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Typography from the oldest to the newest

Typography in 11th century

Typography in 21th century



has its

own history, aesthetic and value


very day, people are associated with diverse works of art. These works of art can be a drawing, photography, or sculptures. However, the most significant work of art that we can not live without is definitely a typography and typefaces. Typography is the technique of arranging type in order to make the language it forms most appealing to transparent learning and recognition. Sometimes people take typography for granted and treat it as a simple tool to get information. However, typography has its own


history, aesthetics, and value as other pieces of art such as famous paintings. As time changed, the usage of typography has also changed. It has developed from hand writing and to the hand-printing press to the machine and finally to the digital. Two important time periods in typographic history are 13th century to 15th century and 20th century to current. During these periods, typography has been changed in so many ways.


he typography had started since about 3000 BCE. Cuneiform is a system of writing first developed by the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. It was considered the most significant among the many cultural contributions of the Sumerians and the greatest among those of the Sumerian city of Uruk which advanced the writing of cuneiform 3200 BCE. The name came from the Latin word cuneus for ‘wedge’ owing to the wedge-shaped style of writing. In cuneiform, a carefully cut writing implement known as a stylus was pressed into soft clay to produce wedge-like impressions that represented word-signs and, later, phonograms or `word-concepts’(Mark, Ancient History.) In 812th century, script developed from various precursors but established in the court of Charlemagne and Caroline minuscule became a standard form of script over much of western Europe. A wide variety of different blackletters appears during

13th and 15th century, and the four major families can be identified as Textura, Rotunda, Schwabacher and Fraktur (Farley, sitepoint). The first of these four is Textura, a handwritten blacketter font that originates during the 1200s in France before spreading across Europe. Then Rotunda comes with a rounded form of Textura. It was developed in Italy and became important in southern Europe 200 years later. In the mid

1400s, Schwabacher emerges in southern Germany and is distinquished by its dynamic capitals. It is around this time that Gutenberg invents his letterpress. He imitates blackletter fonts such as Textura and Rotunda, because the only way he could sell his printed books was to make them mimic hand written books as closely as possible.The fourth and final blackletter font to emerge was Fraktur which went on to dominate the printing industries of Germany and other European countries for several hundreds tears. It was commissioned by German emperor Maximilian in the late 15th century to establish a library of printed books. The success of Fraktur, though, was secured by its adoption by Martin Luther’s reformation move-


ment and it went on to become a symbol of Protestantism and national identity in Germany, while also remaining popular in Scandinavia (Ashcroft 87-88). In early twentieth century, Sans serifs, Geometric Sans Serif and humanist Sans Serifs were invented. German type designer Paul Renner first created Futura between 1924 and 1926. In 1927, commissioned by the Bauer type foundry, Futura is commercially released in light, regular, and bold weights. During the 1930, Univers was created by Adrian Frutiger, Gil San was created by Eric Gill, and Franklin Gothic was created by Morris Fuller Benton. During 1980s, Apple macintosh and desktop were published by Steven Jobs. In 21st Century, Kinetic Typography was created.


lackletter type is often misleadingly referred to as either Old English or gothic, two terms that are only partially accurate. Gothic style had nothing to do with the Goths, rather it was a style influenced by a number of factors including Saracenic art, an Islamic influence from the Crusades. The Gothic spirit takes hold in France, Germany and England where it is manifested through unhindered

Blackletter is a

symbol of protestantism and national identity in Germany



upward striving which the vertical supplants horizontals as the dominant line in architecture. The pointed arch replaces the round arch of the Romans, the almond shape, or mandorla, is preferred. Gothic writing forms reflects this aesthetic. Robert Bringhurst says, “Blackletter is the typographic counterpoint to the Gothic style in architecture.” Blackletter is an all encompassing term used to describe the scripts of the Middle Ages in which the darkness of the characters overpowers the whiteness of the page.(Bain, designhistory.) These medieval-looking typefaces

have a surprising array of contemporary uses. They can express the creepy and magical in book covers, posters, CD packaging, movie titles and Halloween graphics. They also exude gravitas in diplomas, award certificates and historical graphics. While originally used for text, blackletter typestyles are best saved for dramatic headline and display usage (Strizver, However, Blackletter lacks legibility in contrast to its beauty and complexity. Marian Bantjes who set a recent annual report for the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada entirely in blacklet-

ter says her work is well received, and dismisses the complaints some board members voices about not being able to clearly read the texts. ( Ashcroft 91 ) “for us, it implies suffering and a right of passage. The way we use it, it conveys artisrty over legibility, and the emotional over the funtional (Ashcroft 90).” Aesthetic movement through 20th century to 21st century were Futurism, Dadism, DeStijl, the Bauhaus, International Style Modernism, American Organic Modernism, Art Deco, and Swiss Design. Although Renner was not a member of the Bauhaus, he shared many of its views, believing in a world where form and function destroyed ornamentation, clutter and revivals of the more decorative past. Only in this world could social equality truly come into being, they believed. It would be utopia by design. While designing Futura, Renner avoids creating any non-essential elements, making use of basic geometric proportions with no serifs or frills. Futura’s crisp, clean, standardized, and legible forms reflect the appearance of efficiency and forwardness even today. Futura has become an extremely popular typeface for countless corporate logos, commercial products, films and advertisements for years (Challand,

Renner avoids creating any non-essential elements, making use of basic geometric proportions with no serifs or frills


idsgn). Keen attention to detail, precision, craft skills, system of education and technical training, a high standard of printing as well as a clear refined and inventive lettering and typoraphy laid out a foundation for a new movement that has been exported worldwide in 1960s to become an international style.Emerging from the modernist and constructivist ideals, the Swiss Style can be defined as an authentic pursue for simplicity, the beauty in the underlines of a purpose, not beauty as a purpose in itself. The principle “form follows function� became a battle-cry of Modernist architects after the 1930s. As a consequence of this principle, most of the Swiss Style craft is devoted to the minimal elements of style such as typography

and content layout rather than on textures and illustrations.(Terror, smashingmagazine)


echnology influenced the letterform construction of typefaces. In 3150BCE, the earliest written documents were impressed clay tablets from Sumer. Cuneiform which was earliest known systems of writing, distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on


clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. In 2500 BC, Papyrus was invented by Egyptians that was a thin paper-like material made from the pith of the papyrus plant. The forceful visual presence of blackletter typestyles evolves from the early handwritten forms of liturgical writings and illuminated manuscripts. Blackletter also gets credit for inaugurating the whole technology of type. It is used to

set the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with moveable type (Strizver, While Gutenberg used blackletters for his bible and books, this signaled a new era in typefaces used for printing. Blackletter is difficult to read as body text and Roman and Italic faces were easier to print with movable type. For these reasons, in the 1500’s, blackletter became less popular for printing in many countries except Germany and the German speaking countries (Farley, sitepoint). The early 20th century saw progressive designers at the Bauhaus ally themselves with the machine age in a vigorous attempt to define ‘modern’. Rejecting both calligraphy and ornamentation in favour of purity and elemental form, they embrace

For us, it implies suffering

and a right of passage. The way we use it, it conveys artisrty over legibility, and the emotional over the funtional



raphy was revolutionizing the way marketers were using text forms in animations to stretch the creative ability to the maximum. Also known as moving texts or motion text, kinetic typography had two basic ways of providing information or communicating with viewers. This could be done either through fixed /steady form, or the fluid form typography. Fixed form or steady form kinetic typography maintained the same shape throughout the animation. The method of textual appearance on the screen might vary depending on the program used for its development. Fluid typography was a creative ability used to refer to letters and phrases that stretch, warp, disassemble, and reassemble. Fluid typography never assumed any permanent shape, hence the name. Both forms could be created with Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Maxor, and many other applications. As a means of communication, it could draw out empathic reactions from views, from a very wide audience and cut across all ages, races and gender. Its aim wss to convince people particularly by building on their emotions. It could communicate a clear message without

refined sans forms and deliver Geometric Modernist types which is grid-based, modular, often unicase alphabets like Herbert Bayer’s 1925 universal. Design is now being driven by a socialist ideology, with the new technology providing a functional aesthetic (Fish, dhub). The technology of Blackletter which is pen and ink gives the letter the forceful visual presence, but not egibility, while the technology of Futura is the machine, which the letterforms give modern visual, and funtional aesthetic. As technology has been developed over time, Kinetic typog-

actually saying much. It could even provide educational content. For this reason, in motion pictures especially, kinetic animation was used to express feeling even more than action.(Blagodarsky, kinetictypography)


he nationality of typography also helps to see the distinct value of typeface. Although roman fonts replaced blackletter through out much of Europe in the early 16th century, black letter retained its popularity in Germany. This is because of its nationalist associations, partic-

Design is now being driven by a socialist ideology, with the new technology providing a functional aesthetic


ularly in the time of Napoleon, who was the de facto ruler over most of Germany. Blackletter is a means of asserting some sort of national identity. In the 1970s, the heavy matal bands like AD/ DC and Motor head embraced the style of Blackletter when it was still laden with Nazi Associations. The reason why the heavy metal bands were attracted to the font was not for political reasons but

for its notoriety. It epitomized being edgy and dangerous. By that inpiration, Blackletter leads the image of independent, active and tough guy personality, therefore the hip-hop and skateboarding association adopted Blackletter(Ashcroft 88). Paul Renner who is the designer of Futura is a German typographer. He has nationality of German, however, the aesthetic value between Black letter and Futura is completely different. Blackletter’s nationalist qualities prompted its revival in Germany during World War I and again in 1937, when the Third Reich decreed black letter to be true German font style. Four years later, though, it branded blackletter “un-German� and turned instead to modernist German sans serif typefaces 14

such as Futura.(Ashcroft 88) Futura is a very important type of the time, especially in Germany, as it is a movement towards the modern roman letter and a departure from the Blackletter (blazek, typophile). Nationality emphasizes the typeface’s image. Blackletter has a strong cultural connotations to the Nazis, and it gives the typeface the image of being edgy and dangerous. The nationality of Futura is also German, however, it is the typeface that has emphasized on Un-German and modernist German typeface.


he typography is now a big part of our life. Typography has its own history, aesthetics, and value and usage. As


time changes, the typography has been changed in many ways. The different periods of typography changed aesthetic movement from Gothic to Modernism. Technology of typography developed from pen to press machine and to digital. Also It developed from static typography to kinetic typography. The Nationality constructed the image of typefaces and it also gave the certain value of typeface.

has a strong

cultural connotations to the Nazis and it gives the image of being Edgy&Dangerous


Work Cited Jennifer Farley. “The Blackletter Typeface: A Long And Colored History.” sitepoint. November 7, 2009. Web. March 3, 2014.<http://> Sean Ashcroft. “Back in blackletter.” Feburary, 2008. 87-91. Print Peter Bain. ”Blackletter: The Gothic Hands 12-15th C.“designhistory. Web. March 3, 2014. <> Ilene Strizver. “Blackletter.” Web. March 3, 2014. <> Skylar Challand. “Know your type: Futura.” idsgn.June 17 2009. Web. March 3, 2014. <> Heather Moore. “Futura Typeface – The History.” wordpress. December 12, 2012. Web. March 3, 2014. <http://iamheathermoore.> Charlotte Fish. “A short history of typography.” dhub. Web. March 3, 2014, <> filip blazek. “Paul Renner.” typophile. May 7,2005. Web. March 3, 2014.<> Joshua J. Mark. “Cuneiform.” Ancient History. Web. April 28, 2011 <> Vas Blagodarsky. “2 Ways Of Communicating With Kinetic Typography.“kinetictypography. Web. <http://kinetictypography. com/2-ways-of-communicating-with-kinetic-typography/> Diogo Terror. ”Lessons From Swiss Style Graphic Design.” smashingmagazine. Web. July 17, 2009 <http://www.smashingmagazine. com/2009/07/17/lessons-from-swiss-style-graphic-design/>

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