It can be seen anywhere. From the back of your school notebook with your crush’s name to the spine of that History book you see at the library, typography and hand lettering has always been right with us.
Art directors, graphic designers and newsletter writers use typography in their work, as well as other careers involving creative work and arrangement of words, numbers and symbols for display.
In Brittany Russell‘s words, “typography is what you are looking at right now – the typeface on the screen.” Wikipedia says “Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed“, and Jennifer Kyrnin said “typography is the design and use of typefaces as a means of communication“.
Back in 2007, Peter Biľak wrote “it is useful to define the terminology and to make sure that the words which are used are generally understood. Typography is a craft has been practiced since the Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type.” He also mentioned a “teacher Gerrit Noordzij, saying that ‘typography is writing with prefabricated letters’.”
#TheHistory of TYPOGRAPHY
Remember the first Ice Age movie? The one with the cute baby? How about the cave drawings on one of the scenes there? Cave paintings dates back thousands of years ago, and perhaps the first recorded written communication.
Methods of communication grew became complex, therefor the development of the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians. The ancient Egyptian word for hieroglyphs, literally translated as “language of the gods,” indicates their importance. Egyptian glyphs are divided into two groups: phonograms, which are glyphs that represent sounds, and ideograms, which are glyphs that represent objects or ideas.
Thousands of years later, the Phoenicians developed the phonograms, or symbols used to represent spoken words. Not so many hundreds of years later, the Greeks and the Romans used the same alphabet, with the Romans refining “the art of handwriting and fashioned a number of different styles of lettering.”
By the Middle Ages, unicals and half-unicals were the form of communication, and calligraphy is yet to be born.
When Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing, it was the turning point of modern typography. Serif and sans serif were created and it was all about communication with the people.
Nicholas Jenson (c.1420 – 1480) was a French engraver, pioneer, printer and type designer who carried out most of his work in Venice, Italy. Jenson acted as Master of the French Royal Mint at Tours, and is credited with being the creator of one of the finest early Roman type faces. He created Roman Type, inspired by the text on ancient roman buildings. It was far more readable than blackletter, and caught on quickly.
Aldus Pius Manutius (1449 – February 6, 1515) was an Italian humanist who became a printer and publisher when he founded the Aldine Press at Venice. His publishing legacy includes the distinctions of inventing italic type, establishing the modern use of the semicolon, developing the modern appearance of the comma, and introducing inexpensive books in small formats bound in vellum that were read much as modern paperbacks are.
William Caslon (1693-1766) is regarded by many to be the greatest of English letter writers. In the 18th century, English printing was at a low ebb and was dependent on Holland for its types. Caslon changed all this and stopped the importation of Dutch type. Thus, Caslon heralded a turning point for English type-founding. He created a typeface which features straighter serifs and much more obvious contrasts between thin and bold strokes. Today, we call this type style ‘old style’.
John Baskerville (28 January 1706 – 8 January 1775) was an English businessman, in areas including japanning and papier-mâché, but he is best remembered as a printer and type designer. He created what we now call Transitional type, a Roman-style type, with very sharp serifs and lots of drastic contrast between thick and thin lines.
Giambattista Bodoni (February 16, 1740 in Saluzzo – November 30, 1813) was an Italian typographer, type-designer, compositor, printer and publisher in Parma.
Firmin Didot (14 April 1764 – 24 April 1836) was a French printer, engraver, and type
Together, Bodoni and Didot created the first ‘modern’ Roman typefaces (Didot, and Bodoni). The contrasts were more extreme than ever before, and created a very cool, fresh look.
Vincent Figgins (1766-1844), born in Peckham, England, was a British punch-cutter and type-founder. He created Egyptian, or Slab Serif – the first time a typeface had serifs that were squares or boxes.
William Caslon IV is best known as the designer of the first sans serif typeface, though sans serif lettering had existed for some time. He was the great grandson of the original William Caslon, son of William Caslon III who had purchased the Joseph Jackson foundry in 1792 creating a second Caslon foundry. He created the first typeface without any serifs at all. It was widely rebuked at the time. This was the start of what we now consider Sans Serif typefaces. During this time, type exploded, and many, many variations were being created to accommodate advertising.
Frederic W. Goudy (March 8, 1865 – May 11, 1947) was an American printer, artist and type designer whose typefaces include Copperplate Gothic, Goudy Old Style and Kennerley.
Max Miedinger (24 December 1910 – 8 March 1980) was a Swiss typeface designer. He was famous for creating the Neue Haas Grotesk typeface in 1957 that was renamed Helvetica in 1960. Marketed as a symbol of cutting-edge Swiss technology, Helvetica achieved immediate global success.
Seb Lester is an English artist, type designer and calligrapher. Lester is notable for prominent type designs and calligraphic prints. You can be one of followers on his Instagram and Facebook, and you can also buy his artworks directly. You can read more about him from his interview with One Minute With.
To close this post, I will leave you with a link to Alex Bigman‘s work on learning your way to the vocabulary used in typography.