“Readers and targets respond to messages they see are in their own interests. Give them what they want every time by having useful content and making its value immediately recognizable.”
In writing several books on design and type, I have been fortunate to have taken the time to really think about these subjects from a greater distance than I do when I am designing. The richness of the two subjects continues to fascinate.
The formal aspects of design – the visual presentation of worthwhile content – is a process of balancing three elements: image, type, and space. Image seems to be pretty well understood: advertising annuals, for example, are filled with outstanding visuals. Space is the forgotten element by most designers, but type is the place where the distinction between good and great design is really made. It takes a developed sensitivity to form – both positive and negative – plus great comfort with abstraction and an inextinguishable love of detail to excel at type. There are few shortcuts to startling typographic results because a great solution reveals the meaning of its own message with artistry.
Abstraction is always a question of degree. An object itself is ordinarily the least abstract representation. A color photo is a flat two-dimensional interpretation. A black and white photo is another step removed from reality. A realistic drawing is a further step away. Until the next stage, one can identify a specific object being represented. The following interpretations communicate a general idea of an object. An interpretive drawing is a step further away from specificity still. Then you get to symbolism, which communicates the idea of an object.
Becoming aware of abstraction – which is just as valid in typography as in imagery – and experimenting with abstraction to see how much you can get away with, is a cornerstone of design study regardless of design discipline.