Watching Words Move

Watching Words Move is a book by Robert Brownjohn, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, published in 1962. Using only one typeface, in one weight and in one size and with a thorough understanding of language and how to amplify its meaning through design, the authors make playful and expressive typographic puns to make type ‘speak’.

In his ‘Thoughts on Watching Words Move’ Steven Heller describes a typographic pun as:

“... the substitution of a equivalent image for a letter or letters that visually define the word or words set in type. Commonly found in logtypes and trademarks where more than one idea is conveyed in a single graphic composition, it is one of the more prized design conceits.” [1]

In A Type Primer, John Kane also suggests typographic equivalents for words, he uses examples that express the quality of certain adjectives, the quality of nouns, and verbs where the type of movement suggested by the verb is represented visually by the placement of the word within a frame. Kane suggests that repetition of words (in his example, the word ‘dance’) can be used to express different kinds of rhythm and, indeed, different kinds of dancing.

These kinds of exercises have their roots in Modernism: both Emil Ruder and Armin Hofmann have written about the importance of rhythm in typographic design. In Typographie Ruder devotes a chapter to discussing the different types of typographic rhythms and how they can be used by the typogapher.

[1] Chermayeff, Ivan and Geismar, Tom (1959) Watching Words Move, San Francisco, Chronicle Books




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