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The Web: The Decline and Fall of Typography

IX-12-2013

The effect of the internet on typography today is an interesting one. In a way, it’s the reverse of the effect that the web has had on our everyday reading habits. Navigating from subhead to caption, picture to headline are now part of the fast-food appetite we have developed.

No one has any patience anymore and the web is just the tool to accentuate this more dramatically than any device in history. Mainstream typography, under the yoke of a sans or serif solution (effectively a choice of two fonts!) has never been as constrained…ever!

Typography, on the other hand, as we have known it from it’s origins in tandem with the history of print, has little affect or effect on the World Wide Web.

Sure, there are some ways with CSS and other potential minor solutions, but the billions of websites out there show that typography is not a word mentioned anymore! It was hard enough in the old days explaining to my mother what it was I did for a living – “I’m a typographer Mum!” There’d be no chance of her understanding it now. Typographers and their craft have been all but eradicated.

The limitations have been there from the beginning and anyone with a computer can produce amateur posters at the touch of a button. This has a massive negative effect on quality and is creating a generation of people who cannot tell the difference, including the countless designers who were taught under this umbrella.

Does this sound snobby? Probably is. Who am I to say what quality is? Typography on the web is curbed by many aspects of the technology we use. More and more WYSIWYG web solutions implement this with design solutions that are suffocated by the more technical aspects of programming, mostly because, paradoxically, they allow a superior interaction with the user. But also, the potential promise that every person on the planet can effectively launch their own web site, in whatever form. Just look at all the failed attempts to build and maintain a successful website and you become more aware that there are compelling reasons to understand the rules and history that has preceded this evolvement in design.

‘Dada’ and ‘Punk’ have shown that this is not necessarily a bad thing culturally, and it does clean out the cobwebs, but at what price? Do structures get lost in time and the ether? Perhaps there will always be enough grids and interlacing column structures to ensure that there will always be a design of/and typographical handle on all things web.

But evolvement?

This is at the core of the decline of typography on the web: the need to move on to new design solutions. You have to want to do this, need to do it…we are now in a lazy vacuum apparently not needing to show the way forward anymore because the environment that we need to change is a static one, with no immediate change in it, in the foreseeable future.

History suggests that this is probably just a hiccup with answers just around the corner waiting to be found and discovered by us. A new aspect to the web that will be revolutionary in the way the highway becomes super-duper! The Constructivists, the Dadaists and Futurists… future movements with new and exciting pathways and gateways to form and progress through to make the world a better place where quality in all things becomes the norm and at the centre of who and what we are.