Typography is a term originally used to refer to an old printing system with high relief typefaces; the system of compositing movable type (composed of individual characters cast in lead); the print shop or typesetter that uses this printing and compositing system; as well as composition, structure, and style of a publication in terms of the use and design of typefaces in today’s graphic design.
For Vilém Flusser, typography means much more than that: he chose it as a metaphor for the overcoming of the historical consciousness inherent in the activity of writing (“Tipografia,” in: A Escrita, 2010) 1). Following the strategy of looking for meaning in etymology, Flusser conceives the idea that typography represents a kind of thinking that typifies: the Greek word typos means “trace,” as in the traces left on the beach by a bird’s feet. These traces can be used as models for classifying birds and can be traced back in order to compare and distinguish various kinds of birds; in other words, they can be “typified.” The Greek word graphe in means “to inscribe” and supplements this general concept of typography. However, it was only through awareness of typifying nature achieved with Johannes Gutenberg’s invention that humans achieved typographic, typifying thinking.
“Typography illustrated that we are manipulating types when we write (and, consequently, when we express thoughts by writing)” (ibid., p. 64; translated from the Portuguese) 2), Flusser claims. However, he predicted that typographic thought would be superseded with the advent of the informatics revolution, weakening our universal beliefs. Thus man’s typifying thinking – “Western, historical, scientific, progressive [thought] that has become self-conscious” (ibid., pp. 67–68; translated from the Portuguese) – is becoming archaic. That a new way of thinking lies ahead is essential for Flusser’s work.
Original article by LucianoGuimarães