Paula Scher on the spirit of typeface

This seven-minute video from PBS (which I found via Brain Pickings) is not quite “Everything you ever wanted to know about typography but were afraid to ask” but is, instead, something more evangelical and impassioned: a rhapsodic summary of why type is worth noticing.  The star of the video is the legendary designer Paula Scher, whom I’ve written about before: I had the singular pleasure of working with her on the event posters for the shows I produced and directed at Lincoln Center and Town Hall when I was at PEN.  Those posters can be found here, but her best work (I believe) was for the Public Theater: in the video above she talks about the explosion of type in the poster she did for the Public’s “Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk,” which is as bold and joyful a use of type as the tap show it represents.  Also, watch carefully around the 3:30 mark when Eddie Opara talks about creating Stealth for the Studio Museum in Harlem: though it doesn’t render well in video, that zigzag-lined origami he unfolds utilizes an optical illusion to reveal the text, which is pretty impressive.

But in the end, Paula Scher sums it up best, “Words have meaning and type has spirit, and the combination is spectacular.”  I mean, how can you not love her?


Click here to read about my encounter with the master Dutch designer Gerrit Noordzij, who believes that even in the computer age the measure of good type design still rests in how the human hand flows over the page.  Or here to see my post about a typeface for dyslexics.  Or here to read about the 100-day design project of Michael Bierut, who is a partner with Paula Scher in Pentagram.  Or here to see the posters Paula Scher designed for my events at Lincoln Center and Town Hall and to read more about those shows.


If you still can’t get enough of Paula Scher, here is a terrific TED talk by her about the element of play in her work.


Leave a Reply