TedTalk by Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces

Type is something we consume in enormous quantities. In much of the world, it’s completely inescapable. But few consumers are concerned to know where a particular typeface came from or when or who designed it, if, indeed, there was any human agency involved in its creation, if it didn’t just sort of materialize out of the software ether.

But I do have to be concerned with those things. It’s my job. I’m one of the tiny handful of people who gets badly bent out of shape by the bad spacing of the T and the E that you see there. I’ve got to take that slide off. I can’t stand it. Nor can Chris. There. Good.

So my talk is about the connection between technology and design of type. The technology has changed a number of times since I started work: photo, digital, desktop, screen, web. I’ve had to survive those changes and try to understand their implications for what I do for design. This slide is about the effect of tools on form. The two letters, the two K’s, the one on your left, my right, is modern, made on a computer. All straight lines are dead straight. The curves have that kind of mathematical smoothness that the B├ęzier formula imposes. On the right, ancient Gothic, cut in the resistant material of steel by hand. None of the straight lines are actually straight. The curves are kind of subtle. It has that spark of life from the human hand that the machine or the program can never capture. What a contrast.

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