The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (2022)

As one of the first and fundamental forms of communication, writing and typography trace their roots even back to the Upper Paleolithic times when cave paintings used symbols as a form of language. However, as the formal history says, writing has been developed by Sumerians around 3,500 B.C. As each civilization advanced, so their need for communication became more complex. From Egyptian hieroglyphics with symbols and ideogramsto Ancient Greeks who used the alphabet created by Phoenicians, taken over by Romans afterwards. The Romans have also styled the Uppercase Alphabet, which we still use today.

Going over The Middle Ages which popularized illustrated manuscripts and calligraphy, focusing on the hand-written texts, we come to the most important point in the history of modern typography as we know it today – the invention of the moveable printing press in the 15th century, by Johannes Gutenberg. After this moment everything changed, books could be published and distributed on a large-scale, meaning that education could become more spread, the news could be created and read, as well as advertisements using the initial serif and sans serif typefaces. But how has writing evolved since then, how did typography become more than just a decorative element and turned into not just an important form of art, but also a language itself in our contemporary society?[1]

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (1)

Early Modernist Typography –The Bauhaus Fonts

One of the last Bauhaus students, Herbert Bayer has definitely left a huge mark on not just typography, but also other forms of visual arts and architecture. He used and adopted the principles of reductive Minimalism to develop his famous Sans-serif type titled Universal, and it was one of the keys to defining the entire Bauhaus aesthetic. The aesthetics of the Bauhaus has influenced many important artists, among them Jan Tschichold, the man who created visual experiences on a subconscious level for all the book lovers, who could now see art in books even while only observing letters. After seeing a Bauhaus exhibition in 1924, he adopted the composition, structure and geometry of the Bauhaus, leaving behind his passion for black letters and scripts and adopting new rules. His most important work was Die Neue Typographie – The New Typography, published in 1928, as a masterpiece of the modern typography and graphic design.This book standardized typographic practices with a set of rules. This reflected a move towards a more universal and modern communication style.[2]

(Video) History of Typography - Domestika

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (2)

A Birth of Technology Tools and Pop Art

With the rise of technological capabilities, the capitalist society prospered from additional ways of creating new items and commercials, but also allowed artists to refer to and play with these new creations. The most important move which made a revolution in typography during the early 1950s was when Varityper and Photoneach introduced a reasonably priced, standalone typesetting system. This also meant that both the producers of goods and artists can have more access to the production of typography. Pop Art emphasized the kitschy elements of popular culture and created art as a protest against the elitist culture andseriousness which surrounded it. Artists like Andy Warhol completely replicated both the forms of consumerist products, as well as the fonts used for their commercials. Roy Lichtenstein, on the other hand, integrated a simple, comic book text font as a part of his famous large-scale paintings. Known as one of the most important pioneers of contemporary Typographic art influenced by Pop art,British artist Mike Edwards created and createsWord Paintings or Text Portraits in which each letter becomes rendered in a separate color. When the image is viewed from distance, the letters merge together and create a photographic quality of the work.

Be sure to check out works by Andy Warhol on our marketplace!

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (3)

Typography as a Messenger of Peace in the 1960s Design

As the 1960s were times of radical social changes, with the beginning of the peace movement and the psychedelic era, with it came new fonts and designs which were created to support the innovative ideas flourishing at those times. One of the most important designers of psychedelic posters was Wes Wilson, who heavily influenced typography by inventing a new font around 1966, which became synonymous with the era. It was the psychedelic font which made the letters become more dynamic and look like they are melting away from the prints. Typography was used as a way of spreading ideas about the ongoing social changes, protests and ways of adopting a new lifestyle. One of the key designers who also played an important role with his color experiments was Victor Moscoso, whoused the concept of vibrating colors on his typographic posters, created by taking colors from the opposite end of the color wheel, with equal value and intensity.

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (4)

Between Tradition and Software Development in the 1970s and 80s

Concerning the technology of the 1970s, it included the invention of third-generation typesetters which used electronically stored font data. Through the early ’80s, these machines were the most important producers in the printing and publishing industry. The bubbly, futuristic, colorful letters on album and book covers during these times remain an important inspirational point for artists even today, who try to copy the genuine retro fonts like Baskerville OF, Bubble Gum, or Futura. But even though many artists and designers of the time found inspiration in the software development, others tried to renew traditional forms and to find different ways of applying them.In 1989, the true master of traditional typography and printmaking, and a multidisciplinary artist,Alan Kitching, established The Typography Workshop, a studio that uses traditional techniques of letterpress printing but also combines them with obsolete technologies and seeks new ways to apply them. The result becomes magical and can be seen through his innovative, colorful works which use wood and metal, but show how even these traditional materials can be inspiring.

(Video) A Brief History of Type

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (5)

Contemporary Typography Design

As always, contemporary artists have been redefining and transcending traditional practices and procedures of typewriting with the help of technology and multimedia design tools. The contemporary typography works, in the spirit of postmodernism, include and combine everything from Neo-Pop, contemporary calligraphy, filmmaking, installation art, sculpture and street art. Some of the notable artists working with this style today is definitelyCraig Redman, who uses his iPhone, camera, laptop and Photoshop to create simple cynical messages presented in an optimistic, simple, form-reducing manner. Like many other artists working with typography, his work doesn't stop with clients but he also enjoys creating messages of his own. Starting as a graffiti artist who fell in love with calligraphy, Luca Barcellona combines ancient tradition with contemporary design and creates livecalligraphy exhibitions. His works question the possibility ofwords becoming a graphic interpretation of the text, and the most important piece in this series was his graphic reinterpretation of a story by Franz Kafka.

On the other hand, even traditional alphabets like Hangul get reinterpreted in contemporary typography of Ahn Sang-Soo who transformed this ancient alphabet into an artform of its own. Rus Khasanov is another important contemporary artist who uses items like laptop screens and soy sauce to create his typefaces. A prolific graphic artist known for creating typographic installations which move the boundaries of this art even further, Oded Ezer makes projects which include implanting type into sperm's DNA, doing Typo-plastic surgeries to modify our body using type, and makes creatures out of Hebrew and Latin type.[4]

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (6)

Contemporary Calligraphy and Typography in Street Art

Since its very beginnings, the fonts used in graffiti made up the essential quality of this art form, used to create an important style distinction between different artists and groups. For an example, the famous pioneer of New York street art, Cope2 became world-known for his recognizable bubbly font tags. More recently, the German street artist Bronco became internationally known for having a consistent typography which he combines with a sharp sense of humor that criticizes and questions the pop-culture and politics, but also our everyday life experiences. Another socially engaged typography street artist known for his humor is the famous Max Rippon, or RIPO, who creates clever and highly stylized works which put words into visual landscapes and images into words, exploring the impact of textual communication through language, forms, and symbols.

(Video) A Brief History of Typography

The French street artist L'ATLAScomments on the displacement of peoplethrough his famous rigid forms and lines which take calligraphy as an inspiration for even creating large-scale installations in cities, which show that borders between people but also art forms only exist within our minds. The British artistDean Zeus Colman createsfusions betweengraffiti, typography, sculpture and fine art in his 3D works, which explore the life of letters outside of their usual boundaries set by street walls. Finally,Retna is an artist who went so far away in street art innovations within typography that he completely invented his own distinctive, constructed script which he now uses as part of allartworks he produces. Typography definitely was and continues being a tool for transforming and reviving graffiti and street art styles and practices.

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (7)

The Power of Lettering

The evolution of typography seems to be bringing it back to its own roots; just like in the times of cave paintings, when it was all about having the symbols within the spaces you inhabit, it seems to be goingout to the streets again, occupying walls and delivering messages. Contemporary artists are at the same time developing new techniques with the help of sophisticated technology, but are also looking back into the past for inspiration, all the way to the ancient civilizations from which they take early symbols and refill them with new meanings. Typography is inevitably not just a part of the visual imagery, but is a language for itself, an art form for itself, which shows perfectly the dichotomy between the meaning and the expressive formof any language.

The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (8)The History of Typography and its Journey Through Art | Widewalls (9) Editors’ Tip: Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles

(Video) history of typography

This compact yet comprehensive book offers a thorough overview of typeface design from 1628 to the mid-20th century. Derived from a distinguished Dutch collection, a series of exquisitely designed catalogs trace the evolution of the printed letter via specimens in roman, italic, bold, semi-bold, narrow, and broad fonts. Borders, ornaments, initial letters, and decorations are also included, along with lithographic examples, letters by sign writers, inscription carvers, and calligraphers. The first part of the book covers pre-20th century typeface, with texts by editor Cees de Jong and collector Jan Tholenaar. The second part covers the period from 1900 to the mid-20th century, and contains a historical outline by Alston W. Purvis.

References:

  1. David Diringer, The Book Before Printing: Ancient, Medieval and Oriental (Lettering, Calligraphy, Typography), Dover Publications; New York, 2011
  2. Cees W. De Jong, Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles, TASCHEN, 2007
  3. Sarah Skrilloff, A Brief History of Typography, Ashworth Creative [March 28, 2017]

Featured image:Retna - Bottom Line is Red, Rus Khasanov - Typography for Fortune Detail, Rus Khasanov - Typography for Fortune Detail, Jan Tschichold - Design Is History, Mike Edwards - Word Portrait of Edie Segwick, Oded Ezer - Contemporary Hebrew Typography, Max Rippon - Domestic Violence 2014. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

(Video) M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity | Full Art Documentary Movie | Stephen Fry

FAQs

What is the history of typography? ›

Typography with movable type was invented during the eleventh-century Song dynasty in China by Bi Sheng (990–1051). His movable type system was manufactured from ceramic materials, and clay type printing continued to be practiced in China until the Qing Dynasty. Wang Zhen was one of the pioneers of wooden movable type.

What is typography in art? ›

Typography is the art of arranging letters and text in a way that makes the copy legible, clear, and visually appealing to the reader. It involves font style, appearance, and structure, which aims to elicit certain emotions and convey specific messages.

Why is it important to know the history of typography? ›

From ancient typographic styles to classic movable type, the history of typography can help designers develop a more informed and cohesive style that builds on the past. There is so much to learn from the past, and so much inspiration to be discovered.

Why is typography important in art? ›

Typography has two main purposes in graphic design. The first is to promote legibility, and the second is to help communicate the messaging, tone, and sentiment of a design piece. Another function of typography revolves around aesthetics. We're drawn to visually attractive designs that are clean and easy on the eyes.

Who is the father of typography? ›

Giambattista Bodoni was a famed Italian typography designer who left his beautiful mark on the world from 1740-1813. His designs of various typefaces were considered more a work of art and layout than actual reading material.

What is the first typography? ›

The first typeface was a Blackletter variety used by Johannes Gutenberg on the first printing press, starting in 1440. This typeface design was created to mimic the calligraphic handwriting used by monks to hand-transcribe manuscripts prior to the invention of the printing press.

How do you make typography art? ›

5 ways to create typography art in PicMonkey
  1. Use a handwritten font as an image overlay. You have hundreds of fonts to choose from when designing in PicMonkey. ...
  2. Layer text on photos. ...
  3. Fill text with an image. ...
  4. Make typography art from graphics. ...
  5. Curve text for a unique look.
27 Sept 2021

What is typography and example? ›

Typography is the differences between different styles of text that create distinct appearances. For instance, one popular typeface in the Middle Ages was blackletter, which was used to print many publications, including the Gutenberg Bible.

How many types of typography are there? ›

Typography Basics

There are five basic classifications of typefaces: serif, sans serif, script, monospaced, and display.

What do we learn in typography? ›

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type, type meaning letters and characters. Notice that it's about more than just the design of letters and characters; the arrangement of those letters and characters is just as big a part of it all.

What is a typography design? ›

What is typography design? In short, typography design is the art of arranging a message in a readable and aesthetically pleasing composition. It's an integral element of design. Typography doesn't ask the designer to draw their own letterforms, but to instead work with typefaces that already exist.

What is the New Typography movement? ›

New Typography Movement was a response to new printing technologies that allowed designers to break free from the confines of the tradition typecase. Most simply, it is defined as a rejection of the classical rules of typographic symmetry, instead of asymmetry.

What are the three elements of typography? ›

Leading, kerning, and tracking

These are aspects of typography that are related to spacing.

What is typography Why and how is it important in graphic design? ›

For designers, typography is a way to use text as a visual to convey a brand message. This design element is important for graphic designers not only to build personality, convey a message but also to grab the viewer's attention, build a hierarchy, brand recognition, harmony and establish value and tone of a brand.

What is a synonym for typography? ›

printing. nouna process of reproduction. composition. presswork. type-setting.

What is a typography logo? ›

A typographic logo is a logo that is text-based, though it might incorporate symbols or imagery. If you're not a designer yourself, it's the simplest type of logo to create (though truly great typographic logos will have design expertise behind them).

Is typography the same as font? ›

The words “typeface” and “font” are typically thought of as synonymous, but they actually refer to different things. While a typeface describes a particular style of lettering, a font refers to variations of a typeface, like its size and weight.

How has typography been impacted by technology? ›

Technological developments in the world of computing have had a huge impact on typography. Thanks to the “@font-face” tag, a CSS at-rule that allows users to specify online fonts to display on their web pages, the demand for typography has dramatically increased, putting no stop to the endless creativity.

What was the style of the typography used during the Renaissance? ›

The humanist spirit driving the Renaissance produced its own unique style of formal writing, known as "cursiva humanistica". This slanted and rapidly written letter evolved from humanistic minuscule and the remaining Gothic current cursive hands in Italy, served as the model for cursive or italic typefaces.

Who invented the nails of typography? ›

By all measurement the commanding figure in the typography of the late 15th century was Aldus Manutius, who also was in Venice.

How do you shape in typography? ›

How To Create Typography Illustrations the Easy ... - YouTube

What is typography illustration? ›

Typography illustrators arrange type on a page based upon the style and appearance of letters, numbers, and symbols to create appealing graphic design. Central to the work of every graphic designer, typography is much more than content and making words legible.

What is a good example of typography? ›

For example Garamond, Times, and Arial are typefaces. Whereas font is a specific style of typeface with a set width, size, and weight. For example, Arial is a typeface; 16pt Arial Bold is a font. So typeface is the creative part and font is the structure.

What is excellence in typography? ›

Anagha Narayanan focused on the design's staying power: “Excellence is the longevity of the typeface itself, how relevant and how new it can be even a few years from now.

What is leading in typography? ›

Maybe it's time to check the line spacing. Line spacing, or “leading”, is the amount of space between the baselines of each line of text. Correct leading is important because it gives multiple lines of text optimum legibility.

What is type style in typography? ›

In typography, the distinguishing characteristic of a typeface, which can refer to roman, italic, bold, condensed, expanded, etc. 'Typestyle can also refer to a collection of type families that have a specific feature in common, such as roman, sans serif or serif, gothic, or script.

What are the 6 typography commands? ›

6 Types of Typography
  • Typeface. The art of designing typefaces composed of symbols known as glyphs in different weights and styles. ...
  • Point Sizes. A point size is the unit of measure for fonts with a point being 0.353 millimeters or 1/72 of an inch.
  • Line Length. ...
  • Line Spacing. ...
  • Tracking. ...
  • Kerning.
8 Sept 2017

What is family in typography? ›

If we consider a typeface to be the core design, then the different weights and styles could be said to be instances of that design, and together they form a family (or type family, or font family).

Is typography an element of design? ›

Typography is an important element of design because it literally conveys the message you want to communicate. But type can also be more than words: if used in an intentional way, type can also be a striking visual element or a shape, as well as provide structure between the content and the visuals.

Is typography part of graphic design? ›

Typography is an integral part of communication within graphic design. Each font carries a unique attitude, conveying a completely different message from the next font over.

What is a line in typography? ›

In typography, line length is the width of a block of typeset text, usually measured in units of length like inches or points or in characters per line (in which case it is a measure). A block of text or paragraph has a maximum line length that fits a determined design.

When did the New Typography begin? ›

In the 1920s and 1930s, the so-called New Typography movement brought graphics and information design to the forefront of the artistic avant-garde in Central Europe.

What is Bauhaus typography? ›

The Bauhaus School taught typography, and they were strong advocates of sans-serif type, as they believed that its simplified geometric form was more appealing and useful than the ornate German standard of blackletter typography. Bauhaus style of typography is effective in conveying the message of the design.

What is the Swiss grid system? ›

The Swiss grid avoided referencing historic stylistic trends traditionally associated with any single country, thus appearing universal, anonymous, and modern. As such, it spread to all aspects of visual messaging, from book layouts to subway signs, posters to instruction manuals.

What are some of the most important principles of good typography design? ›

The good news is, there are eight basic, universal typographical design elements: typeface, hierarchy, contrast, consistency, alignment, white space, and color. Even a basic understanding of each of these elements can revolutionize any design project.

How can typography influence a reader? ›

Typography is a tool that can add emotion, drama and personality to the printed matter, making it more visually appealing. It can subconsciously embed the message in the mind of the reader, making it easier for them to understand, grasp and comprehend the presented information.

Why is typography important in branding? ›

It is yet another form of non-verbal messaging you are sending out about your brand. Your typographic palette helps to tie all communications together, from the copy on your website, direct mail through to your logo; creating brand consistency and memorability.

What is typography hierarchy? ›

A typographic hierarchy is a system that uses typography – the size, font and layout of different pieces of text – to create a hierarchical division that can show users where to look for specific kinds of information. It is an organizing system for establishing order in a set of data.

What is basic lettering and typography? ›

Lettering is the art of drawing letters; Calligraphy is the art of writing letters; Typography is the art of using letters.”

What is the most important line relating to type? ›

Leading. Leading describes the vertical space between each line of type. It takes its name from the practice of using strips of lead to separate lines of type in the days of metal typesetting.

Who invented the nails of typography? ›

By all measurement the commanding figure in the typography of the late 15th century was Aldus Manutius, who also was in Venice.

How many types of typography are there? ›

Typography Basics

There are five basic classifications of typefaces: serif, sans serif, script, monospaced, and display.

What is typography example? ›

For example Garamond, Times, and Arial are typefaces. Whereas font is a specific style of typeface with a set width, size, and weight. For example, Arial is a typeface; 16pt Arial Bold is a font. So typeface is the creative part and font is the structure.

What is the meaning of typographer? ›

noun. plural typographers. Britannica Dictionary definition of TYPOGRAPHER. [count] : a person whose job is to choose the style, arrangement, or appearance of printed letters on a page : a person who is skilled in typography.

How does typography impact communication? ›

Typography Captures the Attention of the Audience

Beyond just the appearance and placement of the font, a certain mood or feeling must be conveyed through it to build anticipation or curiosity is most often conveyed to hold what is garnered.

What is the oldest font? ›

Blackletter is the oldest typeface style that still has significant echoes in modern type. It emerged in Europe in the middle ages (around 1150 AD) and stuck around well into the 17th century – especially in Germany.

What is the difference between typography and typeface? ›

Typography may encompass the actual designing of characters and typefaces, but it's more precise to call that artform type design. A font is a set of type sorts of unified design: typically an alphabet plus all its accessory characters, of a single style and weight (and a single size, in the case of metal types).

What is type style in typography? ›

In typography, the distinguishing characteristic of a typeface, which can refer to roman, italic, bold, condensed, expanded, etc. 'Typestyle can also refer to a collection of type families that have a specific feature in common, such as roman, sans serif or serif, gothic, or script.

What are the 6 typography commands? ›

6 Types of Typography
  • Typeface. The art of designing typefaces composed of symbols known as glyphs in different weights and styles. ...
  • Point Sizes. A point size is the unit of measure for fonts with a point being 0.353 millimeters or 1/72 of an inch.
  • Line Length. ...
  • Line Spacing. ...
  • Tracking. ...
  • Kerning.
8 Sept 2017

What is font style in typography? ›

Typography is arranging letters to make them look legible and pleasing to the eye. Typeface (AKA font family) is the group of fonts sharing the same ethos, like Garamond, Times, and Arial. Font is the specific form (style, weight, and size) of typeface, such as Calibri, bold, size 11.

How do you create typography art? ›

5 ways to create typography art in PicMonkey
  1. Use a handwritten font as an image overlay. You have hundreds of fonts to choose from when designing in PicMonkey. ...
  2. Layer text on photos. ...
  3. Fill text with an image. ...
  4. Make typography art from graphics. ...
  5. Curve text for a unique look.
27 Sept 2021

What is a typography logo? ›

A typographic logo is a logo that is text-based, though it might incorporate symbols or imagery. If you're not a designer yourself, it's the simplest type of logo to create (though truly great typographic logos will have design expertise behind them).

What is excellence in typography? ›

Anagha Narayanan focused on the design's staying power: “Excellence is the longevity of the typeface itself, how relevant and how new it can be even a few years from now.

What is a synonym for typography? ›

printing. nouna process of reproduction. composition. presswork. type-setting.

What is typography Slideshare? ›

The art and technique of arranging type to make written language readable and appealing. It involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing (leading), letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space within letters pairs (kerning). 2.

Why font editing and design tool are required by the professional typographers? ›

The correct addition of typography in a design project reflects great professionalism. Appropriate use of text font and size gains the trust of customers. This will add benefit to the marketing of your product if your website is based on business.

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