Influence of Culture on Type Design in Consideration of Latin Scripts


An ongoing discussion among the designers today is about the influence of culture on type design. This essay focus on joining this discussion with reference to the history of type design as well as contemporary works. Culture affects type designers since the beginning of type history more than one can know. To find an answer to this matter, the typefaces starting with Blackletter to today’s contemporary designs will be examined in terms of the nation, history and cultural background. As the way to see a visible impact of culture, looking at the everyday signs such as metro signs, will be the priority. Afterwards, the cultural legacy that has been created over the centuries in Europe will be discussed which the contemporary designers of today and the age of International Modernism will follow. In the conclusion the research paper highlights that cultural influence evolved, as designers can manipulate it. Culture became a source of inspiration rather than a strict legacy that was seen in the past centuries.

Metropolitan Sign by Guimard & London Underground Sign (Shutter Stock Image, n.d.)

The ocular impact of culture on designers and their work has always been a dominant discussion in the field of typography. The question of influence of culture in this research essay will be raised in terms of nations, geography and historical background. If it is an obvious connection between culture and the final work of the designer, how can the audience see this and understand the influence of the country that the designer comes from in his/her work? This essay will further focus on how these external factors especially affect typography and type design through the work of experienced designers. The essay will take a comparison method between different type designs created by different designers from a diverse range of countries to analyse the work done in the Latin script to answer this question.

To begin with, if culture is looked up in a dictionary, one will notice that there are too many definitions for the word. The essay will use the definition given by Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.) as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”. It is also a phenomenon which is being discussed over the years because it can not be explained like a simple term, “culture is more than the sum of its definitions” (Rothman, 2014). The reason why it is a complicated subject is that it has a deep background, can be identified as abstract and interacts with the societies’ roots and history. It affects the everyday life and people’s behaviours unconsciously (Afzal, 2017). According to Afzal (2017) “culture is a powerful thing that influences much more than we often realise”. All the activities that people do are affected by culture, even though this effect is mostly subconscious. Razzaghi and Ramirez (2005) support this statement in their research paper as “no mental activities of humans can be culture free”. Hence, this argument also encompasses the design world with regard to the designers’ work as it is influenced by cultural background and values.

At schools, designers are thought that they should design according to their target groups and consumers with their briefs that they get from the clients. As it will be seen in the literature review and discussion that usually the end result has the influence of designer’s culture. No matter how much a designer tries to create work without being influenced, there is one ghost power in their minds: Culture. The environment that they were born and raised into affects from their typeface choices to the finishing touches. Likewise, same argument could be said for a smaller branch which is typographers and type designers. It is inevitably obvious today’s type design in Latin scripts has a long history starting with Gutenberg and Blackletter (Hutchings, 1963). A rich legacy had been created and every type designer comes after another added more to that which leads us to investigate this legacy and the type designers’ backgrounds in terms of where they come from, their nations, history and again, cultural background. This essay will focus on answering the question of the influence that culture has on type design in Latin scripts through observing type and culture in everyday life, analysing some iconic typefaces and their designers, and referring to International Modernism and contemporary designers.