TYPE: Researching, writing about it

Tyler asked us:
Write a page or so (not including images) about this recurring typographic tendency or larger trend you observe from your research. How would you describe it? What are its traits? Where it it begin? Where does it appear? Who's doing it? Why is it important?

Modular typography, with its beginnings founded in bitmap fonts, has always been concerned with the similar, that when combined with another like itself creates important differences; In this way, I like to call modular typography a product of democratic type components. The technological impact of the computer and the screen-based window, if you will, drove the need for a building block, equal in every way (as to work within this grid/cell-based system). The grid in which these shapes are laid out is modeled after the modern thinking of the architect Corbusier. His system of proportions seen throughout his built spaces is what he coined "Modulor", and were based off of the Golden mean (a mathematical ratio describing proportions that happen to be aesthetically pleasing when applied correctly) "[His work] was a series of grids that divided the space into a harmonious and infinite series of mathematical proportions," notes Teal Triggs (p. 23). So, coming full circle, this concept of mathematics and standardization spurred an interest in the field of graphic design when the Modern mechanical-to-digital world needed utilitarian type and a means of created it.

The grid "faded" with Post-Modernism (along with the appeal of utilitarian type) but modular type construction can still be seen today in recent design projects, sometimes in experimental ways. I like to consider the modular typography of today somewhat Post-Modern in its defiance of utilitarian; Its main purpose is to be attractive, either as art or as a headline, but combines old practical way of production (its components are identical). Yet some of the most beautiful and interesting modular type-work I've seen tosses even the grid aside (making them really, really Post-Modern -I guess). Still utilizing identical type components throughout, these forms loose the look of bitmap, gridded, or cubic genre fonts. This example is not necessary making words but is a beautiful combination of similar shapes; It reminds me of letterforms nonetheless. This aesthetic with a mathematic or "its the same shape throughout" ah-ha factor is what I find fascinating (finding god/perfection in the details, I guess). I'm similarly interest in Corbusier's application and the golden mean (watch Donald in Mathemagicland; You'll see I was taught at an early age) but without his modular look. I believe all things in nature (the organically complex) are dictated by some higher meticulously numeric order and I want to know how can the man-made world reflect that, and what are some new and different ways it can take shape in letterforms?