Jessica Helfand on Type and Context

Over at Design Observer, founding contributor and designer of some note, Jessica Helfand has written a succinct piece on some of the factors at play when a designer chooses type.

“About a year ago, I participated in a student portfolio review involving nearly a dozen American schools, many (most?) exhibiting the classic projects that characterize all undergraduate design programs – the color studies, the poster problems, the typographic exercises – all of which teach the student about that most essential design conceit: letterforms, and how to use them.

And here, I quickly discovered that something had gone horribly wrong. One after another, bright-faced young hopefuls displayed the products of their long hours in the studio. Book after book spilled forth with content ranging from how to cook a frittata to how to understand Freud. There were personal books, commercial books, literary and poetic books, serious and silly books, childrens books, how-to books, and everything in between.

And there they were – virtually all of them – typeset in Futura.”

I recommend it for designers and non-designers alike. It’s well worth the few minutes it takes to read it. As someone who went to school for design, I sympathize with her perspective and agree with her sentiments.

For those unfamiliar, this is Futura.