In the 19th century (the Victorian era), there was a visual phenomenon that expanded on the variety and overuse of type. On posters, a galore of type would be crowded into the compositions of the posters; sans-serif, serif, gothic, modern types and all others that could be accessed would be stuck together on a vertical axis. As the industry grew, as well as the available type-faces and the demand of commerce, artistic evaluation (in terms of stylistic coherence and composition) was often disregarded, or went to little discuss, in the creation of these posters.
As seen by The Giant Horse of of Sinon, Astley’s Circus, 1833 (shown below), the chaotic use of type is present here. Along the sides of the image are the names of the acts and performers. Stylistically, there is a representation of the numerous acts that would occur during the night.
Although the variance of type feels dissonant, the composition does express the drama and energy one would imagine feeling at a circus, especially with the use of the color red for the type as well as the contrasts in the sizes and weight of the typefaces.
Today, we have the same use of type in variance, set up the same way composition-wise. In modern graphic designs, often times, numerous quotes will be taken and split up into various type-faces. This example (sold by an online retailer), shows that the numerous forms of type actually create an effect of its own in the composition. The variance of type allows for each quote to attract attention individually.
At times, certain type-faces may be used to express contextual meaning of the selected quote as well. For example, a quote about being an ‘uncompromising spirit’ may use slab serif text to show boldness, sturdiness or synonymous traits associated with the quote. In the image shown above, shape is created using negative space; the heart, that frames the word ‘Love’. In other designs, shape and image as well as the typeface used does high-light the contextual meaning of the quotes used. These modern graphic designs are clearly inspired by the 19th century type-face chaos, but the focus has become the overall image and the chaos of the composition.
Eskilson, Stephen F. Graphic Design: A New History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. Print
Ecoart, www.ecoart-co.com/products.asp?ProductID=93&ClassID=7. (Image)