Typography is everywhere. It can be found on road signs, in the subway, on posters, in magazines and of course on the Internet. It might seem a little overwhelming, but most of the typefaces you see around you have been carefully crafted with the purpose of expressing a specific sentiment, brand identity, or helping with readability. Type design is a craft that has existed since the 15th century and continues to evolve through new technologies, as well as the innovative ideas of contemporary artists. Today, text is no longer just a means of communicating in written form; it is also considered a means of artistic expression.
The evolution of typography is closely linked to the technology available at the time, as well as to cultural and societal influences. And like the pioneers of the past, type designers and artists today continue to push the boundaries of typography, changing the way we see and even experimenting with the words we read. Now, often using a vast array of digital tools, they are able to produce some of the most challenging and innovative type art to date.
Check out our pick of 10 typographic artists – past and present – that we think you should know.
Joan Brossa (1919–1998)
Spanish poet, playwright and graphic designer Joan Brossa was an early adopter of visual poetry. Written only in Catalan, his innovative use of typefaces transformed letters into recognizable objects in surreal compositions.
One artist to follow in Brossa’s footsteps is Deniz Akerman. A graphic designer and painter, Akerman’s technique involves merging visuals, such as pop culture icons, dog breeds and cities, with associated text. In one piece, titled Typography Art of David Bowie the Starman, the famous sayings “we can be heroes just for a day” are confined in the form of the illustration. Akerman’s artwork can be purchased as fine art prints and other merchandise on Society 6.
Sabeena Karnik’s “paper typography” is made using the paper quilling technique. It involves rolling and shaping strips of colored paper which are then glued together to create decorative 3D designs. His work has been commissioned from various brands, including Google Indiawhere she created a design to celebrate India’s Independence Day.
Jean-Charles Debroize for Kerozen
One of the most surprising uses of the type in art that we have found is the work of Jean-Charles Debroize, part of the graphic design studio Kerozen. This human-inspired typography features human features that have been “bent” into curves to form different letters of the alphabet. It’s an extraordinary example of how contemporary artists are using today’s digital resources to create innovative typography.
Turkish artist Tolga Girgin creates amazing 3D calligraphy art that seems to jump off the page. Hand-drawn, each work expresses stunning typographic skills that cross dimensions.