Reflections on Typography

Reading this second section of Megg’s History of Graphic Design makes think on how fortunate we are of living on this creative region of the world!    I found very inspiring the evolution of typography, from merely a tool for copying the text written by the scribes to an art.    Deciding  where the letters were placed on a page, honor the content, elucidate the text, clarify the structure and link other elements on the page, was the critical task then and continues to be for a typographer .

Early type designers began their careers as apprentices and ended up as independent masters and or businessmen. Typographers make an object that other artists use. In a way, typographers were and still are the ‘Luthiers of literature.” Although technology has changed dramatically and the computer and available software demands a different set of skills by the artist, typography continues to be an artistic instrument.

My mind was blow away thinking on how timeless types are. As an example, Garamond was created by Claude Garamond and showed on a specimen sheet by the Egenolff-Bener foundry in 1592. Caslon spent 14 years creating its specimen sheet, issued in 1734.  Caslon was the most used type during the colonial times in America.  Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813) and the Didots (father and the two sons) were the precursors of modern romans. Continuing with the comparison with the making of musical instruments, Garamond, Bodoni and the Didots are like the Amatis, Stradivaris and Guarneris. Their types continued to be used and cherished, imitated ,copied in various forms, but the initial design was so good that there is no much to change.

Fonts used for this comparison are Lynotype or part of Adobe Font Folio. Spaces where not modified to have  maintain all parameters the same.   I wish I know more about music theory to fully understand  this idea presented by R. Bringhusrt.  A. Chaverri.

In 2006, Oliver Reichnestein the designer for iA, a worldwide company designing digital products wrote an interesting article titled “Web Design is 95% Typography.” Paraphrasing Reichnestein, he says that when applied to web sites, typography deals with how the space is configured; how it reads and how to use the text  from the “user’s point of view.”   This concept haven’t change for more than a thousand years and was the emphasis of the type designers after the movable typography became available in Europe.

It is ultimately the human hand the one who gave the form to the letters using a variety of tools, from an early type bit, to a mouse, a keyboard or the latest table and stylus pen, distributing them on a page of harmonious size.

Alejandra Chaverri

October 16, 2012


Bringhurst, R. The Elements of Typhographic Style, Hartley & Marks, 2003.

Clair, K.  A typographic Workbook, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1999

Meggs, P.B., Purvis, A.W. “Megg’s History of Graphic Design, fifth ed., 2012
Association Tipographique Internationale, ATpI

Projects related to this section:

 Helvetica, the 55 years old sweet heart of the 60’s… is still hot?


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