BlogClassical Structures: Lines and Boxes
“If you’ve got it, font it: A condensed, yet bold history of Typography”
38,000 BC (give or take) through the mid-1400’s: Prehistoric cave doodles (with lots of animals and stick figures carrying sticks), Egyptian hieroglyphs (with lots of birds, fish, and people facing sideways), Sumerian cuneiform (which closely resembles randomly-stacked golf tees), Roman numerals (which for some odd reason are still used for movies and super bowls), and Copyists (who painstakingly handwrote everything from scripture to cookbooks to comedies…ouch)
1440’s: Goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg develops the printing press (and copyists give him a big—albeit cramped—hand). The original G also creates the first blackletter typeface. It was dark and not very legible, but if it kept you from writing, what did you care?)
1470: Inspired by text on roman buildings, Nicolas Jenson creates Roman type. Way easier to read blackletter. Huge hit.
1501: In an effort to cram more words on a page, Aldus Manutius creates italics.
1734: OK, we’ve skipped over a lot. William Caslon, an engraver of gun barrels, transformed English type with what’s known today as “Old Style” (not to be confused with the Chicago Cubs beer).
1757: John Baskerville creates a Roman-style “Transitional” type. He killed in his native England, killed even bigger over here, where his designs were adopted for most federal government publishing.
1780: French engraver Firmin Didot, along with Italian typographer Giambattista Bodoni make their collective marks by creating the first “Modern” type styles. Weird trivia: Didot invented the word “stereotype” which first referred to a metal printing plate, but today has come to mean “something grown stale through overuse”. Go figure.
1815: British punch-cutter Vincent Figgins designs the first Slab Serif or Egyptian typeface (which critics called both “brilliant” and “monstrous”). A few years later, he creates the Mono-type Ionic, the model for many 20th century newspapers.
1816: A descendent of the typeface pioneer, William Caslon IV creates the Sans Serif typefaces. Wildly rebuked by most. Wildly embraced by the advertising industry.
1920’s: Originally a bookkeeper for a Chicago realtor, Frederic Goudy gave Copperplate Gothic, Goudy Old Style (again, not the beer), and Kennerly. All told, Fred created more usable faces than the seven greatest type inventors combined.
1957: Swiss designer Max Miedinger creates the Neue Haas Grotesk typeface. Three years later, he renames it Helvetica. Achieving global popularity and hailed as a symbol of cutting-edge technology, what Cartier did for timepieces Miedinger did for typefaces. Weg zu gehen, dude!
Present day: Thanks to rapidly evolving technology and that thing called the internet, thousands of new typefaces emerge each year, hundreds each month, and we’re guessing about a dozen in the time it took to read this sentence.