“Mind your p’s and q’s.”*


-by Mariner Teresa

I've learned a new word.

I consider myself to be someone who is well-informed if it involves politics, history, and related topics. When it comes to software, moderately so. Which is probably not something to publicly confess so I am just going to blame it on the fact that I am on the marketing side of things and not the development side.

I get a ton of emails because of all my subscriptions, but one news email always rises to the top for me and I take time as soon as its delivered to my inbox, to read it. It is iOS Dev Weekly by Dave Verwer. His news is varied, which I like, but what I especially appreciate is the quick summaries he provides. It makes me want to read more.

Ok, get to the point.

Yes, well, the new word I learned was from the iOS Dev Weekly – Issue 81 and the essay entitled: "The Battle Between Flat Design And Skeuomorphism" by Sacha Greif. What in the world is skeuomorphism and why is there some big battle going on? After consulting New Oxford American and learning what a skeuomorph is, I was challenged to read Sacha's essay and must say, really enjoyed it. But I am not here to jump into the flat design vs skeuomorphic design discussion. As I read through his essay and got near to the end I see this:

"Flat design also forces you to really care about typography and layout, two areas where web design has traditionally lagged behind its more established print cousin."

And that comment is what has prompted me to write.

Typography. Specifically, the handling of typography.

I am from the days of the Daige wax machine, copy that was typed out on a typewriter, marked up with marker colors – blue equals all caps, pink equals italics, etc., and the phone call to the typesetter for a pickup. Typography was an art form. The keyline artist (do I need to define what a keyline artist was?) would take his or her No. 11 X-Acto® knife blade and cut out and around the characters in order to visually improve the character spacing. If there was an apostrophe needed in a 38 point headline, everyone knew that you didn't need a 38 point apostrophe. It was visually more pleasing with a smaller one.

Then computers happened.

Software applications gave everyone the ability to do what was once the job of those who used pen, ink, paint, pencils, paper, cutting tools, and airbrushes. In many cases the work was better, certainly much faster, and definitely cheaper. But in all that whiz-bang, the artistry of typography, in my opinion, got left behind. I think it eroded with time as technology for the graphic arts pushed ahead. I believe the final nudge over the edge has been because of the limitations of coding. We have simply gotten used to seeing a mediocre handling of type. I had resigned myself to a, "Well, I guess that's the way it will be" type of attitude – until I read Sacha's comment. Here it is again:

"Flat design also forces you to really care about typography and layout, two areas where web design has traditionally lagged behind its more established print cousin."

I understand the lag. In print, it's all about images. For the web, it's all about coding and speed. I can't say whether I like flat design over skeuomorphism, but if flat design is going to be the force that changes how typography is handled, or more importantly, if it will be the thing that forces designers to develop into those who embrace the artistry of typography, then I say, "Bring it on."

*It has been suggested that the saying, "mind your p's and q's" originated from typesetters. Those characters were kept next to each other in the printer's box.

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