In 2000 B.C., the brick and mortar industrialists of Mesopotamia had developed a process that made bricks tougher and long lasting than they already were. They made a name for themselves, but faced a peculiar problem – low-quality duplicates of their products had emerged in the market. In order to differentiate from the cheap imitations, they came up with the idea of stamping their bricks with nearly-even, identical characters, today known as the cuneiform text. Little did they know at the time that they had developed a process that would become a cornerstone of the design industry – they had invented typography.
With the arrival of the printing press in the West in 1450, typography became a specialised occupation. With subsequent technologies, typography was put into motion — in film, television and online broadcasts — to add context to mass communication. But with the advent of the digital age, typography moved from a professional art into the realm of graphic designers and lay users, which caused the birth of the practical fonts of traditional typography.
Democratization of type
Digital technology allowed designers and typographers to experiment with typefaces. They began to use highly efficient personal computers like the Apple Macintosh to rapidly create hundreds of personalised types and fonts with the help of commercially available graphic design software. Thus, the cost of developing typefaces was lowered considerably, and this provided new designers robust opportunities to enter the exponentially growing field of typography.
Video description: An introduction to typography
Typography now is not only used to watermark products but has a wide range of applications in design such as using fonts to convey an idea. Popular examples can be seen in modern communication where a bold font is used to bring the readers’ attention to important information, or when a particular typeface is used to sell a product on a website or in an advertisement as shown here.
Web designers have long known the importance of selecting fonts to evoke a particular mood or emotion in the end user. This is also used by companies for personalised typefaces in their logos and promotional material for all their products.
Video description: Developing your typographic eye
Typography is like fashion. Nobody ‘needs’ extra clothes, but individuals wish to look different from their counterparts in order to establish an identity. The same rule applies to typography and the applied use of it. New York based designer James Puckett explains, “I always tell people that the difference between good typography and bad typography is the difference between work that looks professional and work that looks like someone threw it together in MS Word. One reason Apple’s stores look so good is the careful and consistent application of [the typeface] Myriad. But Kmart’s careless mash up of Helvetica, Gill Sans, News Gothic and Gotham looks like, well…Kmart.”
With the present times becoming ever more conscious about brand recall and identity, it is important for graphic designers to have a thorough knowledge of typography and how to use it in the most effective manner. This can be learned with the right guidance and courses that are available across design schools.