In standard printed type, the primary function of text is to communicate linguistic information. In many typographic objects, however, the product has its own primary function. The linguistic message is secondary. Linguistic function is layered over practical function, as superficial ornamentation.
In some typographic objects, type appears as surface decoration. In other objects, the type forms part of the overall structure, and may inform users as to the preferred function of the object.
Pottery Barn, A to Z, c.2008.
Here, the shelves are depicted supporting a variety of toys, but the ‘A’ and ‘Z’ letterforms that are incorporated into the structure of the shelves suggests that their intended purpose is to hold books.
Palette Industries, Dharma Chair, c.2009.
The Dharma chair is constructed as an ordinary chair. Letterforms are carved into the seat of the chair and could easily be an afterthought. In this way, The typographic element is in no way fundamental to the usual construction or function. It is decoration or ornamentation, superficially added to the surface.
Andrew Byrom, Interiors, 2003.
'Interiors' is defined by the designer, Andrew Byrom, as a typeface, and in this respect it is expected to be rearranged to form words. However, unlike conventional typefaces, these letters are large objects, the size of furniture, constructed from tubular steel. Here, the type is fundamental to the object. The purpose of each object's existence is to convey typographic information. Here it is the physical presence, the 'object-ness', that is secondary or superficial.
Why Not Associates, Pobl+Machines, c.2007
Why Not Associates have constructed numerous prominent typographic objects, including the controversial Carlisle 'Cursing Stone'. In this project, letter-shaped seats spell out the Welsh word for 'people', 'pobl'. Due to their design and scale, the letter-shaped surfaces are viewed best from above, depriving users from the linguistic meaning as they sit down. From the users perspective, the objects are functional seats when they are sat upon, and letters only when they are viewed from afar. In this way, the two possible meanings align with two possible uses.
Parachute, My Sous-Verres, c.2008.
All of the above images link to sources.
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