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Designing italics: Approaches to the design of contemporary secondary text typefaces

Gaultney, J. V. (2021) Designing italics: Approaches to the design of contemporary secondary text typefaces. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00099060


This thesis investigates the design process of contemporary, Latin-script, secondary italic text typefaces. It examines designers’ approaches, the technical and cultural factors that influence their design decisions, and the techniques they employ. It reviews the historical italic design process, and explores how it informs current designers’ approach to the design of italics. This research sheds new light on a poorly-documented area of typeface design. It also demonstrates a method of design research that compares historical and contemporary practice and produces a framework for description and discussion. Examination of the design process begins with an analysis of the varied roles and identities of italic in Latin-script text typography—as a language feature, typographic element, historical marker, design object, and business product—and how these identities have influenced design. Historical practice is documented and analysed based on a wide range of sources including designer accounts, reviews, journal articles, publications, and type specimens. Contemporary practice is explored though interviews with a broad sample of currently-active designers regarding their approaches, processes, and techniques. Responses are analysed according to stages in the type design process—initiating,experimenting, forming, harmonizing, and adapting—with additional sections on evaluating and learning. These present a comprehensive view of the process and how it relates to historical practice. This thesis then proposes a decision-based framework for description and discussion of the contemporary italic design process, including a fresh look at historical inspiration. It presents a method of approaching and analysing the design process and introduces two new concepts for describing designer decision-making: balanced differentiation and italic tension. It gives examples of how the framework might be applied in various contexts and explores how it might be extended to be useful in the analysis of other secondary styles and to scripts other than Latin.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Moys, J.-L. and Leonidas, G.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Typography & Graphic Communication
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Typography & Graphic Communication
ID Code:99060


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