Today graphic designers widely use typography in order to discover the relations between the design of the type and what this type really says. A cleaver graphic designer creates a proper balance between the verbal features and visual of a particular design to communicate their message.
Sometimes, though, graphic designers discover the visual feature of type more powerful than that of verbal aspect. In these cases, visual language is used to do all the talking. Here in this article we shed light on what happens when the typography speaks more than the words.
According to Cal Swan, writer of, famous book language and typography, “When these two different fields come together somewhere in practice they create a strong connection between the transmissions of words in visible form and their conception as a message.”
Here many people don’t know the meaning of the terms “verbal language” and “visual language”. Let us clear these two words and its difference here. In graphic designing, verbal language is the combination of sentences, phrases and words, while on the other hand visual aspect refers to the sentences and meanings produced by the visual appearance of image and text. Here in this article, by the word “visual language” we mean for the nature and significance of cautiously selected typography.’
Here you will see a wide variety of examples of verbal and visual language that help you understand both easily. The implication of type choices in interpretation and meaning will also be discussed. And also you will know how to present the similar message in different forms to encourage and convey a variety of responses.
We all have different cultural experiences and backgrounds that differentiate us from one another that affect one’s perception. Thus, in spite of the designer’s effort and skill, a lot of unmanageable features remain, including the perception of the viewer, preferences, experiences, knowledge and expectations.
For instance, look at this amazing piece by Greenpeace:
Of course, who among us are not familiar with the logo of world’s favorite chocolate “Kit Kat”. The letterform, style and type certainly and proportions the angle, shape and color all generate an instantly familiar relationship with the particular chocolate brand – everything is so familiar that at first you will not notice that something different is on the logo and you might take another look to see the change.
Visual language when designing with typography not only plays with the emotions of a person but also from your physical responses. In following example we will show you a simple graphic of the emotive and varied effects and highly overriding control that one can easily be attained by altering the visual aspect of a complete message, but still it presents the same verbal language.
In the first image you can easily see the large bold word, closely kerned and set in lower case. The position of the word makes it loud and dominant and gives an entirely confident, friendly and enthusiastic message. The person talking is happy to see you and welcome you with a huge smile on his face.
Now check out the second image that contrasts completely different from the first, in spite of featuring the same salutation. The positioning, color, scale, case and font all suggest considerably more hesitant and distant meeting. In actual fact, you are not completely sure in this picture that whether the person talking here wants to talk to you or ignore you completely.
If you read the above examples aloud you will notice the entirely different effects of visual language. Look at the first image and say it aloud it would illustrate openness, friendliness, and genuine delight. While reading out loud the second image, you will notice a much quieter tone, lacking of pledge and almost uncertain voice. There is a never-ending variety of typographic choices that achieve dramatic or subtle changes in tone and volume of voice.
Verbal language is usually used to shape and inspire design while on the other hand typography is used to get a message across; the goal of both is same to make the most of the reaction of the viewers. If the design is mixed carefully it can guide to unforgettable result. The following images are perfect examples of the results that one can be attained by using the verbal aspect that has assisted to motivate a visual language.
The first image is an artwork of Herb Lubalin, a well-known American graphic designer who in his monograph described about him by Alan Peckolick and Gertrude Snyder as being, “a cleaver typographer whose graphic concepts are based on typography, art and copy and to underline the drama intrinsic in his message he used all the available production ways.”
If we again read the subject of this article we notice that this quote fits especially. It shows Herb as a graphic designer who not only valued the power of language, but also the composition and typography. The book clearly explains that the production methods Lubalin used are not only for effects, but also it emphasizes the message and meaning of a particular project. In the time of Herb these verdicts would have involved posing greater, manual labor limitations than people of today face. Finally, it confirms that, the Lubalin, the notion was of supreme significance and always need to consider before designing.
In 1964, in the Visual Graphics Corporation, he exhibits his many entries, from which one features a quote by a well-known US writer and editor Caskie Stinnett.
By using well-considered and delicate typography composition, detailing, Herb has designed an unlikable message into pleasing and attractive manner. According to the quote, “A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.” While the central point says “go to hell” is designed in an elegant and elaborate calligraphic form.
While on the other hand, if we see the artwork of hand-lettering graphic designer Alison Carmichael we notice that how beautifully he shows the typography effect by taking control of the meaning. He also won best self-promotional ad award for this type of design for the creative circle. Hand-lettering of Carmichael is inked and engraved in an intricate style on the top of a school desk. At first, when you look this design it will look like a beautiful, historic work of gothic writing; while on the other hand seconds later, when the reality strikes the unlikable meaning of the written word becomes clear to you.
The government of the UK has taken an initiative to raise awareness of the troubles of workers trafficked into the sex industry by type tarts. The designers who are contributing are asked to send the “Tart-cards” to participate in an exhibition. Hundreds of London prostitutes advertised themselves and their services by exhibiting promotional tart cards in telephone boxes. Even in the 21stcentury, when the Internet and mobile phones are all around and in the police crackdowns, these tart cards being highly admired and are collected by the people as art.
Below are the examples of expressive type manipulation and typefaces that visually streng then the text’s meaning. Anyone can figure out the meaning of the cards just by looking them:
Below is another great example of the visual language of type by Jason Munn, a famous American designer also known for his much-admired music posters. The example below is mainly typography, designed in such a way that the viewer does not easily get the meaning of the image. What is the reality? The selection of type is also important; it’s great contrasts of thin and thick strokes point to the compare between lies and truth.
The designer of the above image uses the typeface to strengthen the meaning of this statement. These designs are slightly different from others; typeface is used mainly to strengthen the assertive tone and the agenda of the speakers.
The above example is from a well-known BBC sitcom “Keeping up Appearances”. The words are spoken by the main character of the program – the bossy, eccentric and social-climbing Hyacinth Bucket, a 60 year old lady with grand ambitions. Typographically, the letters have been grouped and selected to highlight the needs of the character. Here the words “my” and “I want” are shown in bold because of a theatrical change of scale. “Superiors” is written with capital letters, while the size of “your” is reduced and written in lowercase letters, thus decreasing the significance of whom she is chatting with, in keeping with the bossy nature of the character and voice tone when talking to her milkman.
Designers used typography to communicate mood, gender, age, personality and tone of voice, and can be manipulated easily. If, as an alternative of this serif font that represent the personality of the woman, we used a slab serif, all of a sudden the personality changes, and so the emotional impact of the entire statement. If judge simply by the typescript, the gender of the speaker changes from female; also her age is not in the 60s and her mood is not at all merely pretentious, but is verging on annoyed. It is the best example that shows how one simple change of type can quickly shift the tone.
The above examples clearly show that typography works beside verbal language to enhance, alter and create meaning. While on the other hand the visual aspect of the design is also very crucial, no one can underestimate the importance of type in influencing meaning of the statement.
The obligation – and, in fact, the role – of the graphic designer in establishing tone of voice that adds some meaning to the verbal language needs a long and regular debate. Many academics and graphic designers argue that it is the responsibility of the designer to add some “flavor and taste” to their work, not just to enhance and convey the message, but also to make the message encouraging and enjoyable to read and of course to memorize.
While in the second part of the article, we have shown you the strong relation between verbal and visual language. The semiotics and structure of language are touched briefly, and show you some outstanding examples, all that explains why slight typographic changes make the difference.