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How Yesterday’s Type Has Inspired Todays Styles

In todays modern world the term ‘typography’ is used very loosly and you could argue that, since the digital age, typogrophy is no longer a specialized occupation. Furthermore, it is performed by anyone who arranges type such as comic book designers, graffiti artists, art directors, clerical workers and graphic designers. There are many instances where the modern typography we use today was inspired by old styles. In this article we will take a look at how yesterdays type has inspired todays styles.

Initial

The large letter that is often seen at the beginning of a chapter or paragraph in printed publications such as novels and newspapers is referred to as the ‘Initial’. The name initial comes from the latin initialis which means ‘standing at the beginning’.

Going back to the very early history of printing the initial would be added to a manuscript or text by a scribe or minature painter annd not by the typesetter; The typesetters just left the necessary space so the Initial could be added later.

There are several different types of Initial, the first type is the one you will normally see on a computer, sat on the baseline and flush with the left margin. The other type of Initial you might see in html is in the left margin with the text to the right and indented.

The last, and probably the most common, type of initial seen in newspapers, magazines and novels is the drop cap, where it runs several lines deep with the text wrapped around so the left and top margins are all flush.

Old Style Typefaces

Often reffered to as Humanist, the ‘old style’ typefaces are inspired by the hand lettering of scribes before the modern typefaces we’re introduced; The very first old style fonts we’re produced in the early 1500’s.

The thick to thin transitions that can be seen in the old style typefaces highlights its relation to calligraphy and they look very much like they have been drawn with pen and ink. If you we’re to draw a line between the thinnest parts of the character you can see that ‘the stress’ is always diagonal and the serifs on old style fonts are very angled.

Old style fonts are generally best suited to pages with lots of body text on as they are very easy on the eye and are often found in magazines, newspapers and books. One of the most common used sans-serif old style fonts used in the web today is ‘Times New Roman’.

Modern Style Typefaces

The modern style typefacesare often referred to as ‘Didone’ and despite the name ‘modern’ it is not a new typeface. Going back to the eighteenth century when new advanced printing methods came to to light and when the paper qualkity drastically improved there we’re changes in how typefaces we’re created.

Compared to the old style typefaces the Didone have thin and very long horrizontal serifs, the stress is vertical rather than diagonal and the thick and thin transitions syle is much more clear cut and a dramatic difference compared with old style typefaces.

These fonts can be very eye catching when used in large sizes and are not suited to pages with lots of body text due to their thick lines becoming too powerful and the thin parts been nion impossible to see. The modern style fonts are best suited to titles, headings and sub-headings and common ones you will see on the web today are Didot, Onyx and Times Bold.

This article was produced on behalf of PrinterInks – suppliers of printer cartridges, toners and stationary services throughout the UK and Europe.

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

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