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You are here: Home / Conferences / Amsterdam 2013 / Presentation programme

Typography and nationalism: the typographic landscape through a century of official cartography

When Sat 12 Oct 1150
Where Krasnapolsky A
What Place and design
Who Elaine Guidero

Typographic design is rarely studied at a scholarly level, but has ramifications beyond the technical and the purely aesthetic. The cultural landscape, a concept borrowed from the field of geography, can be interrogated through historiography, the analysis of historical events and the writings surrounding them, and through iconography, the analysis of the ideas and underlying principles inherent in imagery and designed work. I interpret typography as a landscape in which ideas about design, identity, and the nation—elements of the cultural zeitgeist—are encoded, and which in turn can be analyzed through these two methods. The connection between typography and conceptions of the nation-state can be found in official state imagery such as maps, a category of displayed information which includes road maps, geopolitical (persuasive and propaganda) maps, national topographic maps, and general reference maps. In a review of primarily maps from several liberal and autocratic states, ranging from the early 1900s to the present day, I examine the changes and differences in typographic fashion, which I argue are emblematic—or symptomatic—of the national/cultural zeitgeist. In particular, the nation-state is branded through its official state imagery, which appears in the typography of its designs; as the nation-state and cultural landscape change, influencing each other, so too does the branding. The cultural landscape is the product of many opposing forces, from the individual to the commercial or capitalist, which the state often appropriates and in turn frames them in service of state power. Typeface is part of that nationalist framing; but on the other hand, typeface can be wielded as a response to state power and hegemonic culture, an essential part of subversive art and counter-mapping created to contest such official voices.

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