The Influence of Culture on Typographic Selection and Perception in the West
Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam, in their book Type & Typography, stated: “Language, through type, envelops us in the urban environment. Its messages have so penetrated our psyche that it is almost impossible to imagine a world without type – a world without books or libraries, magazines or maps, road signs, television or advertisements. Like the wheel, electricity and the internal combustion engine, typography underpins modern Western life.” The day-to-day influence of typography in a Western urban environment is a visual language that is selected and applied by both educated and non-educated individuals. These typographic selections have become acceptable to the public, right or wrong, through visual repetition and have become a standard in the use of typography. How much does the urban environment influence the decision-making process of appropriate typographic selections? How do these decisions directly affect the perception of the general public regarding their own choices? According to my research, most Americans are not formally trained in the area of typography; instead their decisions regarding the selection of appropriate typefaces are primarily influenced by their perception of typography that surrounds them in daily culture. Through the use of a self-administered questionnaire, my research study gathered information from three distinct respondent groups: fine artists, undergraduate art students, and non-artists (a broad sampling of the general public). The overall consensus of the data strongly indicated that the general public, base their typographic decision-making on their cultural semiotic understanding of typography within America. The process of decision-making is one that individuals make everyday and more people have the ability to add their expressiveness into culture through the selection and application of typefaces for public consumption. This presentation explores how and why people make decisions and how their perceptions are influenced regarding the use of typography in Western culture.
Keywords: visual language, typography, urban environment, Western culture, perception, semiotics
Assistant Professor of Art - Graphic Design, Department of Art, Baylor University