How To Get Expressive With Typography

Meaning: Expressive Typography is an art form where text is highly visual; actually, type becomes an image. Letters are not just abstract notions, carriers of meaning; they are also real, physical shapes.


I’ve always been interested in the different ways of communicating through type, visually and verbally, as I love to see when type takes on a personality of it’s own. Graphic designers today use various type treatments to give their designs an extra touch that is not only visually interesting but also strengthens the message.

There are different ways in which this can be done and this includes and is not limited to…

  • Displacement of letterforms
  • Dimensionality and materiality
  • Imagery complimenting type
  • Using objects as type
  • Handwriting or drawing the type


"Type has spirit and can convey mood; that could be your medium." - Paula Scher


Displacement of letterforms

By playing with different weights, sizes and the arrangement of letterforms, it helps to express certain ideas more effectively. If we take the word 'Delete' for example and remove a character, it brings additional meaning to the word. See some examples below...

Dimensionality and Materiality

Dimensional type is used to enhance communication by separating typography and other elements by pushing it forward on the compositional surface.

Certain techniques are employed today as an effective way to grab attention. Like the Sky 3D logo below, by adding a three dimensional quality to the type helps expand its meaning. Which then provides the viewer with a visual clue to the subject matter. If we take the smoking advert below, this is a great example of how you can achieve a sense of realism and tangibility by giving the type a textured treatment, which also helps to elaborate the subject matter.

Imagery Complimenting Type

When type is treated and synthesised with an image it works to convey a specific message and also evoke connotative images. See a couple of examples below.

Using objects as type

When using objects and resembling as letterforms, a direct and literal relationship is created between the message, image and the type than when placed with complementary images. See the examples below on objects that make type.

Handwriting or drawing the type

Handwritten and drawn type have a certain rhythm and uniqueness to it. Graphic designers today use this type of expressive typography to give their message more of a personal/intimate connection. The examples below show how handwritten type can have an emotional quality and/or show a personal touch.


What do you love about expressive typography?