The Electronic Labyrinth


Typography (the design of typefaces) is an important consideration in the production of literary works. With computerized documents it is possible for the artist to control those aspects of design usually performed by the publisher. Text design has its own history of association and allusion resulting from the typography of various artistic movements. As Herbert Spencer writes in Pioneers of Modern Typography (1969):

The roots of modern typography are entwined with those of twentieth-century painting, poetry, and architecture. Photography, technical changes in printing, new reproduction techniques, social changes, and new attitudes have also helped to erase the frontiers between the graphic arts, poetry, and typography and have encouraged typography to become more visual, less linguistic, and less purely linear. (12)

The non-linearity of modern typography is the result of rejecting those strictures governing printing at the turn of the nineteenth century. For, "as printing types had grown bigger, fatter, and more exuberant [...] the printer still clung to a layout based on that of the book" (15). One of the most voluble expressions against the traditional layout of the book appears in Marinetti's "Manifesto of Futurism" (1909):

The book will be the futurist expression of our futurist consciousness. I am against what is known as the harmony of a setting. When necessary, we shall use three or four columns to a page and twenty different type faces. We shall represent hasty perceptions in italic and express a scream in bold type ... a new, painterly, typographic representation will be born on the printed page. (qtd. in Spencer 15)

Marinetti's convictions are echoed in compositions by the Dadaists and Constructivists. All these movements have influenced contemporary conceptions of layout and design.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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