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A brief history of Type


  • Goes back millenia, used in dyes, stamps and even currency.

  • First form of moveable type created in China, in the 11th century using ceramic. Shortly after, Metal Type was being used in Korea.

  • Johannes Gutenberg created the first mash producted book, the Gutenberg Bible.

  • Movable type led the way for the renaissance and later the reformation.

  • By the 1470's people like the French artist Nicholas Jensen began creating highly legible typographic forms.

  • Nicholas Jensen was the first to create a Roman face that was based on humanistic characteristics.

  • To this day, Baskerville, Bodoni, Caslon, Garamond, Benguiat, Gill, Lubalin, Zapf and many others are considered household names in the world of typography.

  • Industrial Revolution brought about a higher demand for type materials. The first forms of Newspapers came about during the Industrial Revolution.

  • As competition for customers grew, so did the need for more interesting and attractive typography, and this gave birth to advertising. With advertising acting as the driving force, new types of fonts were created. This went beyond just the printed page.

  • During the 1800's, people began to look for ways to make the process of setting type less cumbersome.

  • Ottmar Mergenthaler developed a machine that cast metal into lines of type, which could then be melted down to be used again.

  • The Mergenthaler Line-o-type became the instrument of the type industry for majority of the 20th century.

  • In 1895, Tolbert Lanston created an automated machine mechanial composing process called the monotype system. The used a keyboard to prepare a punched paper tape called a ribbon. This ribbon was then used to direct the hot metal casting to create the typeset text.

  • Linotype, Monotype and other automatted typesetting systems were used by most of the large publishing houses in newspapers.

  • The second half of the 20th century saw quick advances in both printing process and typographic technology. Offset Lithography was a standard and Photo typesetting was replacing mechanical hot press type.

  • Aided by Computer technology, metal type was now a thing of the past. Photo typesetting was now being driven by the computer age.

  • By the 1980's, the typographic industry was once again preparing for technological transformation. Meanwhile the colourful 60's and 70's brught about a new typographical renaissance. Commercial artists had access to typography from various sources.

  • The new digital age made it far easier to access typefaces and was changing the printing and typographic graphic industries. Photo typesetting, like its predecessor was now a thing of the past. Graphic software now made it possible to create film digitally without the need for camera-ready art.

  • Fonts, the new name for Typefaces, were becoming more and more abundant.

  • By the late 1990's font development software had become affordable for the experienced graphic designer. Using scanning, the designers own hand lettering could be quickly digitalised and converted to a font. Those with experience in lettering were beig sought after to infuse a new look to typographic design.

  • Lettering artists like Joe Bell, Richard Litpon and Phil Grimshaw name a few, were creating designs that looked more like hand lettering and less like traditional type.

  • Competition began to rise after a century of success. Bitstream, Font Bureau and p22 were making their own impact on the industry. To this day, these web-based businesses offer libraries of fonts, from the traditional ones, to the more original and unique ones.

  • Modern day technology allows artists to create unique and creative fonts with endless design possibilities. The Internet has become the evolution ground for typography, and with the constant demand for more unique and imaginative fonts and font designs, it is likely that this industry is destined to thrive.

  • Original terminology is still used today, Uppercase, Lowercase, Leading, Kerney, comes from the very beginning, but is still used today.