carefully consider how the type will be used so the reader will enjoy the look and feel of whatever they’re reading.


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