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Design – Form or Function? 4 April 2010

Posted by schmeslie in Design, Reflection.
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Last week we talked about how design is as much about function as form and noted how important it is for function to be a primary consideration. However, I’ve observed that form commonly wins. As an example, one thing that comes to mind is the trend of using lowercase lettering in graphic design and other communication mediums.

Typeface is one of many ways graphic designers creatively differentiate. Like other imagery, the font treatment used in a logo or throughout a website helps to convey an organization’s “personality”. But functionally, exclusive use of lowercase type it isn’t always effective for conveying information. The proper combination (using capital and lowercase letters) makes it easier for the eye to interpret. Capitalizing the first word in sentences, proper names, and using Title Case in headers and subheads enables easy skimming for details and improves readability of long strings of words and sentences, as well as provide clues for words’ designated usage (example Rob vs. [to] rob).

My assumption was that the lowercase trend came about because of its “style” – it has an air of casualness; it is sleek and informal. But after further consideration I suspect that it may also have to do with humans leading abbreviated lives. We’ve seen that the internet and software improves productivity and saves time, yet for some reason we have an innate desire to economize even further to ensure we are getting the most from the least. Although everything is at our finger tips we still crave more, quicker and faster.

With that, it makes me wonder if the frequent use of lowercase lettering is a direct result of us being economical with our keystrokes. Are we becoming more comfortable with casual communications so that we may accomplish just a little more each day? And if so, is it worth the loss of clarity?

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