It is almost twenty years since Rick Poyner & Edward Booth Clibborn released Typography Now. A publication which has enjoyed several re-prints and certainly for a number of years was a source of inspiration to students of Graphic Design and typography.
The early 1990s represented the real emergence and integration of Computer platforms and software page layout programs into the design process. This new technology was stretched (as was some of the type of the era) in a spirit of unabashed experimentation and expression. The restraint of previous eras and the technologies they worked on, were challenged. INdeed many of the trades and crafts associated with page layout for printed outcomes were seriously challenged.
Some ten years after Typography Now Ellen Lupton summarised in her essay Fluid Mechanics: Typographic Design Now*, that as a society and specifically communications industry, we were in an era of 'soft copy'. An expression Lupton observed was defined by Nicholas Negroponte and Muriel Cooper working at MIT’s Media Lab, as far back as 1978. “Soft copy,” referred to the linguistic raw material of the digital age. The bastard offspring of hard copy, soft text lacks a fixed typographic identity. Owing allegiance to no font or format, it is willingly pasted, pirated, output, or re-purposed in countless contexts. It is the ubiquitous medium of word-processing, desk-top publishing, e-mail, and the Internet.
This digital age has, we can see from recent developments such as the iPhone and iPad now become event further complex in terms of the nature of the soft copy now being able to be adjusted beyond the point of receipt by the end user. So in some sense, has the designer gone the way of the typesetter?
Is the designer's role being redefined, perhaps more closely akin to editors?
* published in Donald Albrecht, Steven Holt, and Ellen Lupton, Design Culture Now: National Design Triennial. New York: Princeton Architectural Press and Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, 2000.