‘In terms of style we’re in the new Dark Ages’
Jeffery Keedy is an American designer and writer, whose own fonts include Keedy Sans, Hard Times and Lushus. He has taught design at CalArts since 1985.
This is a new ‘Golden Age’ of type design but only in terms of technology and accessibility. In terms of aesthetics and style, we are in the new Dark Ages. Type designers are mostly repeating past designs and adding technical improvements. Even though there are arguably more specific and specialised uses for fonts today, contemporary type design is less idiosyncratic and specific, and more generic than in the past.
Because of changes in technology, type designers now spend most of their time and energy on what we can do – and not so much on what we should do. The question for the 21st century is: do we follow the Modernist model of making new work that is ‘of its own time’, or do we keep with tradition and build on past work to arrive at something new?
There are a lot of fonts that use OpenType to great advantage, for example, House Industries’ Ed Benguiat collection or the P22 font Sweepy, and many other scripts. But these typefaces don’t really bring anything new in terms of style; they are just better at replicating what has already been done and making it easier to do so.
What new typefaces suggest new possibilities for today’s typographers? That is the question.
First published in Eye no. 71 vol. 18 2009
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