This made me think about a lot of things. I’ve always made letters with the message in mind, rather than the way Hoefler and Frere-Jones seem to craft them as a sort of canvas for the message. To me they are inseparable.
What would the vernacular look like without letters? If type is universal, does that mean letters offer a sort of comfort because of their familiarness? In my experience they can be either: seeing signs in only non-latin letters can be discomforting, even scary, when abroad. It highlights your otherness and takes away the comfort of the information design that we take for granted while at home. Oddly, latin letters, even if used in a language I don’t know, does not evoke the same feeling. Even though the place might be foreign, the forms can be deceptively comforting: ‘Maybe if I try hard enough, I’ll be able to decipher what’s going on.’