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From Gutenberg to GUI


A brief history of type & type technology   2


Movable type


Type design and letterforms are one achievement in

invented in, to what aesthetic movement that was prev-

communication that is ofter overlooked, yet one of the

alent at the time, to the technology that was available,

most important inventions of human history. Typefaces

type reflects more than the words on the page, or screen,

are derived from glyphs (which are individual characters,

or poster, or sign, or building. From the era of Johannes

such as letters or punctuation), and each type of glyph

Gutenberg (as early as 1450 A.D.) to the 21st century,

is defined to a certain size, weight, and style. From a

type and typography serve a major role in daily life,

particular set of sizes, weights, and styles comes a font,

and without it, we very possibly would not have all the

and multiple fonts are what make up a typeface. Much

amenities today that we take for granted.

controversy over the setting of type and the style of the type has arose throughout history, and type has been influenced by cultural context as well as geography and nationality. From the country that a typeface was


the beginning The first instance of producing movable type (being able to move individual elements, i.e. letters and punctuation, on a press for printing) can be traced to the inventions of Johannes Gutenberg, around the year 1450 A.D. The process of creating the letters to be put in the press began with cutting out each letter (in reverse) on the end of a steel bar, known as a punch (T&T pg92). These punches (often able to be made as small as 3.5 pt) after their completion were then driven into copper blanks (known as a strike), and then filled on their sides (to define their “justification”) to create a character width and alignment (T&T pg92). The end result of these two processes was known as a matrix. The early years of print history—1450 to 1500—were known as the “incunabula” period­—and in this time period, the craftsmen of punchcutting, printing, and publishing all lived under the same roof. But as time progressed, the men from their respective trades began to separate and become distant. Often during this time, the person who cut his own punches (the punchcutter) was also the designer of the type; Frenchmen Claude Garamond and Pierre Simon Fournier, Britsh man William Caslon I, and the Italian Giambattista Bodoni all fell under this trade. Other punchcutters worked under one designer or a company and cut punches as were needed, and also some times as freelancers. Some

“The first instance of producing movable type can be traced to the inventions of Johannes Gutenberg, around the year 1450 A.D.”

men who fit under this rule include Francesco Griffo working for Aldus Manutius, John Handy for John Baskerville, and Charles Malin for Hans Mardersteig.

Typeface: Clarendon



Among one of the first to turn punchcutting into a commercial enterprise of its own entity and to be able to put punches on the market and sell strikes to other printers was Claude Garamond. Once the type industry began to blossom, the only real limitation that became apparent was the individual printers using different type sizes (T&T pg92). From the years of 1450 to 1796, there was an incredible amount and variety of type produced; it became clear that the manufacturing process did not restrict creativity and the will to invent more type, but only did the printing process in itself cause any constraint.

“Digitalization of typefaces also made them much more accessible to the general public.”

Many important typefaces and classifications of type were invented in 15th and 16th centuries, including Romanstyle by Sweynheym and Pannartz (1467), the first italic by Francesco Griffo (1501), the Old Style typeface under Claude Garamond’s rule during the French Renaissance (c. 1480-1561), Francois Didot creating the first try Modern-style (1784) (Baskerville, the transitional style), and even to Aloys Seneflder inventing lithography (1796). The schools of thought and beliefs that characterized the earliest years of type included the study of classical literature, one’s belief in oneself, a true embrace in the spirit of individualism and human dignity and worth, and a shift from religious to secular concerns. One could argue that the Renaissance was one of, if not the most important period in human history. The Industrial Revolution was right around the corner from the Renaissance, and the great leaders of the Renaissance blazed the trails for it to happen. The 20th century was vastly different. Asides from taking place in slightly different areas (the Renaissance largely encompassing France and other parts of Europe nearby, the 20th century influenced heavily by North America, Switzerland, and other areas), the most

Macintosh computer, 1984


type technology 9

important key to both periods was change. Both periods were characterized largely by their abilities to change,

Movable type

whether it be revolt against a government or institute a school of new design and thought, simply change. Fast-forward roughly 500 years, and we are definitely

first computer and the age of digitalization. The years

seeing different trends. In the 20th century, we see a

of Gutenberg and Bodoni and Baskerville were—never

plethora of different aesthetic movements; Futurism,

forgotten—but were no longer; in the digital age, you

Dadism, DeStijl, the Bauhaus, International Style,

did not have to create your own type or hire a skilled

Modernism, American Organic Modernism, Art Deco,

craftsman to create it; you could just walk to a store to

and Swiss Design all just before the 1960s. Post mod-

buy it.

ernism, pluralism, and multiculturalism flourished after modernism. Numerous western countries were going

The 20th century was very important to type and type

through dramatic social and political change, which

design, and was influenced by a number of different

included both World War I & II, and the creation of the

aesthetic movements. One of the most recognizable movements of this era was modernism. From this style became Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, Fururism, Brutalism, and Surrealism (Design Movements). Key

ornamentation and design filling up most parts of a

figures and designers of this period include Walter

composition. Designers of the modernist era believed

Gropius from the Bauhaus, and French modern architect

in a more clean and minimal approach to type, with a

Le Corbusier.

focus on negative space; often times, type designers considered the negative space of a typeface just as important

Modernism essentially “reshaped” the way we think

as the letters themselves. Adrian Frutiger put it best with

about type design and graphic design. The approach

this quote: “Typography must be as beautiful as a forest,

of the 19th century could be characterized by being

not like the concrete jungle of the tenements ... It gives

very “overly decorated” and elaborate, with a lot of

distance between the trees, the room to breathe and allow for life” (

Typeface: Didot

“Typography must be as beautiful as a forest, not like the concrete jungle of the tenements.” —Adrian Frutiger

In the early-mid 10th century, type designers of this era focused largely in using clean sans-serif typefaces. Important typefaces used include Futura, Helvetica Neue, Frutiger, and Franklin Gothic. Physically setting type was also not the same laborious task that it was in the Gutenberg era. Although this method has been dated to have been attempted as early as 1894, phototypesetting did not begin to enter the mainstream until 1946, when the technology was implemented by the US Government Printing Office



(T&T pg103). The process worked by utilizing a set of photographic images (usually on a glass grid, disk, or film strip) which are then exposed to paper or film by a system of lenses. The lettering was then printed either by the means of letterpress (etched metal plates) or, increasingly, offset litho. Another technique for using light to set type came to fruition in the 1960s, employed by the use of a cathode ray tube (CRT); such uses, by the Linotron 505 of 1967 by Ronald McIntosh and Peter Purdy, was the first to have an impact of type setting. The largest setback of these devices was not just the skepticism over the quality of the prints, but also the inordinate costs of the equipment themselves. Quality concerns included adjustments that had to be made when using photo-matrices, the lack of consistency with the “color” of the type after it is printed, and the last being that, with an array of lenses to create a number of different designs, there was no physical necessity to create a number of individual designs. With the introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s, printing became streamlined thanks to the inkjet and laser printers. Digitalization of typefaces also made them much more accessible to the general public; typefaces, once bought through typesetting houses, are now purchased through online digital type foundries, and as a result, the price has decreased dramatically (T&T pg113). Such paradigm shifts would not have been able to occur, if it had not been thanks to a visit by Steve Jobs to Xerox Parc in 1979 (CNET). At this visit, Jobs and his team noticed a particular project at Xerox being worked on (called the graphical user interface, or GUI for short), that peaked Jobs’ interest. This interface was implemented into the first Macintosh computer, and completely revolutionized the way we use personal computers today.

Typeface: Helvetica


the changing of times

“Modernism essentially ‘reshaped’ the way we think about type design and graphic design.”


Early computer motherboard, ca. 1960s

Typeface: Frutiger In 1974, the Ikarus type design program was invented by Dr. Peter Karow. This program allowed for drawings to be made into digital outlines, and also enabled different weights to be interpolated from one single design. These program remained in materialization until the late 1980s, when type design programs like Letraset FontStudio and Altsys Fontographer came around to the Macintosh computer. The latter programs allowed anyone to easily create fonts that were “technically” as good as type from a major manufacturer, and this ultra-affordable era of software led to new generations of type and type designers from the fray of normal type design.

From Johannes Gutenberg to Steve Jobs, type has seen a number of different styles and influences. Type has many different uses, as well as many cultural and technological significances. Whether being made by hand out of steel by a craftsman or printed by a phototypesetter or even a personal computer, type has been known to share a few

“Typography must be as beautiful as a forest, not like the concrete jungle of the tenements.” —Adrian Frutiger

common traits; whether being very clean and clearcut, overly decorative and stylized, type should always try to convey a sense of expression that reflects the direction of the work; whether being printed or being read, type has always been intelligently designed with more in mind than just being words on a page.




Designer: Mark Roble Project: Typographers Timeline Book WORKS CITED

Course: Typography 2 Faculty: Francheska Guerrero

Baines, Phil, and Andrew Haslam. Type & Typography. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2002. Print. Kitney, Aaron. “Creative Bloq.” The Easy Guide to Design Movements: Modernism. Creative Bloq, 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. Kobayashi, Akira. “Akira Says ... Linotype’s Monthly Typographic Tip.” Monotype GmbH, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. Farber, Dan. “Tracing the Origins of the Macintosh.” CNET. CBS Interactive Inc., 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.


Typefaces: Rotis Sans Serif Fedra Serif Pro Photography: J. F. Bautista Digibarn Computer Museum

From Gutenberg to GUI  

Typographer timeline, for Typography III. Book represents type and type technology from the years 1450-1800, and also 1900-present day.

From Gutenberg to GUI  

Typographer timeline, for Typography III. Book represents type and type technology from the years 1450-1800, and also 1900-present day.