TD Week 12: Literature Review

 How does vernacular typography contribute to a sense of place and belonging in the community of Walthamstow?

Running past the William Morris gallery this evening I was reminded of a subject I’d like to include in my critical report. The subject of my question revolves around vernacular typography and how people use typography, regardless of design experience, to create an environment. Even if they don’t realise it. William Morris was a big proponent of socialism and text being beautiful and easy to read at the same time. This post collects quotes around this subject for use in my critical report.

According to AIGA’s 2019 Design Survey, only 29% of the 9,429 respondents identified as a designer of color, with only 3% identifying as Black. Can’t drill down any further. In direct contrast to the population of Walthamstow. Make the invisible visible and encourage people to become involved in design to make a more pleasant place for everyone.

“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
― William Morris
Classic quote in the Mall – mostly branded shops rather than locally run businesses.

“…I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few… ”
― William Morris

Typography is a gauge of a community, at the same time influencing it.

Letterforms are loaded cultural objects—they often reflect the people who made them and the story they want to tell. … In the long history of type design, designers of color have historically had limited access to the tools and knowledge necessary to create typography. This form of technological discrimination has had the effect of limiting the groups of people reflected in—and represented by—the typography we see in the world.
… [Tre Seals is] also cautiously optimistic about the potential of treating typography as a starting point for deeper conversations about culture and representation. (

“I believe that all type and design is subliminal—no matter how monotonous or garish.” Tre Seals

“The best way to create diverse perspectives in design? Integrate more training and learning opportunities in primary and secondary schools that teach students to question the idea of design from the get go.”

Beatrice Warde’s use of a crystal goblet is fine for the time, but as a metaphor is out of touch. Maryam Ahmed suggests a baby bottle.

Typography and placemaking

Typefaces have a powerful role to play when it comes to defining places and spaces. They help shape the aesthetic and, much like handwriting, reflect a certain personality. Over time, they can come to form part of the DNA of a place. All of which is important if you’re a brand – whether establishment or service – trying to evoke and reflect the mood of an area. (

Am I cynical to think about brands capitalising on this? Shouldn’t the people of a community also have a say in this? Change the power dynamic.

History of typography very restricted to printed items until the Industrial revolution “when mass production brought about the need for product advertising and promotion. Cities began to fill up with posters, handbills, banners and print billboards, all featuring multiple fonts and styles. At the same time, cities exploded in size, with the addition of new building types. Office buildings, train stations and municipal buildings now required signs for identity and wayfinding. Typography was further simplified to meet these new sign types, though typography was still following customized versions of classical fonts until the 20th century. … The messiness and clutter of the commercial city was disturbing to many designers and intellectuals in Europe. Design movements developed to integrate design disciplines to better refl ect the greater mechanization of society. (

Typography and psychology

Brumberger, E. (2003). The Rhetoric of Typography: The Persona of Typeface and Text. Technical Communication, 50, 206-223. 

The existing research on typography has focused primarily on readability and legibility issues; only a handful of studies have attempted to investigate the personas of typefaces perhaps because typography has generally been considered transparent. In 1959, typography researcher Cyril Burt concluded that there had been virtually no objective research on the psychological aspects of typeface design and usage. Burt’s observation remains true today.

Very interesting study.

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