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Peter Dawson on 'Type Directory'

Posted on 15 Nov 2019

We talked to Peter Dawson, author, designer and former board member of the International Society of Typographic Designers, about how typography affects the way we interact.

How long have you been interested and involved in typefaces and typography?

It was twenty-six years ago, I was formally introduced to typography and typefaces during my first year of studying for a degree in Graphic Design at Kingston University, Surrey, when my lecturer, designer Eugenie Dodd, asked me to complete a typographic project. It was a momentous moment as I realized that a whole world lay before me of typefaces and their infinite possibilities. I changed tack in my studies and never looked back. Gone was my ambition of becoming a comic-book Illustrator as my attentions turned to becoming a typographic graphic designer.

How important is type design in graphic design and communication?

Over the years, I have worked with numerous typefaces on a wide variety of projects and have always admired the creative ingenuity, dedication, craftsmanship and attention to detail of the unsung heroes of the world of type design. These highly skilled members of the creative community past and present number in their thousands. Many are revered as icons in the typographic world thanks to their creative genius and the unassuming daily passion that lies behind what are invariably labours of love, which enable those who work with type to have their creations read in print or on-line across the world. So essential in other words.

Some fonts illicit a mood or theme, such a retro digital font or an art deco type font. Is this something that a designer creates or something that the user projects?

I think this one of the significant marriages that occur in design. Often type designers are surprised how their creations are used or where and in what way but with display typefaces, such as those that you refer to, their connotations are evident in part to their designer’s intention but also the viewer’s preconception and visual experience of similar aesthetic increases its effectiveness. But its how a designer bridges that gap and how they employ these typefaces that can influence the context of the overall design. This is where interest and options for a design can be widened.

How important is typography’s role in design and what effects can the wrong fonts have?

I always said you can have the greatest idea in the world but if the execution of the design is badly executed with poorly-crafted typography or a typeface being employed out of context (as often with the infamous comic sans by way of an example) then the message and the aesthetic is compromised. Of course, that’s not to say a design cannot work with a typeface that doesn’t sit comfortably but that’s where a book such as Type Directory comes in to assist the user to research, compare and select a type that works for them.

So much of our communication is conducted through typed text today, whether it’s in print, via email or text. As typography continues to have an increased role in our day-to-day lives do you think people will begin to identify with fonts the way brands do?

I think that’s very much happening now already and has been for many years, there are just now more platforms to read and communicate with. Invariably the way brands communicate via the written word are now using bespoke or significantly identifiable typefaces that reflect their various brand message but also on a technical level allow the messages to achieve readability and legibility on whatever platform the message sits on.

How would you describe Type Directory
Type Directory aims in small part to pay tribute to the heroes of type design by presenting a selection (over 1800 designs) of the many typefaces that are available for a designer to work with. The book is a visual celebration of the craft, innovation and beauty of these letterforms. As such, it’s a unique reference book and resource for design studios, graphic designers, typographers, type designers, students 
and anyone who has a passion for typography.


See more of Type Directory here.

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