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CUNY Queens  ︎ (ARTS241) Design 1

The Crystal Goblet

︎The Crystal Goblet,
or Why Printing Should Be Invisible︎

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This essay is super “important” in traditional graphic design history and theory. It is so foundational that the concept will be introduced or mentioned without much context.

The essay is often mentioned in the same, or a similar breadth with the ideas and philosphies of Modernism. This is a much larger concept that manifests in different ways in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. in different ways, but in the context of (graphic) design it is usually meant as a time, or philosophy, that privileged clarity, efficiency and a lack of typographical “expression.” The point being that the content should determine it’s form and that the designer and their effort is effectively hidden/transparent (like a crystal goblet). This is in context to more contemporary Post-modern design that sometimes is less clear/readible and more “expressive.” That is an extreme oversimplification of those two historical eras, but a good general principle to keep in mind. 

Justa note that it’s pretty short but is in slightly “old timier” English, so give yourself time to read it and let me know any issues that you have, conceptually or vocabular-ily. 

Who is Beatrice Warde?

Because of the opportunities afforded to women in the industry at the time (~1930), Warde is known primarily for this essay and for her work as a communicator and evangelist for typography. In fact, though this essay has been reprinted in a number of different manners and contexts (it was based on a speech), it was published under the pen name Paul Beaujon. To clumsily quote her Wikipedia page:

as a marketing manager for the British Monotype Corporation, she was influential in the development of printing tastes in Britain and elsewhere in the mid-twentieth century and was recognized at the time as "[o]ne of the few women typographers in the world". Her writing advocated higher standards in printing, and championed intelligent use of historic typefaces from the past, which Monotype specialised in reviving, and the work of contemporary typeface designers.

Some additional things for context, or if you are interested in this essay

Things to think about while you are reading

  • What is the central conceit/metaphor of this essay?
    (hint, lol it is the title)
  • How effective is the metaphor?
  • What was your favorite line/passage from the essay and why?
  • Does this idea resonate with you today? Why or why not?
  • What ideas did you have trouble understanding?

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