Multitudes of interpretations: intentions, connotations and associations of typeface designs

Anthony Cahalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Typefaces - commonly called 'fonts' - are essential to a designer's ability to communicate visually. The end of the twentieth century was the age of the desktop computer, font design software and page layout programs and the new digital technology removed typography from the exclusive area of the specialist type designer, type foundry and typesetting company and placed it in the hands of graphic designers and non-specialists. This democratisation also led to an exponential growth in the number of typefaces available to users of type. This paper explores the extraordinary breadth evident in the intentions behind the design of a typeface; the reasons someone decides to create a new set of letterforms;and the associations and connotations which typefaces accrue as they are used by designers as components of visual culture. Reflecting the place of typefaces within a cultural and sociological context, it is the diversity of approaches and outcomes which are discussed in this paper. It addresses the cultural significance and meaning of typefaces by showing the role of personal interpretation and a search for appropriateness in the use of the vast resource of an estimated 100,000 Western typefaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalVisual, design, scholarship
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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