Why Typography Matters — and Four Inspiring Role Models

Why Typography Matters — and Four Inspiring Role Models

Fonts awesome

Fonts evoke emotion and feeling, solidify branding, and help create amazing designs. Here are some amazing typographic designers working today, with the tools and inspiration you need to achieve your own gorgeous text.

Typography has been a muse for designers since written language began, from 11th century China to the Gutenberg printing press to Jessica Hische. The appearance and style of text is more than just ornamentation; it is itself a branch of art. 

As years passed, the tools for contemporary design grew hand in hand with new media, digital design, and multimedia. Now, with digital design tools like the adobe suite and online editors, typography is no longer just printed words — it's real, inspired design, expressed in artistic and inventive ways.­

There are a lot of exciting designers working in the typographical space. Here's some cutting edge new work — and some amazing inspiration for your own typography (with some tools you can use to recreate the looks peppered in). 

Louis Stimes

Young Parisian artist, Louis Stimes blurs the lines between typography, photography and design in his pieces. He evolved his work on fashion spreads (starting from the simple observation that the models wore less and less clothes) and, equipped with markers and Chinese ink, he dressed the models with his pen, drawing on fashion photographs with an unique style and strong identity. His creations are strong visuals making each line more compatible, bolder, smoother and spontaneous, unexpected and always very creative.

Louis redefines the interpretation of fashion, taking it out of the magazines to make it even more stunning and alive. This is how he creates type that dresses models, the text strengthening the images and establishing a relationship with the clothes and the idea behind them. Removing the graphics generates a different context, exemplifying the redefinition of typography as an element beyond the functional.

“Writing texts and sentences for a long time I always wanted to show my writing without being understood. Having some years of experience in graffiti and photography I decided to create my typography and put them on different media, scarves, clothes, canvas, posters to stick them in the street. I also had the chance to collaborate with photographers.”


Sang-Soo Ahn

Born in 1952, Sang-Soo Ahn is a father of Korean typography, and one of the most influential designers in Asia. Graduated from Hongik University in Seoul, where he’s now a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts and director of the School of Graphic Design, his first works in the industry awaked enthusiasm for visual communication in many disciplines. From 1997 to 2001, Ahn was appointed vice president of Icograda, the International Council of Graphic Design Associations. In 2001, he organized TypoJanchi, an international typography biennial held in Seoul. 

He revolutionized the typographical scene of his country after combining traditional forms of the native writing system with formalities from Latin typography, placing the Korean alphabet as the vanguard of design.

In a first approach to his work, you might think of everything except typography. But on closer inspection, text really is the basic concept of his work and philosophy. He created the Ahnsangsoo font, a familiar typeface for most Koreans, and was recognized as the first font to escape the boundary of a square frame that was used for Chinese letters. The Hangul can be learned in a very short time, it’s composed for 14 consonants and 10 vowels, turning it into a practical linguistic system based on five basic elements: vertical, horizontal and diagonal strokes, the point and the circle.

Then Ahn began to imagine different ways to visualize the sounds of Korean words for his creations. Taking the essentials, the most basic of their types, he gives us language, communication, figures and design, all together in one piece of art. It’s all about points and lines. 

Ahn Sang Soo from Hae Wan Park.

Oded Ezer

We've talked about typography as a graphic strength for fashion, and work based on basic elements; what about the more experimental side? How far can we go with typography?... Oded Ezer explores non-conventional solutions in Hebrew typography with “Typoholic”. 

His goal seems to be combine typography with biotechnology, anthropology, genetics and psychology. His projects deal with type in the most unusual ways, with the results still being beautiful. For example, he brings together elements taken from genetic manipulation and hybridization to imagine half typographical, half human embryos… a Mithochondria with a Serif. 

But why typography? For many, typography could be far from many other disciplines outside the graphic design, however, typography is abstract, flexible, powerful and universal, and always finds a way out of its area of creation to coexist in other areas.

The projects, posters and graphic works of Ezer are exhibited and published worldwide and are part of permanent collections of eminent museums such as the MoMA, the Museum of Art of Israel, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich) and more.


We also have the simple but highly aesthetic lines of Soemone, an artist who accidentally entered the field of 'calligraphy', but whose roots are the letters and tags. Hiding low key messages within abandoned spaces, this French artist mixes the challenge that comes with good graffiti with the use of colors, perspective and slender black lines to create his own brand, moving away from creators with similar styles. That's where he uses typography to give himself an identity.

He began with the classic aesthetics of the streets, but got bored soon. Soon his work became a  game between solid lines and typography, with a brand inspired by the ancient Sumerian script "Cholo." The style is a cultural movement that emerged from Mexican-American gangs in Los Angeles, and the pixaçao, a form of illegal visual art, born in the favelas of São Paulo. In his own words, "The writing is a good therapy. Some people write at home in a secret book, but I decided to put my fears on a wall. But I have no desire to be readable."

Typography has an element of social coding, where what’s important is the interpretation of the receiver, rather than what the sender wants to communicate. What do we tell people when we use this or that source? What do we want them to interpret? 

Typography works as an emotional, individual and identity factor. Type deconstruction in combination with other graphic styles gives identity, voice and communication to the creator, and thus we obtain individuality and distinction. 

Boa Mistura

Finally, Boa Mistura, an art collective from Madrid that creates graffiti, murals, graphic design, and illustration projects. They are known for their murals and typographical pieces about the love of graffiti, color, letters and life.

Many artists have tried to reproduce the reality that our eyes see, to capture space and depth, and the effects of distance and light, but they have also broken it to create impossible perspectives. They are masters at playing with how our eyes and our brain capture the three-dimensional and convert it into the two-dimensional.

Anamorphism is a technique based images that play with illusion and the effects of perspective. When applied to words, it allows conceptual artists to create changing messages and interesting optical illusions, taking advantage of space as a support, and perspective as a decoder of a message with a single possible point of view.

Boa Mistura has great examples of that: ‘Light in the Alleys’ in Vila Brâsilandia: colorful murals with words that require the perfect perspective to read. Each mural has a unique point of view that allows us to read the word, using art as a tool for change and inspiration, or the installation for a poem by Enrique Cabezón. ‘Mírate a Través de Este Poema de Agua’ was exhibited for four days as part of the architecture and design festival in Logroño, Spain. To read the entire sentence, visitors walked around the piece, pausing momentarily in four different places as the colorful words became legible.

Make your own amazing typography

These are just some examples of great creatives and their passion for typography. Artists who can teach us about points and lines, the use of typography to highlight images, and how this can exist within other disciplines. It brings home importance of transmitting identity and authenticity, and the great power that is to transmit a message. 

These artists can be great starting inspiration for your own work. And so you don't have to go out and get paint buckets, here are some brushes and fonts to start you off on your next big masterpiece. 



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