It’s called Typographic Problem Solving, although in truth, it’s really more about Typographic Problem Highlighting.
As a graphic designer, I like to think that I’ve always practised user-centred design – long before it (together with ‘information architecture’ and ‘visual design’) became a compartmentalised specialisation in its own right, anyway. There’s an inherent practicality and functionalism that should underlie any worthwhile piece of graphic design (or ‘visual communication’ as it should properly be called) – and that shouldn’t require a further specialisation to achieve it. Good problem-solving design is essentially about structure and clarity – coincidentally the foundational underpinnings of typography too.
Hopefully this attitude is evident in my broader creative output; mindless style-making and software techniquery have never really been my cup of tea. Why so much about blather about type then? Because, as the good Herr Spiekermann puts it, it’s about working from the word up, rather than the image down. Form from content: the letters form the words, the words form the message, the message requires a skeleton, and the skeleton requires fleshing out. A small change over here ripples through over there, and throwing it back over to the next cubicle for editing or new schematics just doesn’t cut it. This approach necessarily requires one to actually take a more macro-level responsibility for one’s work—imagine that—and if more designers actually did this, perhaps we wouldn’t be surrounded by impenetrable financial aid forms, ill-considered signage, and confusing ballot papers.
A rather cynical former teacher of mine (whose name, funnily enough, rhymes with needy) made the observation that designers are simply style makers looking for a content to hire them. And in the current US business climate at least, where design is all too often a lubricant to the wheels of the marcom machine (rather than in service of the community), it’s all too true. Sure, there are the oft-heralded ‘designer-as-instigator’ personalities, but there are also bills to pay, families to support, and lives to live. At some point, fingers have to hit the keyboard, software acuity has to play a part, and an income has to be earned.
I’m acutely aware, therefore, of the paradox facing the career graphic designer. I do my best to solve visual communication problems in the most functional, rational and, yes, aesthetically desirable manner that I can; this blog is ultimately (intended to be) about all the aspects of day-to-day practise that feed that output. Over the years, I’ve made observations and amassed notes, but often left things unsaid for lack of a suitable outlet. This, then, is that outlet; enjoy.