Posts Tagged ‘ contrast ’

Marie Claire April 2013

marie claire-2013-04-1

marie claire-2013-04-2


Vogue France March 2013

photographer: David Sims

photographers: Mert Alas, Marcus Piggott

What a contrast

Two spreads from the February issue of Esquire demonstrate typographic contrast in all sorts of interesting ways.

Bank of America: the graphics tell the story

This, bold contrasty design sets the tone of the article, that Bank of America, with $2.3 trillion in assets is big: in the eyes of the government, too big to fail.

Warren Buffet’s recent purchase of $5 billion in preferred stock immediately helped the Bank’s share price that has dropped from $13.34 a share in January to $7.48 in early September.

However the sharp upturn in the share price following Buffet’s investment took an equally sharp downturn the next day—graphically illustrated on the right side of the chart on the second spread.

The article in Bloomberg Business Week concludes:

Barnes ticks off the latest statistics from Lender Processing Services, a major home loan servicer: 4.1 million loans nationwide are 90 days or more days delinquent or in foreclosure; delinquency rates are twice their historical average; more than 40 percent of 90-days-plus delinquent loans have not made a payment in more than a year.

BofA is more exposed to those scary figures than any other bank. Moynihan “has got to know there are more losses ahead, enough to kill a bank,” says Barnes. “No model exists for what happens next.”

The Nixon Shock


This spread from Bloomberg Business Week opens an article about the U.S. economy in 1971. Richard Nixon was president and in 1969 the United States balance of payments deficit had reached $7 billion, peanuts by today's numbers but significant 40 years ago.

By the time Nixon resigned in August 1974, inflation was 11 percent and would go even higher.

According to the article, The Nixon Shock was a monetary strategy that involved three points.

First, America would stop converting dollars to gold.

Second, to combat the potential inflationary effects, wages and prices would be frozen for 90 days. This was a bold move given that unions representing, copper, steel and telephone workers were in the midst of negotiating 30 percent wage increases over three years.

And third, the U.S. would impose an import surcharge of 10 percent as a way to pressure other countries to renegotiate their exchange rates.

This is all heady stuff and a bit beyond me, but once again Business Week’s magazine designer has created a striking piece of typography that intrigued me enough to read the article.

Guess who?

An enjoyable word puzzle created with contrast in this composition where emphasized letters spells out a word. The contrast also comes into play as the primary type, a large, square rather architectural face, sets up against the much smaller secondary type, an elegant, warm, round human script.

Contrast assignment

These nine squares nicely demonstrate the purpose of the assignment which is creating contrast.

The best squares are those that show multiple elements of contrast simultaneously. We discussed those elements of contrast in class: size, weight, design, structure, direction and texture.

Another aspect of the assignment is concerned with space, the second holy grail of composition after contrast.

By space I mean the shape that is not the letter. This is usually the background, and frequently referred to as counterform, the opposite of the form (or letter in this case). In gestalt terminology this is known as figure and ground.

What will be most enjoyable is when there is some ambiguity. When the counterform and the letterform are indistinguishable from one another, when it becomes uncertain if the foreground is the background or vice versa. For example I see two arrows in the examples above, do you see them? But those arrows are the result of a juxtaposition of two letters or of an intentional cropping.

When doing the assignment, you will reveal either deliberately or accidentally shapes which were not there in the beginning. Often you recognize them because they have names like rectangles, squares or triangles. The hardest part is “seeing” them. Typography is about managing space and when you start to see space as something intentional, rather than what’s left over after you have moved something, then you are beginning to understand composition.

In all these examples space is an active part of the composition. It has been created deliberately.

[ The arrows I see are in the top right and center squares ]