History & Evolution of Typography

I did some research into the history of typography to better my understanding of what the development has been from past to present. To do this, I watched a documentary made my featuring Stephen Fry trying to replicate the very movable type print press designed originally by Gutenberg in 1439. He was the trigger for what would be a revolutionary form of mass communicated through print. The design was very intricate, each individual character had to be cast from metal and filed down. The would then but put into forms in order of how it wants to be printed, coated in ink, and the a plate would squeeze the paper and the form below together, indenting the paper and producing a printed page. Gutenbergs typeface was perfected over many years. He used a narrower scope and straight glyphs to produce a readable typeface that would align well on the page when printed.


I also looked at the development since the print press. Interestingly, I had been using typefaces such as Baskerville, created by John Baskerville, who created transitional typefaces in 1750, just after William Caslon created old style typefaces, which are the model for many typefaces in use at present. After the transitional phase, in 1791, Giambittista Bodoni created the revolutionary modern style typefaces.

Old Style – Thick serifs, and low contrast between thick and thin stoke.

Transitional – Thinner serifs, higher contrast between thick and thin stroke.

Modern – Very thin serifs, extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes.

William Caslon IV designed the first sans serif typeface, removing the serifs altogether. It wasn’t very popular to begin with, but would boom when the industrial revolution kicked in, and a need for bigger bolder typefaces that could be stretched for advertising. After much experimentation during this period, Viancent Figgins designed the first slab serif, that would mainly be used for titles, and has very thick serifs.

The early 20th century brought a lot simpler typeface. Paul Renner from Germany created a typeface called Futura, That was based on simple geometric shapes, thus being called geometric sans. Around the same period, Eric Gill created Gill Sans, which was similar to Futura, with gentler, more natural curves, and this is called the Humanist Sans.

The next revolution in sans serif typefaces came from Switzerland, where Helvetica was born in 1957. The world considers this its favourite typeface. It has simple curves, and comes in a variation of different weights.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 09.43.12 Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 09.43.16

I also found this interesting short animation on youtube that really helped visually, to understand t he development along side this timeline.


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