Modernist Typography

With the recent developments in design and technology, typography has become much more prominent in recent artwork designs. Typography does not only provide visual content but literal meaning within the artwork and as such has become increasingly popular in modern art. Ever since the rise of Futurism, artists have begun to use typography to create scenery, images and even sounds. An example of this would be Filippo Marinetti ’s cover for his first book, Zang Tumb Tumb, which uses the dynamic placement and huge contrasts of typography to create an aggressive mood. The shapes that the typography form give off an almost war-like scene.

 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti Zang Tumb Tumb: Adrianopoli Ottobre, 1912-1914
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Zang Tumb Tumb: Adrianopoli Ottobre, 1912-1914

Social and economic advances have led to changes in cultural values, and as a result, our societal taste in art and design have also become indirectly influenced. A prominent example of this is advertisement. Posters and propaganda have become unavoidable and such a big part of our everyday lives. As a result, artists have started experimenting with Typeface in illustrations. In fact, Hans Rudi Erdt’s poster for OPEL uses the letter “O” as a steering wheel.

Hans Rudi Erdt ,Poster for Opel automobiles, 1911
Hans Rudi Erdt ,Poster for Opel automobiles, 1911

Clearly, our societal values and cultural norms largely influence typography and how its incorporated in our everyday lives. During World War One, typography played an essential element in recruitment and propaganda helped persuade citizens to help provide support for the military. On the other hand, during the machine era, the demand for information and simplicity made typography much more mechanical. This is when san serif became popular, and the new typography “Gill Sans” and “Futura” was used in almost every design.

British Railways poster using Gills San, 1949
British Railways poster using Gills San, 1949
Paul Renner, Futura typefaces, 1927-30
Paul Renner, Futura typefaces, 1927-30

The spread of typography eventually made its way outside Europe and was soon adopted in America where typography was used to convey information to the masses. Typography is now used in our everyday lives and has even become iconic in fashion magazines. Typography also plays an important role in conveying instructions or ideas and is often coupled with graphs to illustrate a visual diagram. All in all, typography and its use in our modern society is everchanging and embraces not only our cultural values, but represents our very way of life.