a life in three dimensions

Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style is a fantastic treatise on marrying typographic form and content. It’s also a great reference, sort of like a Chicago Manual of Style for graphic designers. Pragmatic, thorough and gorgeously designed, it’s a significant contribution to the field of graphic design.

For most mere mortals, that is enough of an acheivement. I just learned that Bringhurst is also a poet, essayist and linguist, with several published books. I’m giddy with excitement. Language, meaning, cognition, type and form: a nexus of thought that’s concrete enough for me to grasp, and theoretical enough to allow speculative experimentation.

This title sounds lovely: The Solid Form of Language. It explains “a new way of classifying and understanding the relationship between script and meaning. Beginning with the original relationship between a language and its written script, Bringhurst takes us on a history of reading and writing that begins with the interpretation of animal tracks and fast-forwards up to the typographical abundance of more recent times.” (Typotheque)

In my early twenties, I suffered from too many interests, so I decided to let my non-art activities fall to the wayside. This meant accepting that my musical development would slow: I’m never going to shred. It’s OK. I just didn’t have the capacity to be great at everything I was interested in.

Now, in my early thirties, I’m re-thinking this all-or-one-thing model. I think it’s entirely possible to excel and find fulfillment in more than one arena. (Excuse the pun.) Not to be a generalist, but to be a specialist in related realms like art, criticism and design…. Bringhurst provides a neat example.


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