An exquisitely illustrated introduction to the gestural mark in the designed world, exploring the tension between marks, which are felt, and images and words, which are conceptual.
In The Hidden Factor, Steven Skaggs provides a beautifully illustrated and explained introduction to the mark—from those as physical as a scratch made by an animal, to those as accidental as a splatter of paint, to those as intentional as hand-drawn characters. Skaggs makes the case that, in the visual arts, gestures and mark-making operate on an equal level with image and word. While we might think of content as that which is communicated through text and images, Skaggs shows, through visual examples, that the gestural mark is often hidden within both images and the typographic forms that convey words.
By mapping different kinds of marks and showing how marks combine with image and word, The Hidden Factor explains that our desire for conceptual information suppresses our awareness of marking. This is especially the case with the tension between word and mark, where we desire legibility. As a result, one of the most conservative of arts—calligraphy—has the potential of being the most radical, since gesturally expressive handwriting is a natural threat to the legibility of a text.
Filled with expressive calligraphic art, graffiti, and other gorgeous marks, The Hidden Factor is an eye-opening read that brings to the fore the importance—and indeed, the prevalence—of the mark in everything we see.
Steven Skaggs is Professor of Design at the University of Louisville and the author of Logos and FireSigns (MIT Press), which was named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2017 by the Association of College and Research Libraries. His font design, Rieven, received the Type Directors Award of Excellence in 2010, and his fine art calligraphic work is in the permanent collections of the Sackner Archive (University of Iowa), the Akademie der Künste (Berlin), and the Klingspor Museum (Offenbach).
“Skaggs explains the quotidian process of creating letters and images in the most enticing and inspiring ways. It is a must read primer for neophyte and veteran mark makers.”
Steven Heller, co-chair New York University, School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Entrepreneur
“Quick, grab your brushes and pens! Steven Skaggs unearths the tactile joy buried in the formalizations of design. Bodies in motion make tangible marks on materials. Typefaces, logos, images, and patterns freeze gestures into crisp, coherent signifiers. Use this book to experience the haptic origins of communication.”
Ellen Lupton, author of Thinking with Type and Design Is Storytelling
“Skaggs's masterful visual design and clear writing buoy us along, with mystery and delight, revolutionizing our understanding and opening our attention to the myriad relationships between written text and bodily movement all around us.”
Jamin Pelkey, Toronto Metropolitan University; author of The Semiotics of X; co-editor of Semiotica
“This amazing work shows how the fundamentals are meaningful and that subtlety and discretion are valuable in design and life itself. Not to mention that the whole book is a gift for typography lovers.”
Dora Ivonne Alvarez Tamayo, researcher, semiotician, and designer, UPAEP University, Mexico