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love of typography

I love typography.

I think I had an inkling for logotypes when I was 11 years old.

I guess I was 12 years old when my aunt–many thanks to her–sent me a calligraphy pen as a gift, with a small introductory booklet for calligraphy. I was intrigued.

I was about 18-19 years old when I came across several volumes of typography books at the university library. I thought the roman typefaces were beautiful. I was fascinated.

I knew I had to go with Macintosh in 1989 because it had proper typography worked out within its operating system. (It was only in 2005 when Steve Jobs revealed in his Commencement Speech at Stanford how he was touched by calligraphy class at Reed College and how his appreciation for typography was designed into Macintosh.)

“Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.”

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech (2005)

I feel bad when I spot odd kerning. I sometimes give undue preference to people who have clean hand-writing. I am drawn to shops and stores with beautiful typography.

When I watch a documentary film about Helvetica or clips about typography in general, I feel the euphoria.

Does all this mean that I should have taken an art or design track for my career? Not necessarily. Appreciation of visual aesthetics can be usefully applied in any trade of business. Take Steve Jobs for example. Perhaps such talent could be more valuable when applied to the context outside the realm of art.

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