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Shapes for Sounds

By Timothy Donaldson


A monograph on the history of the Latin alphabet, contextualising this alphabet in the development of other major alphabets and using rich information design to present the subject in a manner hitherto unexplored. A reiterative focus is the Latin alphabet’s pivotal significance among humankind’s greatest achievements. The book proposes a unique synthesis of related disciplines to explore why alphabets look as they do, their adaptations following print’s invention, and how the Latin alphabet would be if certain influences differed., Designed and illustrated by the author, the volume comprises charts tracking alphabets’ maturations and connections to oral tradition. Although the focal point is the Latin alphabet, a broad related history is explored, encompassing ancient calligraphic traditions to semaphore, to bar codes and binary code. This methodology exposes the disciplinary cross-pollination — design, typography, anatomy, phonetics, sociology, linguistics, psychology and more — that gave birth to one of our civilisation’s oldest and most powerful technologies. The work elucidates connections between speech and written language with attention paid to the speech organs, the physics of articulation, and the naming and shaping of letters., Shapes for Sounds culminates years of research into the history and development of Latin orthography. The book has been extremely well-received in the international design press; apart from the book’s international status as a benchmark of scholarship in its field, it has acquired separate status as an exemplar of excellence in graphic design, winning the AIGA award and becoming part of the AIGA Design Archives at the Denver Art Museum and The Butler Library, Columbia University, USA

Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher
Year: 2008
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