The idea and practice of typography has changed significantly over the centuries beginning with the invention of the printing press in the 15th Century, to that of desktop publishing in the 20th Century. This website explores how typography has been influenced overtime, specifically how designers have changed their approach to the use of type to make language visible from the 15th Century to the mid- 20th Century.
As centuries marked the creation, standardization and continual evolution of glyphs, starting with the earliest cave paintings of pre-historic times in Lascaux c. 15,000 – 10,000 B.C.E. (Meggs, 4) all created by hand, design applied to use of glyphs, typography, became mainstream in society in the 1440’s with the invention, by a German Johannes Gutenberg, of the printing press which allowed for mass production of typography (85). The Gutenberg printing press allowed typographers to create multiple copies of books, pamphlets, flyers, etc. These were distributed for free or for a price (85) and thus information and knowledge was shared among a greater number of people. The mass production and distribution of books and pamphlets meant the written word became cheaper to obtain and therefore illiteracy decreased while the level of education, commerce, trade, governmental laws, and other societal standards rose to a higher level for the citizens of Europe (85).
By the 1760’s the industrial revolution prompted the growth of an urban society (151). The growing urban population prompted the need for new forms of fast, efficient and effective, communication by the government and businesses of the time (151). The use of large scale display type on posters could be read from a distance by citizens on their way to and from their work, as an example or to and from the shops. Display typeface styles such as slab serifs and three-dimensional display type, became the norm for printing posters, and flyers (157). Sans serif typefaces were created and popularized because of their versatility for being a bold display type or for body copy if needed.
In the early 20 Century, 1925, the leaders of the Modernity era started using typefaces that were stripped down, minimal, in other words a simplified form (355). These leaders were coming from a very influential art school of that time, in Germany, Bauhaus. The leaders’ focused on a simplified form and functionality of type, with a key objective of not detracting the reader from the content being portrayed (355). More experimentation with typophoto came from Bauhaus also, by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Before the school was closed in 1933 by Nazi Germany, a calligrapher Jan Tschichold was influenced by a Bauhaus exhibit in 1923 (353) and he became responsible for the next evolution of typography and in fact the term New Typography. Tschichold’s style was based on clarity and organization. Still till this day Modernism is still very much a relevant form of design.
Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs history of graphic design. Sixth ed. Hoboken: Wiley, 2016. Print.