Playing with the Magic Triangle

The typography module continued this Wednesday, 30 September, for second year students. Building upon foundations firmly laid last week – namely the typographer’s responsibility of becoming familiar with content they are asked to handle – this week progressed to the fundamentals of readability and legibility.

Students began the day in the lecture theatre playing a round of (now infamous!) Type Roulette. As has become custom, students upload their responses to a brief, given in advance, and are chosen at random to describe their approach and resulting work to the rest of the cohort. This week, their task was to edit content from the First Things First manifesto of 2000; choosing an excerpt from either Massimo Vignelli, Katherine McCoy or Lorraine Wild. Why had students selected a particular article? What emerged for them as priorities? How had they chosen to handle the content?

Andy Neal followed with ‘Beautiful Words’: a lecture referencing historical views on the nature and purpose of good typography. One thing upon which the likes of Stanley Morrison and Jan Tschichold could mutually agree, was that readability and legibility are the highest goal to which designers should attain. Key to this is what Andy describes as the ‘Magic Triangle’; a tension held between the size, leading (line feed) and measure (line length) of any given typeface.

An afternoon back in the studio gave students the opportunity to put these ideas into practice via a series of hands-on exercises–and not a Mac in sight. After all, the Magic Triangle emerges with greater clarity, shape and meaning the more it gets handled.

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