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Advertisers use type to create an impression and project an image. The legendary ad executive David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather perfected a kind of classic "Ogilvy & Mather look" in ad typography, characterized by traditional serif type, always in upper and lower case; Mr. Ogilvy eschewed such practices as overprinting on illustrations and reversing white type out of black backgrounds. The very successful "Man in the Hathaway Shirt" campaign is a prime example of this classic Ogilvy style.

Type can be used in a number of different ways to enhance communication and promote viewer comprehension. In the technique called visual correspondence, type is selected to create a word or phrase that appears the same whether one reads it from left to right or from right to left, or to create a word or phrase that looks the same rightside up or upside down. For example, in VISTA magazine's all-cap logo, the "A" is an upside-down "V" and the "I" is an upside-down "T"; thus, the logo can be recognized when seen upside down. Substitution is the technique in which a picture replaces a letter or vice versa, as, for example, in the use of an apple in place of the letter "a" in the word "apple."

Other widely used typographic techniques include:

  • Simultaneity: A word or letter functions in two ways at the same time—for example, replacing the letter "g" with the number eight in the word "eight."

  • Exaggeration: Meaning is exaggerated through the selection of type—for example, depicting the term "ice skating" as a 3-D ice sculpture.

  • Visual transformation: The size of the letters is manipulated to create a specific image, such as resizing the two "i's and the "l" in the word "families" to resemble a mother, father and baby.

  • Spatial interaction: The type is manipulated so as to relate to its space, as, for example, in a multiline logo set in a box (e.g., Margo Chase's 1992 E! Entertainment Television logo with the words "Extreme Close Up" vertically boxed).

Through such techniques, typography can create a variety of visual equivalents to abstract ideas or concepts such as "hot" or "chic." A designer of an ad for an early-evening event might decide to use the color orange for the letter "o," hoping that this orange circle will conjure up the image of the setting sun.

Type and the commercial message

Typography is often used by designers of advertising to transcend what are conventionally assumed to be limits of print as a medium—its static quality, for example, or its flatness. Fluorescent paint, 3-D letters and moving type have all been used to transform ordinary billboards into captivating new forums for ads.

Often a certain type style becomes the prevailing fashion, such as the typographic collages that were so popular in the late 1950s and early '60s. During the same era, some U.S. ad designers chose "modern" fonts such as Futura, Akzidenz Grotesk, Beton and Stymie, while others harked back to centuries-old typefaces such as Baskerville and Garamond.

During this time, visual images and type merged into a single unified communication: advertising's "big idea." Entire campaigns were built around a single "big" concept, using a consistent layout, visual approach and font in TV spots and print. For example, in the Marlboro "Western" campaign, the use of the same font, reverse type (light type on a dark background) and Western visuals of a cowboy on horseback were common elements throughout the campaign, regardless of media.

In the 1950s, a New York design shop called the Composing Room introduced "talking type" to advertising, making the font itself a pun, giving the type its own "voice." Also during that decade, Gene Federico created persuasive images through his manipulation of type—for example, in a 1953 ad for Woman's Day, in which the words "go out" (in the headline "She's got to go out to get Woman's Day") were connected to form a bicycle.

Other renowned U.S. logo designers of the 1950s included Thomas H. Geismar, who designed logos for Mobil Oil and Xerox, and Paul Rand, who created some of the most readily identifiable logos for ABC, IBM and Westinghouse Electric. Mr. Rand's Westinghouse trademark, the "Circle-W" logo, incorporated three dots at the top of the "w" to suggest electric plugs and circuitry. The red "o" in Mr. Geismar's sans serif Mobil Oil logo served to draw the viewer's eye inward.

The 1960s was a decade of cultural experimentation and rebellion, and, as in other aspects of life, all the established rules concerning type were challenged. This period of innovation led to the invention of psychedelic type, which seemed to capture the spirit of the time. What had once been taboo in typography now became the norm: Designers enthusiastically embraced illegible type, fluorescent inks and vibrating colors.

At the same time, Lou Dorfsman expressively used type and image, employing blank space as a graphic element. His typography for CBS in the 1960s defined the company's character and image. Herb Lubalin, who created the 3-D sculpted Ice Capades logo, among others, mastered the art of trademark and typeface design.

From hot metal to the digital revolution

A revolution hit typesetting in the 1960s with the introduction of phototypography. Phototypography marked the greatest change in type production since Johannes Gutenberg's invention of movable type in the 15th century. The new technique made type more flexible, allowing the leading (vertical space between lines of type) to be compressed and letters to overlap without compromising readability. Using phototype, designers could cost-effectively mix different kinds of type and vary the spatial relationships of type and images.

The introduction of Apple Computer's Macintosh machines in 1984 revolutionized typography yet again, fully establishing the age of digital type design.

As in the psychedelic decade of the 1960s, San Francisco in the 1980s was a center for innovative design. Designers Michael Vanderbyl and Michael Cronin fostered the Bay Area postmodern style, which combined a free, unrestricted use of space and form with an integration of cheerful pastel colors.

In the 1980s and '90s, designers throughout the U.S. were interested in the use of type to create corporate symbols that would appeal to international audiences. A vernacular style of design evolved, characterized by the use of sans serif fonts (fonts such as Helvetica and Arial that have no "tails," as at the top and bottom of the capital letter "I"), textured backgrounds and silhouetted photos. Vernacular design borrows earlier graphic forms, such as old baseball cards and matchbook covers, as well as less sophisticated illustrations and printing from earlier periods.

In the late 1980s, designers such as Neville Brody, who started the highly influential type foundry known as the FontShop, borrowed techno type fonts (e.g., Modula) from nightclub flyers and applied them to advertising. In designing the "Just do it" slogan for Nike, Mr. Brody revived an earlier mode of manipulating type by juggling the size, weight and position of the letters. Using a stacked design, he made the word "just" small, the word "do" larger and bolder; "it" was printed at an angle.

Other new styles also emerged in the 1980s and '90s. One of these was "retro," created by designers such as Paula Scher and Louise Fili, who drew inspiration from the Vienna secessionist school and post-Art Deco styles while integrating mixed fonts and extreme kerning into their typefaces.

Grunge type was another popular form developed in the 1990s, taking its name from the post-punk music that started in Seattle and its style from the eclectic fashions associated with that musical scene. Grunge type seemed to be in motion-shaking, quivering, trembling-and it struck a chord with non-conformists.

Design in the 1990s often took a deconstructionist turn, flouting conventional rules and restrictions in ways that asked the reader to decipher multifont images, multilayering, bits of type mixed with distortion and obscure visuals. These texturally complex messages invited individual interpretations.

In the late 1990s, the U.S. type designer Charles Anderson, known as Chank, was selling his innovative fonts on his Web site. His fonts could be found everywhere, from cable's Cartoon Network to coupons for Nestle Toll House Morsels. One of his popular fonts, known as Mister Frisky, appeared on Taco Bell wrappers and Welch's Grape soda cans.

During this period, Adobe Systems—inventor of the Postscript programming language, which was the foundation of digital page design and computer-generated type—became an important and influential digital type foundry.

At the start of the 21st century, type was continuing to evolve, becoming increasingly imaginative and playful. Many innovative evolving fonts were a difficult-to-label amalgamation of existing typefaces-proof of the continuing adaptability of typography and the ingenuity of type designers.

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