At the beginning of the semester we were asked to do a mapping project. Since it was the beginning of the course, I thought I’d map my understanding of visual rhetoric in the context of our campus and surrounding community. I noticed that Purdue’s pedestrian bridge (which spans the Wabash and divides Lafayette and West Lafayette) divided two parts of my life in regards to the visual.
On the campus side, what I term “gown,” I tagged our Visual Rhetoric classroom, where I was taking a highly theoretical approach to the visual. On the other side of the bridge, I tagged a bar (meeting place) and warehouse (art gallery and workspace), places where I conversed with artists my age, artists that were part of the vibrant (and somewhat) underground art scene. Large-scale sculptures and punk bands filled their warehouses. They worked with their hands, they worked as a community. If someone had an idea, everyone helped. Their space differed than that of my classroom. Instead of rows of computers, artists rented out space in a once mattress warehouse to play music, make movies, paint, etc.
These two groups I conversed with rarely make contact, yet there is so much we can learn about where creativity happens and can happen. By mapping my life, I saw that mapping the community with your research interests lens gives you a more diverse and complex picture of where art and research happens. We know we can learn outside the classroom, but how often do we?
I say you map your community now, thus mapping your opportunities for expanding your field of knowledge-making. We shouldn’t go out into the community to simply do field research or “service,” but to expand our own notions of visual rhetoric. To get our hands dirty. To see art in practice.
Also: I got my hands dirty with scissors, markers, and crayons.
This past week at ATTW, I presented a poster on the typography considerations technical writers should make when working with multilingual documents. This post outlines the accessibility issues technical writers face when choosing multilingual typefaces.
When IKEA and and GAP changed their typeface, typophiles everywhere lost their serifs. IKEA and GAP’s change to Verdana and Helvetica angered many for the same reasons: their overuse. Having argued for well-designed typefaces my entire life, I have come to the realization that good design sometimes has to take a backseat to good accessibility. With that said, I think IKEA’s choice to choose a typeface that can be read in many languages, even if ugly, is honorable.
Oftentimes the only way to protect a brand’s identity in a global context is to create what Linotype typographer, Nadine Chahine calls “Frankensteins.” Chanine noticed this method in use when traveling in Dubai. To follow the bilingual policy of the United Arab Emirates, companies made adjustments so that their brand looked the same when in Arabic. So in order to keep their branded image, the companies create Arabic logos by chopping up Latin characters and splicing together parts to create Arabic logos. Chahine noticed the Frankesteins failed to acknowledge the design conventions of Arabic calligraphy. Frankly, they chose design over cultural respect.
So what are writers to do? Choose the best typeface? Well I originally began this poster project with the intent to show what typefaces are best for multilingual documents. Well, I realized our access to typefaces that are both well-designed and multilingual is limited. The major reason is that these typefaces take a long time to develop. Our alphabet has 26 letters and the Chinese language, for example, has over 8,000 characters. Thus the typefaces are limited (and saved for the most
overused universal typefaces) and expensive. Only software developers can purchase the fancy-schmancy typefaces, not the end-users.
For now, writers don’t have many options but there is hope. Multilingual typography is a growing field. And better multilingual typefaces are popping up everywhere. Chanine’s 2009 addition to the Helvetica suite, Neue Helvetica Arabic, is informed by her Lebanese background. So while fonts such as Verdana and Helvetica may be everywhere they acknowledge that people are everywhere. These typefaces seem more complex and unique when we think of it from a multilingual perspective.