tßjGood Taste in Letter Design Subjective?
ules and procedures
for drawing letterforms are easily
given. But is it possible to outline
what should be drawn? Is good
taste subjective, or is it a quality
that can be universally defined?
Here are some opinions on this topic
that come close to defining the inde¬
finable. (All unattributed comments
are the author's-'* *^
m Restraint * Jj /jj^
1 he definition of good taste in all art is
restraint, and having the talent to implement
it. This can be learned by objectively studying
the masters." — John Homs
First we must define what we mean by 'good
taste.' Jan van Krimpen said that he didn't want to
draw 'beautiful letters, but only good letters.' It's a
question of semantics. Good letters come from an
understanding of what two thousand years of
letter usage has produced and what has been
perceived as good, I think mainly by persistent
usage. Beautiful letters depend on artistry The
classic roman letters are beautiful, and good, but
they can be used incorrectly. A social critic once
defined good taste as the right thing at the right
time and place." — Doyald Young
brood design is always practical design.
П К ІIІ К/ Good type is like a good chair that has a suitability
/ to the nth degree to be sat in, or stamped on paper
and read...one that is neither clumsy and thick, nor
skinny and weak." —W.A. Dwiggins
Whenever inferior materials are used in imitation of
natural materials—linoleum resembling an inlaid parquet
floor, a "cultured-marble" sinktop, polyester instead of silk,
"antiqued" modern furniture built of particleboard, or a
pencil-drawn "brush script" whose strokes don't ring
true—a crime against taste has been committed.
Without rhythm there could be no poetry or music. In drawing
and painting there is rhythm in outline, color, light and
shade....to express rhythm in drawing a figure, we have in the
balance of masses a subordination of the passive or inactive side
to the more forceful and angular side in action, keeping cons-
antly in mind the hidden, subtle flow of symmetry throughout."
I he best letterers have a quality in their work that is almost
musical. This is evident in the way a curve is drawn and
resolved. The most difficult thing is to draw beautiful letters
with the feeling that the result is completely spontaneous.
Tom Carnase has it, Tony DiSpigna has it, as does calli¬
graphier Michael Clark. These are the virtuosos."
That thirteenth-century urn is the legacy of thousands of
^Іп^огіК/ years °f РеоРІе making urns, contributing, adding and sub-
0111L.UI 11 y tracting ideas until it became the culmination of the efforts
of a lot of sincere craftsmen." —Ted Cabarga
1 he greatest of the old master painters, in addition
to being good at drawing and painting, were usually also
better designers than their contemporaries.
Louis XlV-sryle urn, From Palais de Versailles, César Daly, architect
Hermann Zapf's Palatino
Giovanbattista Palatino, 1540
A good artist ought never to allow
impatience to overcome his sense of the
main end of art, perfection...the one
unpardonable fault is bad work."
1 he only true definition of "good work" is
that it absolutely fulfills the vision and original
intention of its creator.
Bad taste becomes good taste when done intentionally
—and with good taste." —Joe Kimberling
-~ i. Dflany who know better are loath to follow the path to
>0< U Q11 TV quality because the quick solution is all that is deemed neces¬
sary, so they recognize the faults but do not act to correct them.
Fl inptir^n tyPe that stops you in the middle of a sentence and asks you to
Ulllwllvjll admire its smartness is a bad type." —W.A. Dwiggins
brood taste becomes bad taste when done to excess. Like the
crescent driveway of a Los Angeles mansion lined with a dozen mini
Michelangelo Davids upon pedestals—and Venus de Milo in the center.
In bad lettering, there is a lack of relationship between letters that
comes when shapes oppose one another rather than lying in unison;
when a few letters disturb the rhythm of the group, rather than acting
in accord as blades of grass lean together in response to a gust of wind.
Good typographic taste is a combination of knowledge, visual
acuity, common sense and wisdom. It requires a knowledge of the
tenets of typographic communication and the visual acuity to
determine if they are adhered to. That's the easy part. Good typographic
taste is also about having the common sense to understand that the rules
are onr« guidelines and that there are times when it is perfectly acceptable
break them. And finally, it is about having the wisdom to know that
¿mes, what is typographically hip can also be typographically stupid."
Fine letters were, in the first place,
copies of fine written letters. Fine
written letters were fine because
they were produced in the most
direct and simple way by a tool in
the hands of a person expert in its
use—by a person, moreover, who
was an artist."