I have a passion for typography, type design and lettering. I can’t explain it, but I love to look at type — I get a kick out of it. The aim of my Lunch and Learn was to make the subject more accessible, to bring the study of typography to the masses (Untold), if you will.
We began by taking a closer look — where do our letters originate? I’m glad you asked. . . A brief history on the development of typefaces taught us that fonts were first developed as cast lead type for printing presses, and were later digitized as typefaces for use on computers. Johann Gutenberg designed the first typeface, for his movable printing press. At the time, books were all hand-lettered, and Gutenberg wanted to create a faster way to produce books while still maintaining the hand-lettered aesthetic. He designed his type in the style of the Gothic blackletter, so that his printed books would look hand-lettered.
As more printing shops opened up, printers began to look at other lettering styles to use as models for typefaces. More thought was put into creating typefaces, and this gave rise to the art of typographic design. Nicholas Jenson designed the first true Roman typeface around 1460. This was an upright typeface that was lighter in design compared to the heavy blackletter type of German printing. In the early 1500’s, Aldus Manutius and Francesco Griffo developed the first Italic typeface. It was influenced by the popularity of cursive writing. The capitals were still upright, but all lowercase letters were slanted to the right. The slanted letters took up less space on the page, so books could be smaller in size and therefore less expensive.
While type basics have stuck around: roman vs. italic; serif vs. sans serif; handwritten vs. precision print-quality; wide vs. narrow; bold vs. light; etc. The sheer number of fonts out there (MyFonts.com sells more than 55,000) is a testament to the fact that there are a number of creative choices that can be made when designing a font.
So why do typefaces look the way they do? Well, type designers have a lot to consider when developing a new typeface. Things such as: having a closed or semi-open or open 4? Three-line or two-line Y? Descended or base-lined J? Two-story or one-story g? Two-story or one-story a? Crossed or joined or rounded W? Affect the feel of the typeface.
It’s just about impossible to imagine a world without type, but at the same time type’s ubiquity has most of us taking it for granted. So what makes for good type and typography? Here at Untold, we came to the conclusion that there are no bad typefaces, rather, poor uses of typefaces. Some fonts are meant to be headlines and would be too difficult to read in paragraph format and vice versa. What I really wanted my Lunch and Learn to convey was that if you continuously look at typography layouts and type design, eventually you will become more adventurous with the type that you use. You will be able to give type energy through the interplay of fonts – and who wouldn’t want that?