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Garamond v Garamond: Physiology of a typeface


By Peter Gabor

How many times have you heard someone exclaim “Isn't a Garamond such a beautiful thing!”... Without a doubt, it's a beautiful typeface, even if I hate to use that expression. You could just as easily say a car is beautiful and immediately ask yourself why. Of course the answer is in the way one approaches type creation. There is that method of painstakingly drawing by hand (handtooling) that gives characters that crafted aspect that gives off an air of the terroir and rural furnishings; and then there's the modern method, far more conceptual, contemporary art in such a stark break with tradition and received wisdom — which isn't to say that they are any less beautiful: But their raison-d'être is no longer simply to be so [beautiful], but to arrest, and even shock. I'm thinking of the typefaces of Zuzana Licko who while developing, using the only methods available at the time, bitmap fonts for Macintosh in the '80s, made a leap both backwards and forwards in character creation. By forward, we are to understand the modern expression of a new era of telecoms and digital technology. By backwards, the accomplished work of hundreds of craftsmen of alphabetic forms who have strived for centuries to better writing and its legibility. We then have two schools of thought, two methods of approaching typographic critique, and one could not chose one over the other, such is the importance of securing the symbiosis of creativity and innovation with the promotion of ancestral traditions.

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