Typography as a Metaphor for Glass

We’ve done a lot of graphic projects in the past, but I’ve only started really studying how typography, fonts, and letters are designed. According to graphic designer, educator, writer, and artist Ellen Lupton, “typography is what language looks like.” It’s the font’s you use to type your email, read blogs like this, and every written word. Every letter, punctuation mark, and all the little spaces in between every glyph of this typeface, Mr. Eaves by Zuzana Licko, had to be designed by someone somewhere.

Just like typefaces, glassware needs to be designed in families: sets of different vessels that need to look like they belong together.  Letters also need to function: An “a” needs to look like an “a” otherwise nobody would be able to read the alphabet. Wine glasses need to serve wine and a beer stein’s need to hold a pint.  Their shapes can’t vary too much, but within the limits of functionality, they can express a lot of different personalities.

HTC Didot (1991) by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones.  A revival of Didot by Francois Ambroise Didot (1784)

HTC Didot (1991) by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones.  A revival of Didot by Francois Ambroise Didot (1784)

Tobias Frere-Jones of the eponymous type foundary Frere-Jones Type, and designer of letters for the Wall Street Journal, Esquire, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and Gotham, the typeface of the Obama Campaign, has said that fonts can be like an southern accent or a suit.  It gives words a certain flavor that tells you a lot about them before you even read the message.

Taxonomy of Typography Poster by Pop Chart Lab

Taxonomy of Typography Poster by Pop Chart Lab

In glassware, a pint glass might feel a bit more like a BOLD ALL CAPS compared to a Reidel wine glass that feels more like Didot.

These undertones work almost invisibly, and the infinite reasons why the shape of the Reidel says “fancy” and the stein says rowdy tend to fade into the background of daily life.

  • Contrast
  • Weight
  • Readability/Functionality
  • Families and Groups
  • Relative Scale
  • Ornamentation
  • Historical Reference
Reidel Riedel Sommeliers Cabernet Glass

Reidel Riedel Sommeliers Cabernet Glass

These are just some of the tools that a type designer might use to tune the flavor of an alphabet, and we can borrow from them and find their analogs glass to refine the way we design families of vessels too.

Sketchbook notes on glassware and typographic analogies

Sketchbook notes on glassware and typographic analogies


Christopher Yamane is an industrial designer and Co-Founder of Super Duper Studio