Exhibition proves what you already knew: Fonts are important


It’s Flanders’ turn to host a world-travelling exhibition that showcases all things typography

Courtesy of New York

Whether it’s an instantly recognisable brand logo or the font that makes your emails legible at a glance as you walk down the street, the importance of typography is all around us.

A travelling exhibition aiming to showcase the typographer’s art is in Hasselt, its first ever visit to Belgium, courtesy of the media, art and design faculty at PXL University College.

It’s the creation of the Type Directors Club, a New York-based agency that promotes excellence in typography. Every year the club selects the best artwork of the previous 12 months – by up-and-coming students, established artists or creative client-led agencies – and sends it out on tour. The exhibition has previously visited Sao Paolo, Madrid, Beijing and London.

And now, it’s Hasselt’s turn, thanks to Ann Bessemans, head of Readsearch, which studies legibility in order to improve reading among children with dyslexia and visual impairments.

“You can see a variety of categories here, from posters and adverts to calendars, magazine spreads and books,” she says. “It really reflects everything that graphic design and typography can be, from all over the world.”

Quite literally. “Some of the exhibits from Korea or Japan, for example, might not be your style, but you can appreciate them and feel the influence of a different kind of culture,” Bessemans adds. “That’s what’s nice about the Type Directors Club; they don’t just focus on Europe or America.”

That’s what’s nice about the Type Directors Club, they don’t just focus on Europe or America

- Ann Bessemans

It’s the first time that PXL has used this exhibition space, a roofed-over courtyard with an industrial feel, and the curators have made the most of the three-storey height, with unframed posters above visitor heads and viewable from the surrounding corridors and stairwells. On computer screens set up in one corner, a hypnotic looped video displays a variety of typefaces.

Their pride and joy is a piece of machinery belonging to the school, a museum piece that was rescued by Bessemans from a builder’s shed. It’s a 1930s Intertype, a magnificent machine that produces slugs of lead with characters imprinted on them, ready to be inserted into a hand-operated press that churns out printed pages one at a time. It’s in perfect working order and was unveiled at the exhibition’s opening.

The arrival of the show ties in with the launch of a new international Master’s programme in typography led by the Readsearch group, for which the team are hoping to attract candidates from around the world to Limburg.

Until 10 June, PXL-MAD, Elfde Liniestraat 25, Hasselt

Photo © Kathleen Verjans