Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Family of Typophiles

I don't really think about fonts having a history prior to the digital age of computers and drop-down menus. But typography have been a factor since the 15th century and the advent of the printing press*. 

To put it in perspective, here's a timeline of approximate dates that some (perhaps familiar) fonts were developed:

1520s – Garamond
1722 – Caslon
1757 – Baskerville
1767 – Bodini
1818 - Didot
1928 – Gill Sans
1931 – Times New Roman
1957 – Helvetica
1982 – Arial
1994 – Comic Sans
2000 – Gotham 

Fonts surround as every day — Street signs. Menus. Newspapers. Emails. Most type isn't even noticed, which is usually how you know a typeface has been properly chosen.

In the book Just My Type,Simon Garfield goes through 500 years of typefaces. He tackles some important questions... How did Helvetica take over the world? Is Comic Sans the world's most hated font?? Did the font Gotham get President Obama elected???

It's somewhat of an academic read, and I believe you have sincerely love fonts to really get into it. But I thought it was interesting and full of tidbits that I later found myself sharing with others. Things like:
  • J is the last letter added to the alphabet—in the 1500s. If you Google this, people seem very concerned with how Jesus existed before the letter J did.
  • Eric Gill, the creator of Gill Sans, was a pervert. He sexually abused children AND a dog. Although he preferred to call himself "curious" rather than "perverse".
  • Times New Roman was commissioned by the British newspaper The Times. They used Times New Roman for 40 years. Since 1972, the paper has switched their font 5 times.
  • In 1962, an advertising company created the interrobang, or the interrogative point, for a campaign they were working on. The intention was to combine the functions of the question mark and exclamation point. It hasn't really caught on.
  • "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is a pangram, a phrase that uses all the letters of the alphabet. It has been used to sample typefaces since the 1880s. The word "Hamburger" is often used when a single word sample is necessary, as it includes ascenders and descenders, and a variety of letter forms.
There was one controversial font that I found suspiciously absent from Garfield's book... Papyrus. Are we just out of things to say about it? Or is it better to just not acknowledge it?

*That makes them over 550 years old!!!

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