I love typography, and a lot of this comes from the various places that I have lived around the world as certain typefaces are synonymous with a particular country or culture. A strong example of this is the campaign by EF (Education First) a company with learning language centres across the globe.
The typographic artist behind this, Albin Holmqvist created separate typographic illustrations based on the feel of a word, often in a different language or slang from a particular country.
The are almost visual stylized dictionary definitions of a words specific to a culture or country.
For example the video ‘Paris’ uses typefaces that are very similar to ‘Didot’ by Francois Ambroise Didot and ‘Peignot’ by A.M Cassande in 1938. They often display similar traits to Art Nouveau typefaces of the ornate and organic detailing or those similar to Art Deco of the long, geometric look. The choice of typeface becomes extremely important in portraying not only a literal message but also a visual expression and perhaps even an identity of a country or culture.
Fig 1 Screenshot from Live the Language- Paris video Fig 2 – Screenshot from Live the Language- Paris video
There is also an obvious reference to the Original London Underground logo by Edward Johnston in the ‘London’ video. The logo itself became a cultural icon and is synonymous with British culture.
Fig 3 Original concept for London Underground by Edward Johnston’s c.1910’s. Fig 4 Screenshot from Live the Language- London video
Fig 5 Eric Gills ‘Gill Sans’ 1926
Edward Johnstons logo design in turn lead to designer Eric Gill creating Gill Sans in 1926, a typeface which was inspired by the Underground logo. The typeface has since been used by the British rail, Penguin Books as well as the BBC.
Fig 6 Collection of Penguin books using Gill Sans
In the ‘Sydney’ video he uses the slang words of ‘Thong’, meaning flip flop and ‘Barbie’, a shortening of the word BBQ to highlight their importance in Australian culture. I also really like he begins bringing in other important cultural and historical references by drawing small icons of landmarks such as the Sydney opera house in Australia, crowns for British culture and multiple other icons surrounding certain cities around the typography.
Fig 7 Screenshot from Live the Language- Sydney video Fig 8 Screenshot from Live the Language- Sydney video
typefaces help to evoke a certain feeling and some are synonymous to cultures and countries, helping to make these campaign videos so effective. Holmqvist uses typography to explore the interaction between the look of type and what type actually says (its definition). By exploring both the visual and verbal sense of the word, he has encapsulated parts of each countrys culture and identity. Being that EF are a company that are a focused on language learning, it seems only appropriate that the visual language is as important as the verbal language, demonstrated in their video series campaign.
To me it really enforces Twemlows idea on how graphic design is not just an artform but is a language itself for different culutres, actively saying something about identity: ‘Activities such as graphic design are expressions that indicate the diversity and richness of any given culture’ – Alice Twemlow
Fig 1,2,4, 7,8 Screenshots from videos found here http://vimeo.com/albinholmqvist
TWEMLOW, A. (2006) Being here: local tendencies in graphic design. What is graphic design for?Hove: Rotovision: pg. 23