Books

The Art of Typography and Design in Science Fiction Film

From its inception as a blogging project to its culmination into a beautiful art book, Dave Addey's Typeset in the Future is a wonderful but expensive look at typography and design in popular science-fiction films.

Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies
Dave Addey

Abrams

Dec 2018

Other

If you're the kind of person who opens up a Word document and immediately notices the difference in line spacing between two paragraphs, the shift in font sizes or type, or the slight font color difference of a phrase that was copy-pasted from another document, then you probably suffer from typographilia. You could get that checked out, or you could indulge in some exposure therapy and read through Dave Addey's Typeset in the Future, an art-book style volume that looks at typography and graphic design elements in popular science-fiction films, largely those that the audiences of the '70s and '80s are familiar with, and a few more recent blockbuster hits such as James Cameron's Avatar (2009) and indie standouts such as Duncan Jones' Moon(2009).

I first discovered Addey's writing two years ago while preparing for a project on Ridley Scott's 1979 horror/sci-fi film Alien, a personal favorite. A colleague shared Addey's hilarious, insightful study of typography in Alien—and I was hooked, as well as pleasantly surprised to discover that Addey had written on more than just Alien, but by that time had already covered what are likely the two other most iconic "classic" (i.e., non-Star Wars and non-Star Trek) sci-fi films: Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982). Addey's blog, also called Typeset in the Future (or TITF for regular readers) began in 2014 and he published a few essays through to 2016, when the blog went silent. Given the present volume, it would seem the software develop and typography enthusiast was writing a book. In 2018 he released a new essay on his blog on Andrew Stanton's WALL-E (2008) though the timing—three days before the book's 11 December release—seems to have been set to generate hype for its print counterpart.

As with his short-lived blog project, Addey's Typset in the Future is specific, pedantic, and goes into what most readers might consider absurd detail; for example laboring over whether the symbol in the robot WALL-E's name is a hyphen, bullet, or interpunct in its given font (Gunship). Hint: it's an interpunct, so I really should be writing "WALL·E". To get into the nitty-gritty of sci-fi typograph, he looks at zoomed-in stills, production photographs, and reads the production, crew, and design histories of the films, all the while offering a hilariously apt look at the ways in which visual storytelling unfolds through design and font in sci-fi film. Moreover, his book gives historical background into the development of fonts generally, of specific fonts utilized in film, and of the trends in how sci-fi film design has deployed different font families to create the diegesis of the future.

Typeset in the Future by Dave Addey, courtesy of Abrams.

Addey's project is governed by the idea that type and design are an important element to how the sense of futurity in sci-fi films is visually curated. He's not wrong, of course, and this is an underappreciated aspect of media, film, and TV studies generally: that design, and especially typography, shape viewer interpretation, and are certainly connected to ideological, generic, and temporal visual discourses. However, despite his rather broad claims about typographic design and sci-fi film, namely that the form is integral to the latter's expression of (a sense of) futurity, the texts Addey surveys are incredibly limited. In fact, he's only added three major film studies to this book on top of what he presented between 2014-2016 on his blog: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise, 1979), Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990), and WALL-E.

What's more, Addey makes no justification for exploring only film, as opposed to or in addition to television, video games, novel and magazine cover art, and other visual sci-fi media. The film studies make up the bulk of the book, and are heavy with illustrations, and film and production stills. In addition, Addey includes a number of inserts (e.g., on the design of interfaces or on the history of ships called "Enterprise") and interviews with typographic experts (like Stephen Coles), production designers (like Mike Okuda), and even directors (like Paul Verhoeven).

Indeed, Addey makes smart comparisons across films and media, and draws on real-world influences on sci-fi film design, so the book has a practical use to general interest readers who want to learn more about how the films surveyed in the book came to imagine their own particular visions of the future. In all, Addey's Typeset in the Future offers a sleek, beautifully illustrated book that will entertain, probably teach everyone something, and look nice on coffee tables.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Music

Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish Replace Form with Risk on 'Interactivity'

The more any notions of preconceived musicality are flicked to the curb, the more absorbing Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish's Interactivity gets.

Music

Martin Green's Junkshop Yields the Gritty, Weird Story of Britpop Wannabes

Featuring a litany of otherwise-forgotten budget bin purchases, Martin Green's two-disc overview of coulda-been Britpop contenders knows little of genre confines, making for a fun historical detour if nothing else.

Reviews

Haux Compellingly Explores Pain via 'Violence in a Quiet Mind'

By returning to defined moments of pain and struggle, Haux cultivates breathtaking music built on quiet, albeit intense, anguish.

Reviews

'Stratoplay' Revels in the Delicious New Wave of the Revillos

Cherry Red Records' six-disc Revillos compilation, Stratoplay, successfully charts the convoluted history of Scottish new wave sensations.

Reviews

Rising Young Jazz Pianist Micah Thomas Debuts with 'Tide'

Micah Thomas' Tide is the debut of a young jazz pianist who is comfortable and fluent in a "new mainstream": abstraction as well as tonality, freedom as well as technical complexity.

Music

Why Australia's Alice Ivy Doesn't Want to Sleep

Alice Ivy walks a fine line between chillwave cool and Big Beat freakouts, and her 2018 debut record was an electropop wonder. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, she tries to keep the good vibes going with a new record decked out in endless collaborations.

Books

Five Women Who Fought the Patriarchy

Whether one chooses to read Square Haunting for the sketches of the five fascinating women, or to understand how misogyny and patriarchy constricted intellectual and public life in the period, Francesca Wade's book is a superb achievement.

Film

Director Denis Côté on Making Film Fearlessly

In this interview with PopMatters, director Denis Côté recalls 2010's Curling (now on Blu-Ray) discusses film as a "creative experiment in time", and making films for an audience excited by the idea of filling in playful narrative gaps.

Music

Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.

Music

Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.

Film

Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.