Letter Forms as Communicative Urban Artifacts for Social Narratives

Main Article Content

Muhammad Rahman
Vikas Mehta


Words, type and letters - as signs and artifacts - have an immense promise to convey meaning in the urban environment. Letterforms are the 'architecture of language' (Baines and Haslam, 2005) - they build narratives, and create inquisitive interpretive spaces through which the reader experiences meaning. Typography and letterforms can possibly be perceived and defined in two ways - functional (legibility) and visual (formal). The utilitarian domain of typography is a prerequisite for effective communication, but letterforms have also been an unsolved quest for designers to explore and qualify various other more ephemeral dimensions of communication. Unique to letterforms is the distinctive manner in which they can be used to occupy space, convey characteristics, portray personality and physique, and situate dimensionally or even be associated with variety of emotions. Type is an art form, providing immense pleasure to the everyday observer, reader and speculator.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Muhammad Rahman, University of Cincinnati

Doctoral Student, School of Architecture and Interior Design

Vikas Mehta, University of Cincinnati

Associate Professor, School of Planning


Arnheim, R. (1969). Visual Thinking. Berkley: University of California Press.

Baines, Phil and Haslam, Andrew. (2005) Type and Typography. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. 7.

Carter, R., Meggs, P. (2002) Typographic Design: Form and Communication. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Cue, P. (2014). On the Wall: Designers as Agents for Change in Environmental Communication. Visible Language Design Research Journal, 48 (2), 71-83.

Diar, Carl. (1967). Design with Type. New York: University of Toronto Press.

Diringer, D. (1977). A History of Alphabet. Surrey: The Gresham Press.

Drucker, J. (2008) Letterpress Language: Typography as a Medium for the Visual Representation of Language. Leonardo 41, no. 1, 66-74. https://doi.org/10.1162/leon.2008.41.1.65

Gouveia, S., Paula, A., Farias, P. L. and Gatto. P. S. (2009). Letters and Cities: Reading the Urban Environment with the Help of Perception Theories. Visual Communication, 8, v. 3, 339-48. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357209106474

Heller, S. and Ilic, M. (2013). Lettering Large. New York: Monacelli Press.

Huerta, R. (2011). City as a museum of letters. City, Culture and Society, 2, 25-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccs.2011.02.003

Jakle. A (1987). The Visual Elements of Landscape. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press.

Jean, G. (1992). Writing the Story of Alphabets and Scripts. New York: Harry Abrams Inc. Publishers.

Lieberman, B. (1978). A Treasury of Typography Book. New York: The Myriad Press.

Lupton, E., and Miller, A. (1996) Design Writing Research. New York: Phaidon Press Inc.

Maloney, M. and Auffrey, C. (2013). The Social Areas of Cincinnati: An Analysis of Social Needs. Cincinnati: Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.

Marshall, G. (2015). Graphic DNA Project: Tracing Urban Developments through Environmental Letters. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies 9, no. 1, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-008X/CGP/v09i01/53207

Power, S. (2014). A Love Letter to the City. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.