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TYPE AND SUGAR HAVE A LONG AND TANGLED HISTORY. Both existed in prehistory. For a long time, both sugar and the books that contained letterforms were available only to those who had the means to afford them. The industrialization of our world led to greater access to sugar and increased diversity in typefaces. œ This book and the corresponding exhibit will demonstrate the links between sugar and typography and how they’ve developed in remarkably similar ways.

Sweet Refinement “Spicis, eirbis, drogis, gummis, and succur for to mak exquisit electuars.” : The Complaynt of Scotland

This page: Garamond’s typeface, designed 1528; opposite: detail from a 1587 etching by Theodor Graminaeus showing a table laden with sugar sculptures.

While sugar was introduced to Europe via Asia and the Middle East in the medieval era, it wasn’t until the Renaissance that sweet and savory flavors started to diverge. Sugar was used liberally as a spice (sweet salt), so today’s savory dishes that ould have been quite sweet at the time. Due to the costs of export, sugar was also only affordable by the very rich, and they flaunted their wealth by using sugar as decoration, creating elaborate sculptures that were frequently inedible. ¶ Similarly, Renaissance-era French and Italian type-cutters and printers, building on the work of Johann Gutenberg, developed letter-forms that mimicked those of the traditional Roman alphabet and humanist handwriting. The work of Claude Garamond, in particular, is notable for its refinement: there’s less evidence of the human hand, and the letter-forms themselves are more delicate than those of his near-contemporaries Nicolas Jenson, Aldus Manutius, and Francesco Griffo. And, like sugar, the books in which their types appeared would have been available only to the rich.


sweet Transition “Bless the Mahometan coffee, and the popish Spanish chocolate.” : Edmund Hickeringill Though the people of Mesoamerica have been drinking chocolate for thousands of years, it was only in the eighteenth century that drinking chocolates began to resemble our modern hot chocolate, thanks to Europe’s desire for and access to sugar. Due to costs, it was enjoyed mainly by the aristocratic classes and other elites, who, during the Enlightenment period, served the drink from fine silver or porcelain pots (see opposite page). These beautiful pots were also highly functional: wooden handles dispersed the temperature making them easy to handle, and some designs addressed chocolate’s greasiness. ¶ Type designer John Baskerville also produced types that were both beautiful and functional. His typeface, with its delicate serifs and vertical orientation, was shown at its best due to Baskerville’s improvements to the printing press and new, extra black inks.

This page: Baskerville’s typeface, designed 1754; opposite: detail from La cioccolata (The Morning Chocolate) by Pietro Longhi, circa 1775–1780.


SWEET revolution “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”

: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This page: Didot’s typeface, designed 1784; opposite: La Brioche by Jean-Bapsite Siméon Chardin, 1763.

Late eighteenth-century French queen Marie Antoinette may not have told her subjects to eat cake—or brioche, a highly enriched sweet bread that at the time would have been seen in a similar light as cake—but it is undeniable that social inequality and the widening gap between commoners and the nobility led to the French Revolution of 1789 that ended the ancien régime. ¶ Around the same time, another French revolution was taking place. Firmin Didot, a scion of the Didot printing family, created what has been called “the first modern type.” With its extreme contrasts between thick and thin strokes, completely vertical, straight, bracketless serifs, and almost geometric design, Didot’s typeface shows zero evidence of human handwriting, unlike earlier types. Didot’s typeface would go on to inspire the work of another type designer, Italian Giambattista Bodoni.


SWEET INNOVATION “More sustaining than meat.” : MILTON HERSHEY Chocolate in its solid form is chiefly an innovation of the Industrial Age. Smaller filled chocolates (bonbons) had existed since the mid-1600s, but it would take another two hundred years for technology to make chocolate nicer to eat and cheaper to make. Joseph Fry, an English confectioner, produced the first candy bar in 1847, and soon after, firms on both sides of the Atlantic began mass producing chocolate candies. ¶ Around the time Milton Hershey began his now-famous chocolate company, another American—morris fuller benton —was starting his work on another distinctly Industrial Age invention. Sans serif typefaces emerged as a response to the social, political and technological upheaval of the late nineteenth century, and these types were used to express a breaking away from tradition. Benton’s Franklin Gothic was one of the first typefaces to come in family variants, thanks to the pantographic punchcutting device invented by his father, Linn Boyd Benton, in 1885. Its large x-height lends it legibility at smaller point sizes, despite its overall narrow form.

This page: Franklin Gothic typeface, designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1903; opposite: detail from a commercial poster advertising Whitman’s Chocolates, circa 1895–1917.


SWEET CONVENIENCE “She’s a wonder, a cook in a thousand!”


This page: Gill Sans, designed by Eric Gill in 1928; opposite: details from three Jell-O® recipe pamphlets from the 1930s.

Jell-O wiggled and jiggled its way into America’s heart soon after its introduction in 1900. Gelatin desserts had been around since the eighteenth century, but its time-consuming process meant that wealthy eaters only enjoyed it. However, the introduction of inexpensive powdered gelatin in the early 1900s made gelatin desserts more affordable. Jell-O’s ease of use—mix it with water and allow it a few hours to set—contributed to its high popularity. ¶ While Jell-O brought affordable luxury into American homes, English type designer ERIC GILL was bringing a bit of the human hand back to typography. A direct competitor to geometric sans serifs, Gill Sans references the humanist handwriting that inspired the type-cutters of the Renaissance era. As such, it’s more approachable than Paul Renner’s Futura and the neo-grotesques that were to come later in the century.

MODERNIST ERA | 1890–1940

SWEET VARIETY “It’s worth the trip!” : 1970s DUNKIN’ DONUTS SLOGAN Doughnuts played an integral role in boosting morale amongst troops who served during both World Wars, and many doughnut shops were started in years following each conflict. William Rosenberg, a veteran of World War II, went on to found Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. From its founding, Dunkin’ Donuts served dozens of flavors, while most other donut shops limited their offerings to no more than four. ¶ Type designer ADRIAN FRUTIGER also experimented with variety. His Univers typeface takes the idea of the type family and expands upon it. It was famously released in 21 variants in a range of weights and expanded and condensed forms.

This page: Univers, designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1957; opposite: detail from an advertisement for Mister Donuts (1966), itself an offshoot of Dunkin’ Donuts.

POST-WAR ERA | 1945–1975

Sweet Abundance “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” : Mae West

This page: Meta, designed by Erik Spiekermann; opposite: Mountains by Jeff Koons (2000).

Thanks to the innovations of the last century, sugar is now widely available to the majority of the world. In addition to the diversity of desserts, sugar now exists in sugar-free alternatives and can come from sources other than sugar cane and sugar beets, such as agave plants, stevia leaves, and monkfruit). ¶ In the latter part of the twentieth century, type designers took the idea of the type family and exploded it. Many of these extended type families feature corresponding serif and sans serif typefaces, designed to work together in response to a need for complex type hierarchies. Erik Spiekermann’s Meta (1991), a humanist sans serif based on his view of the ever-present Helvetica’s shortcomings, began life as a rejected project for the German Post Office. It now exists in over sixty fonts of different weights across serifed and sans-serif forms. Spiekermann is also the designer of another well-known extended type family: Officina (1990).

POSTMODERN ERA | 1980–2000

Bibliography Belson, Ken. “Upstate, Where It Was First Made, Unwavering Devotion to Jell-O.” New York Times, May 4, 2008, https://www (accessed March 25, 2018) “Chocolate,” Oxford English Dictionary, (accessed March 17, 2018) Cunningham, John M. “Did Marie-Antoinette Really Say ‘Let Them Eat Cake’?” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica .com/story/did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake (accessed March 10, 2018) Dodd, Robin. From Gutenberg to Opentype, Vancouver: Ilex Press Limited, 2006. Goldstein, Darra (editor). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Kane, John. A Type Primer, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2012. Kennedy, Pagan. “Who Made That Hershey Bar?” New York Times, January 11, 2013, /who-made-that-hershey-bar.html (accessed March 12, 2018) Loveman, Kate. “The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640–1730,” Journal of Social History 43, no. 1 (Fall 2013): 27–46.

Oliver, Myrna. “William Rosenberg, 86; Dunkin’ Donuts Founder Pioneered Franchising Business.” Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2002, /me-rosenberg23 (accessed March 26, 2018) “Pamphlet collection: Jell-O, part one,” Highlights from the Collections (blog). Conrad N. Hilton Library, July 2, 2014, https:// -collection-jell-o-part-one/ (accessed March 11, 2018) “Pamphlet collection: Jell-O, part two,” Highlights from the Collections (blog). Conrad N. Hilton Library, July 3, 2014. https:// -collection-jell-o-part-two/ (accessed March 11, 2018) Pollak, Michael. “Readers’ Questions Answered.” New York Times, June 25, 2010, /nyregion/27FYI.html (accessed March 25, 2018) “Sugar,” Oxford English Dictionary, (accessed March 17, 2018) Spiekermann, Erik. “Post-Mortem,” Baseline 6 (1985): 6–8.

Many thanks to the following libraries, museums, and art databases for allowing use of their image collections: Front cover Mountains by Jeff Koons, 2000 (detail), Solomon

R. Guggenheim Museum. • High renaissance Table setting for

the wedding of Johann Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Cleves and Jacobe, Margravine of Baden, by Theodor Graminaeus, 1587 (detail), GRI Digital Collections. • Age of enlightenment La cioccolata del mattino (The Morning Chocolate), 1789, The Yorck Project

via Wikimedia Commons. • Neoclassical era La Brioche by

Jean-Bapsite Simeon Chardin, 1763, The Lourve via Wikimedia Commons. • Early Modernism “Whitman’s chocolates and confections. Philadelphia,” 1895–1917, The Miriam and Ira D.

Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Art & Architecture Collection, The New York Public Library. • modernist era

“Quick, Easy Jell-O Wonder Dishes. General Foods,” 1930 (detail) by General Foods, Conrad N. Hilton Library, Culinary Institute of America. “Thrifty Jell-O Recipes to Brighten Your Menus,” 1931 (detail) by General Foods, Conrad N. Hilton Library, Culinary Institute of America. “What Mrs. Dewey Did with the New Jell-O,” 1933 (detail) by General Foods, Culinary Institute of America,

Conrad N. Hilton Library. • post-war era Print ad, 1966 (detail), Mister Donut of America, Inc. • modernist era see credits for

front cover

Confections in Context: Innovations in Sugar and Type is researched, written and designed by Carrie Epps for Typography II, a course in the Integrated Design master's program at the University of Baltimore, Spring 2018.



Confections in Context  

Booklet tracing the history of typography and desserts.

Confections in Context  

Booklet tracing the history of typography and desserts.