Good typography is an art: choosing the best type to complement the meaning of the content, balancing sizes and spacing for optimum readbility, and not drawing attention to itself in the process. But now designers and artists are increasingly taking typography a step further, blurring the lines between words and pictures.
There are several different types (no pun intended) of typographic art, the main three forms being: phrases, usually aphorisms, maxims or quotes, displayed in a typographic style intended to be visually appealing; single words highly decorated to amplify their meaning; and images created from words or phrases which have some direct relation to the subject of the image. This last approach can work very well for portraits, but maps and landmarks are also popular subjects for this treatment.
Why has this style of art become so commercially popular recently? Images have provided a means of communication for thousands of years; from prehistoric cave paintings created before language, to the symbolism of renaissance art at a time when most ordinary people could not read; to the discreet signs hobos leave for each other to signify danger or assistance.
In the modern world, however, most of us expect to get our information in written form, from the web, books, newspapers and so on. Only a minority of people know how to read the works of renaissance painters now, but most of us in the western world can read the written explanations of those paintings. And yet, images still have a greater impact.
Imagery is an incredibly democratic form of communication; you don’t need to be a gifted wordsmith to communicate simple ideas and with the advent of digital cameras and software like Photoshop anyone can make use of a powerful image. Using words to make these images could be seen as a modern, digital counterpoint to symbolism in art, providing a literal meaning for images connected with ideas they do not figuratively represent.
When we want to make an impact, to get the message across, we always use images over words. Images transcend words, they are a universal language, and they carry with them an immediacy that is hard to ignore.
Have you created images from text to enhance a message? Which of these styles is the most effective? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.