Contemporary Publishing – A Comparative Study [copy-protected] 236s3-22-89d35-k
The objective of this essay is to discuss the concept of an excerpt entitled ‘The Crystal Goblet’ written by Beatrice Warde. The essay will include a structured discussion on the metaphorical theories behind the excerpt in terms of the legibility in typography and graphic design. I will also discuss relevant concepts that may link to Warde’s theory with regards to the publication that I have created which was part one to this brief.
By discussing both Warde’s theory and my own publication I will explore the concept of how my own work may be perceived in relation to the style of publications of today. I will discuss contrasting issues related to the era in which Wardes essay was written. I will discuss the difference opinions and attitudes of design practices. I will also reference practitioners relevant in terms of context and style and practices in Graphic design.
The essay The Crystal Goblet written by Beatrice Warde was written with the intention of questioning different visual styles in typography and evokes thoughts based on clarity of design and typography on a page. Another title that emphasises this concept; ‘Printing should be invisible’.
The Crystal Goblet is a metaphorical theory that Warde produced in the form of a lecture in the late 30’s. The excerpt that describes the wine tasting experiment has similar connotations to typography and design.
Warde explains in The Crystal Goblet that she could identify who was the connoisseur and who was the amateur by what particular wine glass they selected to drink the glass of wine that she offered. With reference to graphic design and typography, both the wine and the glasses are a metaphor. The wine is suggested to be the text or the body of a book. The wine glasses that Warde describes are made from two different types of material and both suggest two different styles of design. The first glass made from gold includes an intricate design and the second a clear crystal glass. Both of these designs represent metaphorically two different design approaches with reference to the clarification of typography and design. According to Warde choosing the gold goblet in implies that the wine taster has little concern of the quality of wine and more interest in with the outer appearance i.e. the glass. By choosing the crystal glass implies that the wine taster values the wine and it becomes evident that the wine taster is therefore a connoisseur of wine. The clarity of the crystal glass improves the visual aspect to the wine tasting. The metaphorical connotations can also be can be identified as a parallel theory in typography, the goblets act as the containers in which carry the wine. In effect the goblet can be seen as a symbolic reference to the visual appearance of a book or publication. The gold goblet reflects over-produced design obscuring the fundamental concept. The clear crystal glass reflects a clear and concise design, a design that remains invisible and presents the original intention of the content.
Both the wine and the two goblets are important symbols that Warde utilizes to convey a theory based on clarity and the use of semiotics and style in design and typography. According to Ferdinand de Saussure a Swiss linguist, Speech and the written language are two different objects on their own. Saussure argues that speech is the most natural form of language and the written form is an external system of signs separate to speech. He describes that we use an external system such as the alphabet to describe our primary language the spoken word. Beatrice Warde covers similar issues such as the use of external signs, the written form to express a clear spoken language. Warde utilizes the same comparable metaphorical tones in other areas within The Crystal Goblet. The coloured glass window. This is another metaphor similar to the wine tasting excerpt. According to Warde the coloured glass has no nobility as it alters the viewer perceptions when looking through the window, again this idea can be linked to typography and the use of over produced design altering the primary concept.
I feel that the fundamental concept of Warde’s theory is relevant in particular aspects of my publication. Having researched the underlying objectives and discussions around The Crystal Goblet has made me question my own design processes in terms of clarification of original content.
I choose to produce an electronic music orientated magazine. The core genre of music that runs throughout the magazine is IDM [Intelligent Dance Music] so the magazine is specialized for a specific audience. Having considered the content as a specialized genre my intentions were to feature artists that have been of some importance and were influential to the formation of IDM such as Autechre and Apex Twin.
With the content in mind, the style in which I designed the magazine has a familiar reference. The experimental typography used within my publication is orientated around the content and the idea of experimentation in IDM. The main written content of the magazine is in Arial. I decided upon using one typographic style for the main text as it unified the magazine also Arial is a contemporary san serif design and is often used in magazines and promotional design. The typographical characteristics of Arial can be perceived as a digital replica of the Helvetica typeface, a Swiss typographical design. Both Helvetica and Arial have something in common apart from being San Serif’s they both have corporate clean characteristics. The justification for integrating this particular typeface into the magazine was for the reasons of the familiarity and the popular use of Arial. The typeface reveals a modernistic appearance and implies reliability. In Retrospect to this decision I feel that using Helvetica may have been more effective as Arial seems to lack the subtlety and gracefulness in comparison to the original Helvetica typeface.
The subheadings in the spreads of publication that I have created have a contemporary urban decayed typographic style. This was intentional as the original content reflected a raw industrial but digital feel. In the past, IDM has been represented in the form of digital visualizations with connection to the design processes, communicating the visual style of the music. When considering the design process of the core content within my publication, my initial intention was to adopt a similar approach to the way IDM has been represented in the past. I adopted a similar approach in design methods because the audience could therefore identify with the content immediately.
When thinking of The Crystal Goblet, I believe elements of my magazine reflects clarity in the way that they reinforce what the content is trying to communicate in the first instance without re-contextualizing the original content. According to William Golden an American graphic designer of the same era as Warde, Golden describes design as ‘the attitude’ of the content. The designer helps to create an attitude and reinforces the primary concept. I believe that sections of my magazine reflect this idea such as the Main title and logo concept. The title of the magazine reflects a mechanical typographic style. The font named BeijingWigoWhat and was created by contemporary designer Damien Gosset. Although the style of the typography is Chinese orientated its also reflects a mechanical appearance with the terminal strokes of the type being rectangular and cut on a 90 degree angle. The visual appearance of the typography was selected with the intention of reflecting the contextual elements i.e. IDM. However overall style of the magazine may also be argued as bold brash design in sections.
In context to Warde’s essay the magazine is wrought with chaotic patterns. During the period in which The Crystal Goblet, the choice of design process used within my magazine would have been frowned upon 78 years ago and regarded as ugly design. The visual appearance of my magazine such as the cracked typeface used in subheadings would have regarded as messy and over-produced and in the context of semiotics suggested as unmotivated design and an uneasy to read. When Warde created the lecture that later became a controversial topic in graphic design she was originally referring to the clarity of design in a book more so and not magazines. However Warde’s fundamental theory can be applied to the magazine in certain aspects. The nature of a book is dissimilar to a magazine. A book is created with the intentions of being sustainable for a longer period of time so the design should therefore be able to sustain the same length of time. Magazines are designed with the intensions of being utilized for a short period of time and are usually scheduled to be produced on a monthly or weekly basis. Having taken the nature of the magazine into consideration my initial intensions when regarding design process was to create a design that would reinforce the characteristics of the music. By utilizing noisy graphics mixed typography and distorted fonts I feel that this extended the original contextual language enhancing the original content. IDM is known for its radical unusual rhythms and conventional sounds so the visual design and typography and overall design needed to reflect this concept.
The magazine I created also includes a free IDM orientated CD compilation which is known as a cover mount in the publishing industry. I choose to cover mount the magazine as promotional material is popular with music magazine publications and encourages the reader to pick up and buy the magazine.
In contrast to The Crystal Goblet when considering obscurity, more and more publications are adopting a similar method offering other products along with the magazine to influence the consumer into purchasing their particular publication. Publications such as Newspapers and magazines offer free supplements CDs and DVD’s. All of these elements in today’s publications attract the consumer. The demand for extra items within a publication is on the increase and consumers find the experience overall more appealing. In context to The Crystal Goblet, incorporating a byproduct into the magazine may be argued as obscuring the original content. It seems that maybe Warde’s theory of clarity is in some aspects dismissed at times with current magazine that are published today. With the constant changing in typography and effective design the way in which people read has evolved over the past 70 years, the use of photographic imagery and other forms of visual references has become a lot more dominant in today’s digital era supporting the content and communicating a message.
The emerging themes of postmodernism has altered the way contemporary graphic designers approach Typography and visual imagery. Many new wave designers have explored innovative ways to express ideas in addition to this movement; designers are consistently re-contextualizing original content and broadening arising concepts. It may seem that graphic designers today play with the notion of the golden goblet and break away from conformities of The Crystal Goblet theory.
David Carson confronts the boundaries of legibility in terms of postmodernist design and typography. Carson’s work reflects a non-conformist attitude with reference to traditional methods of design and typeface. During he era in which warde wrote The Crystal Goblet, Carson’s defiant design process would have being looked upon as over indulgent drastically altering the original concept of the content. In the eyes of Warde Carson would be labeled as an amateur who is dazzled by the wrought designs of the gold goblet. Many of Carson’s concepts reveal an anti aesthetic manifestation, incorporating illegible typography and challenging conventional alignment of layout and legibility.
During the early stages of Carson’s design career he developed a cultural surfing & skateboard magazine called Beach life. The magazine was published for three years between 1989 and 1992. During the era of the magazine Beach Life Carson’s developed a spread using the Dingbat typeface as the main typography in a Bryan Ferry interview. The spread contained lines and line of illustrative ornate Dingbat patterns and symbols radically obscuring the reader’s perception. In the case of The Crystal Goblet the use of Dingbat typography has parallel connotations to the wrought patterns on the gold goblet. Carson utilized this concept as he felt that the original content was boring and would not appeal to the reader’s of Beach Life.
Apart from the title typeface that was also obscured but contained a legible typeface, the whole entire spread was illegible in terms of original content. In other instances Carson produced one issue of Beach Life with oversized page numbers occupying the page again an anti-conformist approach rebelling against the traditions of conventional acceptance. In one issue of Beach Life Carson changed the page numbers but left the original layout as it was. By using this design method, the audience becomes reliant on Carson’s vision as the reader’s are directed through the magazine. The message that Carson is trying to interpret here is to trust what you see visually and not what you see contextually. With reference to Warde’s concepts, Carson is challenging the communication of original content in the first instance. Another important moment in the career of David Carson was the creation Ray Gun a magazine orientated around the Rock & Roll genre of music and ran from 1992 -2000. Ray Gun was founded and directed by Carson in the early years of the magazine. The characteristics of emerging typography and imagery radicalized the magazine and challenged conventional approaches in magazine design.
Designers who have taken this revolutionary approach to new age design and typography has been challenged by some as being interruptive in the process of visual communication in the past, according to American graphic designer William Golden; "I think the fine artist makes a personal statement about his world, and his reactions to his world. He makes it to a limited audience, or to a big audience — but it's all his. He controls every bit of it. The advertising designer has a completely different function. He may be someone who thought he wanted to be a painter — but wasn't. . . . If [the designer is] honest enough, he becomes a professional who can do something special. But this something special is for sale — it is communicating something that is not his own. I think the trouble comes when he tries to make it a work of art, too. I think the two are completely different things. I think a lot of designers, who are talented and intelligent don't find this very satisfying. But they're not going to find it more satisfying by pretending it's something it isn't”
Postmodernist designers such as Neville Brody would argue that by challenging the subjectivity of the visual voice over of content contributes to the variation of today’s visual language. British graphic designer Neville Brody is responsible for the direction of the cultural fashion magazine ‘The Face’ during the 1980’s. Brody is responsible in the direction of many other popular cultural magazines and newspapers such as Arena The Observer, The Times and The guardian. Brody’s design approach in terms of clarity within the original content presents familiarities in connection to the work of Carson. The use of experimental typography and subjective imagery in today’s design process is imitated more and more in visual communication and has been adopted by corporation giants such as Nike, Orange, Levis, the list continues. It would appear that Warde’s original notion of clarity and legibility in design is often placed to one side in today’s postmodern era. With the ever-changing fashions and cultural trends, practitioners such as Carson and Brody have helped shape fresh innovative design methods and realigned design approaches of visual communication in today’s contextual language.
Emma Louise Woolley