Writing’s been around for ages. What began as handprints on cave walls became etchings and inscriptions, which paved the way to printing presses and beyond. Humans have a tendency to express themselves, which has also meant that typography has evolved to match this!
In this article, we’ll be travelling through time – from the very beginning of arranging letters to make readable text, all the way up to where things stand today. After all, communication is a vital part of everyday life, especially so in the business world.
The history of typography
Hieroglyphics from the Egyptians kickstarted the whole typography process, using reeds dipped in ink to scrawl their messages. Then, in the Roman empire, serif fonts emerged thanks to the chisels leaving overhangs on letters when carving them into stone. When parchments were used for writing, cursive scripts emerged.
Pictorial representations, in the form of signs and symbols, were first popularised by signwriters directing the illiterate public towards shops and other public areas. Then, pub signage truly popularised in the Victorian era, becoming more elaborate and artistic as time went on. There were no restrictions, and the people creating them allowed their creativity to shine through.
Now that literacy was championed, books were printed and distributed to the public. Letter block printing, using carved letters covered in ink to print whole pages at once, redefined the way in which printing was used. The printing press definitely sped things up, and small type was used more commonly, as it was an expensive process.
By the beginning of the 90s, digitisation had fully begun to emerge. This was where typefaces really came into their own, and the sheer number of them available grows day by day. That was a whistle-stop tour through the history of type! We started out by using symbols to represent an idea, and before we knew it, we’d invented written language!
Types of type
Typography is an important part of the design – it communicates a lot of things about your business, including its personality. First off, let’s get acquainted with some of the language surrounding typefaces, shall we?
- Typefaces are the design of the letterforms
- Fonts are the style version
- Points are the sizes of the fonts
- Style is whether the text is bold, underlined or anything else
There are many different types to choose from – we’ve compiled a list of types and descriptions to help you decide!
These are the oldest type forms and are reminiscent of handwritten calligraphy – probably because that’s what they evolved from. Usually found as newspaper headlines, blackletter type is distinctive and bold, carrying authority. An example of a blackletter font used in branding is the New York Times Logo.
Times New Roman is a classic example of a serif font, which carries a traditional, professional vibe. Other serif fonts are regarded similarly, seen as ‘newspaper font’ as they carry dignity and elegance. One small drawback of serif fonts is that they appear outdated if not utilised properly, although there are so many of them in use that there’s bound to be one to fit your needs! The popular brand GAP uses a serif font.
Sturdy-looking and rounded, slab serif is a bold and chunky font with high contrast. They are highly legible and are used widely in modern typeface designs. They are quirky and very distinguishable, which is why they stand out so well when used. Think of the Sony logo when you think of a slab serif font!
‘Without serif’ fonts are, as the name suggests, fonts without any serifs. They have a simpler design, making them easier to read, which is why they’re popular with brands. They communicate modernity and are the default choice in Word – use them to connote clarity and simplicity. The Google logo is a popular example of a sans serif font.
Script fonts aim to recreate the fluid and varied strokes of handwriting, and are more of a mark of authenticity or honesty than other fonts. They are usually highly decorative and make a statement, as well as coming across as luxurious. The Coca Cola logo is a script font.
Customised fonts are guaranteed to be found nowhere else since they’re hand-created. They are extremely individualistic and allow a company’s creative flair to be visible. However, they are relatively expensive to create and are usually only associated with larger brands. Fanta uses a custom font.
As well as choosing a font, when deciding on the right typography for a business, there’s the choice of whether the text will be edited in any other way. You could make it bold, underline it for emphasis or a title, italicise it, or manipulate it in another way. Whatever a company chooses, as long as they keep it consistent, soon enough it’ll form the basis of their company’s representation.
Thanks for reading! We’ve covered the history of typography, right from the beginning, all the way to where it is today! Additionally, you’ve learned about the different types of fonts available, and the importance they hold to a company’s branding. If you want help with your branding, let us know!