Structural Typography

Type as both language and composition

Bethany Heck
Oct 9, 2018 · 17 min read

Words matter (or so I’m told). Some of my favorite typographic pieces are the ones that use typography not only to deliver a message but to serve as the compositional foundation that a design centers around. Letterforms are just as valuable as graphic elements as they are representations of language, and asking type to serve multiples roles in a composition is a reliable way to elevate the quality of your work.

It’s a tool you will always have available to you, no matter the project or medium. Regardless of if you have imagery, regardless of how good the copy is, and regardless of the typeface, if you force yourself to think of type as a structural tool, you’ll always be able to add depth to your designs. It forces you to go beyond the fundamentals of typesetting to seek new opportunities for interaction and storytelling with typography, and to consider the formal qualities of every typeface you choose in the hunt for connections between its graphical design and the message you want to reinforce.

I’ve pulled out a few of my favorite designs that use type in this way and grouped them into shared themes so we can analyze the range of techniques different designers have used to let typography guide their work. Let’s dive in!

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