A History of Typography

For as long as the written word has existed,
typefaces and typography have been a part.

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ancient writting

Pictograms

The first type of messages that we find in the history records were a series of pictures that told a story known as pictograms.

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Ideographs

Ideographs substituted symbols and abstractions for pictures of events. A symbol of a star represented the heavens or a peace pipe represented peace. Chinese alphabets are still based on ideographs. VIDEO

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Pheonicians

At around 1200 BC, the Pheonicians gain their independence from the Egyptian and developed their own alphabet that was the first to be exclusively of letters.

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Greeks

The Greeks adopted the Phoenician language and began to develop the true beginnings of our modern alphabet. The Greeks added the first vowels (5 of them).

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Romans

The Romans further developed the alphabet by using 23 letters from the Estruscans who based their language on the Greek.  The Romans contributed short finishing strokes at the end of letter known as Serifs.  Roman letters feature the first examples of thick and thin strokes.

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Romans

Around 732 Charlegmage ordered a system of writing called the Caroline Miniscule which for the first time introduced the lowercase letters.

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modern

Johannes Gutenberg

In the 1400’s Guttenberg invented a system of moveable type that revolutionized the world and allowed for dramatic mass printing of materials.

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Claude Garamond - OLD STYLE

In 1490 Claude Garamond from France, was the first that developed the true printing typeface not designed to imitate handwriting, but designed on Rigid Geometric principles. Garamond also began the tradition of naming the typeface after himself. It became the dominate typeface for 200 years.

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Aldu Manutius

In 1500, a printer by the name of Aldu Manutius invented the concept of pocket or portable books. He also developed Italic one of the first font variations.

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Robert Granjon

In 1557, Robert Granjon invented the first cursive typeface, which was built to simulate handwriting.

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John Baskerville - Transitional

In 1757, John Baskerville introduced the first transitional roman.

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Didot & Bodoni - Modern

In 1780 Firmin Didot and Giamabttista Bodoni of Italy developed the first modern roman typefaces. They carry the transitionals to the extreme. Thin strokes are hairlines, plus a full vertical stress.

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Vincent Figgings - Slab Serif

In 1815 Vincent Figgins designed a face with square serifs. This became know as the Egyptians or more recently as the slab serif.

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Frederic Goudy

In the 1920s, Fredick Goudy developed several innovative designs and became the world’s first full time type designer. We owe the Broadway typeface to him.

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Herbert Bayer - Bauhaus

In 1925 Herbert Bayer was appointed head of the newly created workshop for print and advertising at the Dessau Bauhau. There he designed universal typefaces which were later adapted into Bauhaus font.

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Stanley Morison

In 1931 Stanley Morison was commissioned by ‘The Times’ newspaper to produce a new easy-to-read typeface for the publication.

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Max Miedinger - Helvicatica

In 1954, Max Miedinger, a Swiss artist created the most popular typeface of our time, Helvetica. The Swiss also championed the usage of the white space as a design element.

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Howard Kettler

Howard Kettler designed Courier in 1955 for IBM. Courier became the most popular typeface used on typewriters for 30 years.

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digital revolution

Rudolf Hell

In 1964 Rudolf Hell invented the Digiset, the first Digital Typesetter. Digital Grostesk is the first digital typeface produced.

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Adobe


In 1985 Adobe invented Postscript which used mathematical calculations to describe typeface instead of of relying on pixel by pixel definitions. This led the way for personal computers.

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Monotype - Arail

In 1982 Arial is designed by a ten person team for Monotype Typography. It has 20 variations.

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Apple and Microsoft - Truetype

In 1989 Apple and Microsoft jointly developed Truetype. Adobe had offered Postscript, only to be turned down. This started an explosion in the design of fonts.

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Open Type


In 1996 Opentype was released as a cross-platform font file format developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft. The two main benefits of the OpenType format are it’s cross-platform compatibility, and it’s ability to support widely expanded character sets/ layout features.

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Mattew Carter

In 1996 Mattew Carter designed Verdana and Gerorgia for Microsoft; these fonts are tuned to be extremely legible even at very small sizes on a screen.

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Carol Twombly


Carol Twombloy worked for Adobe Systems from 1988-99, she produced many well-known typefaces, including: Lithos, Trajan and Adobe Casion.

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Mattew Carter

In 1996 Mattew Carter designed Verdana and Gerorgia for Microsoft; these fonts are tuned to be extremely legible even at very small sizes on a screen.

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