The new book from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Press is a fasinating examination of typography as a medium of communication, rather than part of print or digital media. Typography is everywhere and yet it’s widely unnoticed. When we read type, we fail to see type. In this book, author Kate Brideau, an adjunct faculty member in Media, Culture and Communications at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development (and in Management Communication at NYU’s Stern School of Business) deals extensively with typography as a graphic medium in legal (intellectual property), visual (shape and style), and cultural (a range of languages and scripts) terms. Helpful hand-drawn illustrations of typographic forms accompany the text.
Brideau considers typography not as part of “print media” or “digital media,” but as a medium of communication in itself – able to transcend the life and death of particular technologies. Examining the contradictions between typographic form (often overlooked) and function (often overpowering), Brideau argues that typography is not made up of letters but rather shapes – and that shape is existentially and technologically central to the typographic medium.
After considering what constitutes typographic form, she turns to typographic function and how it relates to form. Examining typography’s role in both the neurological and psychological aspects of reading, she argues that typography’s functions exceed reading – typographic forms communicate, but that communication isn’t limited to the content they carry. Throughout the publication, Brideau discusses a range of topics – from intellectual property protection for typefaces to Renaissance and Enlightenment ideal letterforms – and draws on a wide variety of theoretical work, including ideas about comprehension, German media archaeology, and the media and communication theories of philosopher, writer and journalist Vilém Flusser and others.