Bodoni: Typography and the Political   

Lester, Valerie Browne, and Giambattista Bodoni. Giambattista Bodoni His Life and His World. David R. Godine, Publisher, 2015.

Lester, Valerie Browne, and Giambattista Bodoni. Giambattista Bodoni His Life and His World. David R. Godine, Publisher, 2015.

“In Rome, Bodoni served as an apprentice at the press of the Propaganda Fide, the missionary arm of the Vatican. There, he learned the art of punch cutting and refined his skills as a compositor and designer; he specialized in designing and engraving Middle Eastern and Asian characters, demonstrating a gift for exotic languages, which soon had him promoted to be the press’s compositor of foreign languages. ”

“Bodoni: More than a Typeface.” Italian American Bilingual News Source, 24 Mar. 2017, italoamericano.org/story/2016-3-9/g-bodoni.


Bodoni as a typeface is efficient towards creating a logical appearance and emphasizes the modernism during the time of the typographical Rationalisation movement. Although Bodoni was considered to be an arduous typeface to read, it is a revolutionary font which represents the golden time of logical rationalisation. “In the work of Bodoni, […] the calligraphic modulation and inclined stress that were a legacy of Jenson’s types are replaced by engineered rationality in letters that appear designed and constructed rather than written.” (Lettering & Type: Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces)


More recently, the Bodoni typeface is associated with authority, dignity, and elegance. This is evident with its common usage in journalism publications and fashion brands; Vogue, Armani and Calvin Klein being popular examples.

Esquire used Bodoni on their iconic October 1966 cover to covey the severity and implication of “Oh my God–we hit a little girl.” in the context of the Vietnam war. Featured against a stark black background, the font was striking and bold, catching the attention of viewers not only by the shocking title but by the aesthetics and configuration of design which the Bodoni font delivers through its characteristically diverse thinned and weighted strokes.


Decades later the typeface Onyx, which is based on Bodoni Extra Bold Condensed, was used for the Nirvana logo. This is documented by Art Chantry in Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, “It was a typeface called Onyx which is a Compugraphic bad design of Bodoni Condensed-…and that is where Nirvana’s logo came from.” This shows that the font’s anatomical characteristics are seen as ones that stand out and call the viewer to attention, signifying the outrageous and at times, that which is exciting.


Bodoni’s continued use in branding and publications, centuries after its conception,  demonstrates its versatility as a typeface that can convey gravitas and elegance.


Bodoni, Giambattista. “I Pianti D'Elicona Su La Tomba Di Teresa Ventura Venier. (1790 Edition).” Open Library, Dalla Stamperia Reale, 1 Jan. 1790, openlibrary.org/books/OL23666549M/I_pianti_d'Elicona_su_la_tomba_di_Teresa_Ventura_Venier.

Bodoni, Giambattista. “I Pianti D’Elicona Su La Tomba Di Teresa Ventura Venier. (1790 Edition).” Open Library, Dalla Stamperia Reale, 1 Jan. 1790, openlibrary.org/books/OL23666549M/I_pianti_d’Elicona_su_la_tomba_di_Teresa_Ventura_Venier.

Tietz, Tabea. “The Letters of Giambattista Bodoni.” SciHi Blog, 16 Feb. 2018, scihi.org/letters-giambattista-bodoni/.

Tietz, Tabea. “The Letters of Giambattista Bodoni.” SciHi Blog, 16 Feb. 2018, scihi.org/letters-giambattista-bodoni/.

Work Cited for Written Component:
Willen, Bruce, and Nolen Strals. Lettering & Type: Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces. New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.