Many communication designers strive for transparency of typographic form.
This approach rationalised in Beatrice Warde’s ‘The Crystal Goblet’ (an essay first delivered as the speech ‘Printing Should Be Invisible’, in 1930). The essay suggests layout is merely a vessel that should be invisible to the reader so they can fully enjoy the meaning of the text.
“You have two goblets before you. One is of solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns. The other is of crystal-clear glass, thin as a bubble, and as transparent. Pour and drink; and according to your choice of goblet, I shall know whether or not you are a connoisseur of wine… you will choose the crystal, because everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain.”
However I believe design is not value neutral, and the transparency of form is a myth.
Rarely is design truly invisible. In communication design every decision we make has weight and gravity, exerting influence (positive or negative) over the content. As designers working with the visible word, we should actively pursue a symbiotic relationship between the form and function of text, ideas and messages.
There is a contemporary demand for alignment of visual and verbal language. Just as we speak with emotion, rhythm, inflection and tone our visual communication should preform in the same way. Consider today’s audience… We live in a privileged society, immersed in information (we are technologically sophisticated, highly educated, time poor individuals with decreasing attention spans) constantly bombarded with communication, conversation, media and messages. No lyric, prose, idea or narrative will engage today’s audience delivered in a dry, monotone (or transparent) voice. The same is true when speaking visually.