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Subject:

Digigraphy - new term?

From:

James Souttar <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

TYPO-L Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 24 Oct 1996 13:18:53 +0100

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Gustav:

>Yes, we are still using the same basic shapes and ways of putting
>them together but still ... The difference between screen presented
>text and printed text is equal to the shift from calligraphy to
>typography. In terms of >felling<, >caracter< and the formal
>presentation of the letter, based on the media that carries it, the
>difference between projected on screen and impressed on paper is
>huge.

But is it?

We've all heard pseudo-sagacious comments that claim the digital
'revolution' is as important as Gutenberg's - and that it will see
the evolution of new forms for the new media.

As for the first claim - we'll obviously have to wait and see. But as
for the second, I'm inclined to doubt it.

Screens are really something of an anachronism - low resolution,
limited gamut displays in a world which has become capable of ever
cheaper and increasingly precise reproduction. And screen artefacts
are more a product of those limitations than they are of new
possibilities offered by the medium. In typography,
technologically-constrained artefacts tend to be superceded as soon
as a better technology comes along - and nearly always revert to
previous models rather than new ones. If we had 1200 dpi screens
running off multi-processor computers, would we still be interested
in bit fonts?

The other issue in contention is whether the first revolution - the
development of movable type - really resulted in a completely
different approach to letterforms. It seems to me that even
contemporary type designers, busy with beziers, still look to
calligraphy (or hand lettering) for inspiration. Certainly this is
the case with Zapf/Slimbach/Twombly/Holmes and 'the school of
Noordzij' - and I'm sure many others. And is 'new wave' typography
any different? (Many new typefaces appear to owe more to processes of
erosion and deconstruction in the material world than they to
anything that happens in the world of bits). The truth is that the
computer has become so passive and unconstrained in relation to
letterforms (at least in terms of high resolution output) that one
cannot argue that a Garamond revival is less 'rational' than a bit
font. The machine doesn't care whether a character has a thousand
points, tracing the subtle inconsistencies of the human hand, or
four. Nor, I suggest, should we.

James


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