Friday, March 27, 2009

Paula Scher and Type!

Another artist/design whose work I admire for its alive-ness is Paula Scher. I recently heard her speak on a small panel about design, at the Museum of Art and Design here in NYC, that was put on by Slate Magazine. This was the first time I'd heard Paula Scher speak, and her articulate contributions to the discussion made me want to research her more. But I already knew I loved her work from seeing a print of a painting of hers, in which she ILLUSTRATED the New York map with subways and streets and neighborhood names. I'd never seen a map so infused with personality, life, humor and voice.

I was once told that one should think about type as a voice-- that choosing the type is like choosing the voice of a character. One can ask: how do I want the content of the words that I'm type-setting to sound? You can walk around reading signage on the street, and experiment with saying it out loud (at least in NYC) in the voice you conjure up from the forms of the letters. What I love about Paula Scher's maps is they are so full of 'characters' that they feel populated, alive, and noisy.

Here's a detail of her map of China that, to me, beautifully communicates the population density and the infinite voices that I imagine to be crowded amongst each other there:

And one more, of Florida, where the type is practically in motion, animated and swirling in the water... brilliant!

So while I was aware of Paula Scher's maps, I didn't realize that I've been living amongst her type all over the citi-- even right near the museum where I heard her talk, there's a Citibank around the corner, and Jazz at Lincoln center across the circle of Columbus Circle. She is everywhere, and how awesome is that?

I found this video produced by Adobe, where Paula Scher speaks frankly about her development in her use of type, and her design process. (Click where it says "Launch video".)

Paula Scher also gives a talk on TED
in which she uses the terms "serious" and "solemn" to contrast approaches that we can choose to take when we are faced with solving a (design) problem. I appreciate that she did the work of addressing this difference, and that she shared her discoveries.

After all this recent learning from Paula Scher, I became zesty about type too, and I started taking photos of appealing letter forms...hopefully soon I will start creating some too.