Extracted from an interview with Keith Tam, Design 360°, issue 51, June 2014
What’s your guiding principle for typography?
I believe that typography is situated at the intersection of language, culture, technology and aesthetics. First and foremost, typography rests on the foundation of language, this is the most important. After all, typography cannot exist without language, and language is a cornerstone of civilization. Technology on the other hand, has to do with how we render, reproduce and disseminate written language. Writing implements, paper, typesetting technologies, the book format, the internet, all the way to the now ubiquitous digital screen – they influence what letterforms or characters look like and how content is arranged, interacted and comprehended by readers. Under this context, culture comes into play. How we connect with others, how we connect with information and knowledge, our behaviour and ways of life as a result of the communication as mediated by written language and communication technology, form the cultural aspects of typography. It defines who we are as groups of people who share common visions and sets of values. And last but not least, aesthetics is of course an important part of all this, but not as a pure form of artistic expression. The aesthetic value of typography is sometimes very difficult to define, and evolves over time and place. Typographic aesthetics concern readers’ emotional responses and have associative qualities that can be very powerful.