Typeface History at a Glance

Typography : The art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it. – Oxford Dictionary.

The first modern-day form of typography came to the public by German blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg in the Mid 1400’s with the invention of the first movable type printing press. As this wonderful invention became available within other areas of Europe and further afield, typeface styles began to evolve more than ever. Over the past few centuries, the typographic limelight has hopped from country to country. The majority of important typefaces originated in European Countries with help from America now and again, mainly for use in journalism, education and advertising. Luckily for us, Gutenberg’s invention encouraged a snowball effect in typeface design to allow for a plethora of fonts that are still in use today. Thanks to Max Miedinger of Switzerland, in 1957 we were granted the use of Helvetica, the default font for computers. Stanley Morison of London gifted us with Times Roman in 1932, the first type used in newspapers and Eric Gill, with Gill Sans, originally Commissioned for London Railway in 1928.


These typographic designs that are easily readable and far less time-consuming to produce than original handwritten scripts have  allowed for a great development in communication, be it in literature, education or journalism. Some may see this development as pointless, and that one clear typeface would do, rather than the 90,000+ typefaces that are in use today. However, without the choice of these, the portrayal and expression of ideas would be nowhere near as impactful and of course, nowhere near as exciting.

For a more detailed explanation of the origins of typography, take a look as this. Graphic designer Ben Barrett-Forrest turns the history of type into an enthralling stop motion animation.


Lectures by Donna Leishman



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