Typeface and their history is obviously an unappreciated evolution. However, the typeface from the first days of print until now is an ever changing medium, with more to it than there could ever seem to be.

Typography is the study of typefaces and the evolution of printed letters. Early printers, were also typographers and the first registered one was a man named Claude Garamond. Garamond didn’t invent type, but made it affordable.

However typeface begins with Ideographs which substituted symbols and abstraction for pictures of events. Native Americans and Egyptians used this form of communication and the Chinese still do.

Letter development came about with the Phoenicians. They developed their own alphabet, which was later adapted by the Greeks. This would be the true beginning of the modern alphabet.

The Greeks added the first vowels, though did not have punctuation or lower case letters. It would be the Romans that would bring about such innovations and take from the Greeks and the 23 letter alphabet of the Etruscans. The Roman’s mixed it around a bit and discarded and changed letters to their hearts content.
They also used thin and wide strokes as well as serifs – a finishing stroke.

Lowercase was also created by the Romans, whose scribes wished to write faster and use smaller letters to do so. The later letters added were U and W at around the year 1000 and J, which was based in I and didn’t arrive until around 1500, just before the advent of the printing press.

Guttenberg’s printing press changed everything and created punctuation and a proper lowercase, which wasn’t just a larger version of the upper case. This allowed for the use of portable books and also the italic typeface – one of the first variations.


Garamond’s workers were the ones who created the first form of Roman type of font, as well as the gothic font and several others we see on our computers – doing so in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Interestingly things slowed after this and there was little innovation in printing or typography in the 16th and 17th centuries and many printers mixed typography during this period.

The first modern Romans were created in 1780 by a man named Fermin Didot and the first square serifs in 1815. . In 1816 the first sans serif typeface came into existence – it was ridiculed.

Frederic Goudy was the world’s first full time designer of typeface – this was in the 1920s. White space was the next major area to be championed – this was by Max Miedinger in 1954.

Computer typeface took a leap with Apple Macintosh’s use of GUI, which gave you a on screen view of exactly what you got. Adobe took this further and invented Postscript, which used mathematical calculations to describe typeface instead of pixilation.

This was hugely popular, however Adobe’s inability to share and only at large cost to Apple or Microsoft saw them develop their own script called True type. This allowed for an explosion in typeface design, some high class, some poor quality – however it changed things.

The advent of the Internet then meant that Microsoft shipped fonts with Internet Explorer. This allowed home computers to ensure they had a font to display web pages in. These fonts included the modern most used today: Andale Mono, Arial, Arial Black, Comic Sans, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Verdana and Wingdings and the rest is history.


16 Responses

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