Typography

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The Gutenberg Bible: exquisite at the level of page design, but the legibility of its type is poor. The influence of manuscripts is clear.
Traditional German typeface in a 1902 book. The pluses are its distinct national character and its historic origins; its minus is its poor legibility
One of many 20th century designs influenced by modernism and function: Eric Gill's Gill Sans typeface. Its main plus: legibility

Typography is the practical art of arranging how the printed word appears on the page.[1] Typography was born when print was born.[2][3] Indeed, the early types were copies of the letterforms of scribes, and the design of roman type was modelled on type used on Trajan's column.[4]

Typography includes not only letters, but all the set of symbols in a font, and it includes the overall design of a page or document.[5] It applies to any medium which may be read; therefore it includes text on computer screens. A typographer may design type, select fonts, and design the layout of pages and books. The term does not cover the act of printing itself, though many of the early printers were themselves typographers.[3]

Typography in the 20th century was greatly influenced by three things:

  1. Modernism and the modern art movement.[1][6]
  2. Information about the effectiveness of typography and design. Some of this comes from formal 'scientific' experiments,[7][8] but most comes from commercial sources.[9] Naturally, sales results before and after a book or magazine redesign are compared. A redesign of the typography on the jacket of a book (Roget's Thesaurus) "nearly doubled the sales".[10] Typographers themselves carry out mini-experiments to test alternatives.[11] This is an extension of scientific method to what is, at heart, an artistic process.
  3. The development of modern computer technology, which affected type design, and changed printing methods.[12]

A traditional aim of the typographer would be to produce a page which is, above all, legible and attractive to read, without its being obtrusive. For display typography, such as advertising, the display must be noticed before it is read. This had led to the development of many display typefaces which are highly visible, and which are available in large sizes.[12][13]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Tschichold, Jan 1991. The form of the book: essays on the morality of good design. Hartley & Marks, Vancouver. ISBN 978-0-88179-034-4.
  2. Lefebre L. & Martin H-J. 1990. The coming of the book. new ed, London.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chappell W. & Bringhurst R. A short history of the printed word. Hartley & Marks, Vancouver. ISBN 978-0-88179-154-9
  4. Morison, Stanley. 1926 Type designs of the past and present. Fleuron, London.
  5. Tracy, Walter 1986. Letters of credit: a view of type design. Gordon Fraser, London. ISBN 0-86092-085-2
  6. Spencer, Herbert. 1969. Pioneers of modern typography. Lund Humphries, London. Revised edition by Rick Poynor MIT Press 2004. ISBN 978-0-262-69303-5
  7. Tinker M.A. 1963 The legibility of print. Iowa State University Press: Ames, Iowa.
  8. Cornog D.Y. & F.C. Rose 1967. Legibility of alphanumeric characters and other symbols: II. A reference handbook. Washington D.C. National Bureau of Standards.
  9. Journals on advertising research contain hundreds of examples.
  10. Tedesco A.P. 1948. The relationship between type and illustration in books and book jackets. George McKibbin, New York. p31
  11. Spencer, Herbert 1952. Design for business printing. Sylvan Press, London. p88
  12. 12.0 12.1 Gottschall, Edward M. 1989. Typographic communications today. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London. ISBN 0-262-07114-2
  13. Bringhurst, Robert 2002. The elements of typographic style (version 2.5). Hartley & Marks, Vancouver. ISBN 0-88179-133-4