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Typography

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Before we jump into evolution of something, we must first know the origin and meaning of that ‘something’. Here that ‘something’ is the typography, that we see daily almost everywhere– Newspaper, magazines, Bus, Billboards, Store name, and so on. So what exactly is this typography?

Typography is derived from two Greek words i.e. typos meaning "form" and graphein meaning "to write". In simple words we can say typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legiblereadable, and appealing when displayed. And this arrangement not only depends of the look and feel of the typeface but also its point size, line length, leading, tracking and kerning.

Today there are over a million of typefaces in the world but it all must have started somewhere and slowly evolved to what it is now. It can be dated back to pre-historic time where typography originated. Such as second millennium B.C. may very well have evidence of type in form of tablets and images in the Mesopotamian civilization (but it is very different from what we have today). Other evidences could be found in the Chinese and Egyptian cultures as well. But the first prominent time close to what we have today is founded by the Romans. The typeface ‘Trajan’ that is found in the Roman Structures give a prominent feel of today’s typeface. Though it lacks the lower case which came in later, but it’s still wondrous that people of then could create such accurate typeface.

Now we will move into the classification of typeface that is based on their changes. Though typefaces are usually divided in two categories i.e. Serif and Sans Serif; but there are a lot more to this classification.

The model for the first movable types was Blackletter (also known as Block, Gothic, Fraktur or Old English) which is a heavy, dark, and almost illegible to read properly. It was common during the Middle Ages but in the modern society it’s functionality is less.  A need for a typeface that is easier to read arise, and hence Humanist came into picture. Humanist types first appeared during the 1460s, and they were not modelled on the dark gothic scripts like Textura; but on the lighter, more open forms of the Italian writers. The uniqueness comes from the low contrast of thick and thin strokes and had dark colour (overall lightness and darkness), also a small height. Beside these a Humanist can also be identified by its slanting stroke of lower case ‘e’ and jiggered edges when zoomed closely.

Next comes the Old Style types which shows a greater refinement. These types are characterised by greater contrast between thick and thin strokes, are sharper in appearance and more refined. Another notable change is the serifs on the ascenders are more wedge shaped. Other changes include the stress of the letterforms to be more perpendicular and horizontal crossbar for letter ‘e’. The Old Style types can be further divided into four categories as Italian (1495), French (1540), Dutch (1600) and English (1725); each showing little changes. It was during this time the very first italic type came into being in 1501. They were first created as a standalone typeface designed for small format, where there was a demand for space and more condensed type.

During the 17th century France; Louis XIV and Jacques Jaugeon were working on supposedly the first Transitional (or Neoclassical) style typeface. It was just before the seeds of revolution were sowed in France, North America and beyond. Then came the Englishmen John Baskerville who created the Baskerville typeface. The characteristic of this type is the almost vertical stress in the bowls of lowercase letters and even greater contrast of thick and thin strokes than seen before. Also the ascenders became more horizontal.

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