A strong understanding of how designers control meaning is essential for anyone interested in graphic design or typography. In a previous article, we discussed how sophisticated and complex visual and verbal language can get, examining instances that show how type can be used to effectively take control of meaning.
In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why subtle typographic changes can create considerable effect. We’ll refer to one or two linguistic and semiotic examples, as well as design case studies, to get to grips with why subtle changes can make all the difference.
Let’s consider a couple of simple sentences: “The boy walks a dog” and “The boy walks the dog.” The meanings are significantly different simply by the change of one small word. “A dog” is any old dog, while “the dog” is one we know and recognize. Similarly, small changes in typography can fundamentally alter impact and interpretation. For example, type size can be increased, the weight or font can be changed, and positioning within a frame altered; with each alteration, the meaning also changes. An authoritative, urgent, big, bold “STOP” suddenly becomes more lighthearted and less weighty and might even come across as teasing when rendered as “Oh, stop, stop it! I like it!”
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