Seasoned graphic designers usually have a firm grasp of typographic conventions and standards, the precedents against which “good” or “bad” typography is measured. Knowledge of them does not guarantee nuanced discretion, however. Nor does it foster abiding judgement.
Typography & Context addresses conventions and standards, certainly. At the heart of the book, though, is the assertion that these foundations are the result of originating, and perpetuating, circumstances. I maintain that teaching students how and why typography works or doesn’t, in any given moment, is as crucial to evolving their discretion as is teaching students to memorize and emulate the conventions and standards of “good typography.”
I position typographic precedents, sometimes called ‘rules,’ as traditions and tastes. I place typographic practice at the intersection of the systems that influence it: iconic histories, vital social and cultural dynamics, written language systems, reader interpretation, material and formal variability, transformative technologies. Foregrounding the causal, and often volatile, systems within which practitioners work inures students to ever-present change. Students learn to scrutinize and maneuver within new situations, new technologies, and new reading environments. Sensitizing students to contextual factors better prepares them to negotiate the multifarious facets they will continue to confront. As their careers unfold, these future professionals will have the tools to imaginatively respond to any set of parameters, if not to innovate—the life blood of all disciplines.
Contemporary typographic practice is, at its essence, a connection to advancing cultural currents. I offer Typography & Context with the aim of encouraging flexibility in, and openness to, a world that does and will evolve many typographic strains; a world where typography is not absolutely and always one fixed thing. I hope, also, to help new typographers see that their own moment is as situated as those of their honored predecessors, and therefore just as rich in creative potential.
(excerpt from the "Introduction" draft)