Jun 21, 2017

Workshop Day 9: Type and Design “Funny and Irresistible”

By Dione Jensen

One of the first things Steven Heller said at yesterday's early morning lecture was “Type has a voice. Every typeface can make a statement in and of itself”. Steven started his lecture with type in the industrial age. As products began to emerge type became a vehicle for selling and branding, so we went on a tour of the different type styles, their evolution and their time. “Type” he said “in one hand expresses personality but it also expresses the time it was created in”. This I believe to be a truth, and truth looked right at me when I saw the slide with the typefaces used during the fascist and communist times.

As a child I found myself always attracted or revolted by different typefaces in packaging, books, TV ads and/or posters. What was this magic that could cause such an effect in a person? This was answered to me today when I realized that I was being too critical of certain typefaces because they were linked to emblems that went against my freedoms.

As a child from Peru, growing up in the 80s meant growing up in dangerous times: high inflation, terrorism brought by communism, and complete country instability. As I watched the news I would see people making lines for milk, prices of items change in a few hours, electric towers and buildings blown up by car bombs and in the midst the red flag that represented the threat, the red flag of The Shinning Path. In all their propaganda you could see certain typefaces used, and this style of typeface was brought in by the Communist era. As such, this sans-serif, thick type spoke to me with a voice of oppression.

Today I learned to love that typeface style. By removing any kind of negative attachment to it and seeing it for what it is, I saw its beauty, its simplicity, and its power. Steven’s analysis of the type, made me stop seeing it as the typeface of the fascist oppressor, but the power of type as a tool. A tool to stir feelings in people. Today the magic was revealed to me, as the typeface created takes the ideas of what it should be along with its era to create an intended visual message without having to read the words. Now that is power.

After an illuminating morning, the group headed on a wonderful tour of Marimo for the afternoon. We were welcomed by Paola Manfroni to the 4th floor of an old industrial building in which they house their chic brandlife agency. A table of food packaging and books waited for us showcasing their latest projects. As a food packaging admirer this made my day.

The table showed work for Academia Barilla, Cake (a recipe book that won a European Design Award), Zuegg jams and other works. The designs were simple and elegant, my favorite. We were able to talk to the design team about their projects, and they let us into their thought process. It was a wonderful afternoon that only got better once Paola gave us a presentation on how advertising has changed, from the logical to the emotional and now to the “Funny and irresistible” style. To be welcomed into such a magnificent design space is a dream, and I am thankful for being in that dream.