Strange Birds and Robert Bringhurst

by Tina Holmboe 15th of July 2009 (archive)

Some time ago my darling significant other bought me a book which, on the surface of things, were rather out of place in my collection. I am, by training and by nature — if not by degree — an engineer, and so the non–fiction books on my shelves are mostly concerned with computer technology. Some exceptions do exist, and «The Elements of Typographic Style» isbn by Robert Bringhurst became yet another strange bird.

One area of special interest to me is web accessibility, the principles of which are clouded in these «web2.0» days. One concept of high value, however, I found described as follows:


Like oratory, music, dance, calligraphy — like anything that lends its grace to language — typography is an art that can be deliberately misused. It is a craft by which the meanings of a text (or its absence of meaning) can be clarified, honored and shared, or knowingly disguised.

[…]

… The satisfactions of the craft come from elucidating, and perhaps even ennobling, the text, not from deluding the unwary reader by applying scents, paints, and iron stays to empty prose.

Colours, graphics, rounded edges and gradients have, for most content, no value in themselves, but act only to enrich it; they should, therefore, not be exaggerated and made to have a life of their own.

Interestingly enough, some enthusiasts have taken Robert Bringhurst’s book and applied it to the web directlyeotsaw. Both the book and the website is worth a visit if typography interest you.

PS: I like the « … padded and corseted aesthetic of Victorian typography.» thank you very much :)