You know that you are a true design geek when you are listening to Doyald Young recount the moment in 1950’s Paris when Adrian Frutiger showed him the early drafts of a font called Univers, and you have goosebumps on your arm.
Last night’s talk by Mr. Young, a legend and master of typography and logo design was full of such moments as he showed samples of his utterly perfect hand drawn wordmarks and shared the wisdom of a sixty-year career in graphic design to a packed house at the HR MacMillan Space Centre.
From his book, The Art of the Letter:
I have felt an enormous challenge to justly draw letters with a two-millenia history — the frivolous and the avant garde simply can’t compete. The challenge, as always, is to redraw them with fresh insight, while respecting their tradition.
Of all the stems that make up a sans serif alphabet, none is more critical or troublesome than the diagonals.
This is truly beautiful stuff, almost Zen in its philosophy. I love the topic of typography for the same reason that I love books like Salt or Zero; books that uncover the entire history of humankind by concentrating on one tiny but crucial element. Typography bears this same relationship to design. It is so focussed and minute and yet it is the building block of all communication and ultimately serves as a microcosm for every rule and point of etiquette that exists in the greater design process. More than anything it is a true craft, that which separates a dedicated designer from the hack with a copy of Adobe Suite.
Doyald Young encouraged us tonight to not forget this craft. The computer is a wonderful tool but it did not replace the pad and pen. Both have their rightful place.
“If you improve your drawing skills,” he tells us, “you will become a better designer. Period.” Sound advice from a true master.