What are Typographers?

G. Wiesen

Typographers are graphic designers who are principally concerned with the selection and arrangement of letters and words on a printed page. While a typographer could be used or consulted for the best arrangement of words on an Internet website, this is usually handled by a webpage designer and typography is typically reserved for printed works such as newspapers and magazines. A typographer will usually have an excellent understanding of general graphic design elements such as shape, form, function, and color, as well as specific knowledge regarding fonts and type.

Typography generally deals with printed works like newspapers and magazines.
Typography generally deals with printed works like newspapers and magazines.

Modern typographers are, in many respects, direct descendants of typesetters who worked with the first printing presses by physically arranging the letters on the press for the best resultant layout on the printed page. The process is still referred to as typesetting, though it usually involves working in document creation and publishing software on a computer, rather than moving letter blocks around on a large metal press. Though the tools and techniques may have changed, typographers are still responsible for many of the same duties and ultimately are usually the people who actually make a printed page look the way it does.

Typographers select and place letters on a printed page.
Typographers select and place letters on a printed page.

Two of the most important and fundamental understandings for typographers are comprehension of spatial relationships between images and words on a page and a deep knowledge of different fonts and typefaces. Whether considering a page from a newspaper or a magazine, space on the page is limited and most publishers want to get as much information onto a page as possible. It is up to the typographers to ensure that that information gets onto the page in a way that is clear, understandable, and uses the visual space as effectively as possible.

The order of words and images can be very important in this process. For languages that are read from left to right across a page, it is important to have the images and captions arranged in a way that naturally flows and makes strong visual sense for a reader. Languages that are read from right to left have the same concerns. Typographers typically consider how a reader will approach a magazine or newspaper page and how the eye naturally moves through the content and space of the page.

Most typographers also need to know about and understand many different typefaces and fonts. Different letter shapes and sizes can actually affect a reader in different ways. Fonts that are strong, bold, or in other ways commanding can subconsciously create trust and a sense of authority in a reader regarding what is on the page. The typographer is responsible for the words on the page visually creating a certain impression in the reader before they are even read, and font and typeface selection can be vital in that process.

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