Why Type Doesn’t Matter Anymore

August 23, 2017

Typography is one of my favorite things. I love looking at type, reading about fonts, and studying layout. But type doesn’t matter anymore.

Type doesn’t matter any more because it’s no longer about type and all about the writer. And honestly, that’s a real shame.

Type used to be a set-apart skill focused on the reader

For years, the ability to set type was a skill, a task set-apart from composing language. A typesetter would choose the perfect face for the text AFTER the writer had composed, edited, and polished—making expert decisions for the reading experience. Considering whitespace, leading (space between lines), and layout was not the job of the writer, but the task of the typesetter.

Then, technology changed everything. Technology allowed writers to simultaneously set type AND compose words, at the same time.

Steve Jobs and his ideas

Steve Jobs studied calligraphy and typography at Stanford before he (and many others) built the Macintosh. When he looked back and connected the dots in his famous commencement speech, he realized his love of beautiful fonts is what led to digital fonts for everyone.

Steve Jobs is the reason we have great—and bad—fonts on our computers and phones today, and that’s why type doesn’t matter anymore.

Yes, it’s sad.

It’s no longer about the type & all about the writer

It doesn’t matter because it’s no longer about the type. It’s no longer about what is best for the reading experience or what will work best for the story.

It’s about the writer, their personal preferences, and doing they want.

It used to be that we needed, truly NEEDED someone skilled to make a bunch of tiny decisions about how much leading to put between each line and type size and weight would work best for the page and thus the reading experience for the reader.

Now, we can do it ourselves. It’s easy…efficient…effortless.

It used to be that a small collection of carefully designed letters were reserved for complete, finished work, ready for publication.

Now, typography is air. It’s ubiquitous, sometimes unclean, then instantly everywhere.

The ubiquity of typography is a tremendous feat of design and engineering—so the fact anyone can set type with a device in their palm isn’t a bad thing. But it just means there’s more noise than ever—and proof that only those who do work that matters will get noticed.

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