1900 -1910
The beginning of the new century saw anticipation of change. Some presented radical visions while others presented a yearning for lost values. Dreams of the future carried with them the fears of the past and the hopes of the present. New technology was occurring such as the Electric light and the first radio transmission. Fundamental shifts in the technology of typography was also happening. The seeds of Modernism occurred in this decade. The Arts and Crafts Movement played a role in this decade. The primary intent was to create functional products that also involved great aesthetic deliberation and intent. The movement praised the work of individual craftsmen. In Germany a similar mixing of ideas was present. The Art Nouveau style started, which moved to less decorative work.

Designer: Otto Eckmann
Year: 1900
  • Distinctive display face, but low on legibility.
  • Open bowls of letters.
  • Decorative and ornamental character.
  • Mixed organic themes with the black letter traditions of Germany.
Extra information: Jugendstil (Youth Style) is what Germans called Art Nouveau - new art
Copperplate GothicCopperplate_Full.jpg
Classification: Glyphic
Creator. Frederic W. Goudy
Year 1901
  • Extreme small serifs.
  • Stylized.
  • Characteristics of stone carving.
  • Not considered Gothic despite the name.
  • There is a subtle inflection of stroke weight. Note that the capital “C” gives a dynamic feel that is missing with constant line sans serifs.

Franklin Gothic
Category: Sans Serif
Classification: Grotesque
Creator. Morris Fuller Benton
Year 1902
  • Characteristics of stone carving, Bold.
  • One of the first sans serifs , they were bulky and tended to exist only in the upper case.
  • Tails and Legs are squared at the end.
  • Thinning of strokes where round join stems that gave a life to the face that distinguishes it from other heavy sans.

“We have entered upon a period of revolution which may last fifty years before the revolution is at last victorious in all Europe and finally all the world.”
Cubism fractures from Realism and brings abstract art to the forefront. It analyzed the planes involved with viewing three-dimensional objects and added a fourth dimension, space. Cubism also demonstrated that subject matter could be viewed from multiple angles. In 1914, rising tensions across Europe and Asia gave way to World War I. The Dada movement began its rise as artists believed that logic and rationale had put the world in its current state. They also thought that the way to salvation was through naivete and irrationality. With Switzerland's neutrality to the war, it became the epicenter of Dadaism, as exiles and artists moved there. In 1918 Dada begins to spread through post war Germany, a country devastated by war, unstable currency, and restrictions on daily life. Communication became very popular such as telegraph and press and soon to be radio along with growing mass literacy, saw to the rapid and popular dissemination of dramatic news.

Category: Serif
Classification: Old Style
Designer Bruce Rogers
Year: 1914

  • Widely admired, but rarely used because its prettiness only bears up under fine printing.
  • Thick and thin strokes.
  • Contain brackets but the serifs are unbracketed.

After World War I, the United States found itself in the Roaring Twenties. An era of unprecedented technological advances, economic growth and optimism. There was a general thought that nothing couldn't be overcome. The Bauhaus came to prominence and began to move the culture's aesthetic away from that of Cubism and Dadaism. Influenced by De Stijl and Constructivism, Bauhaus used geometric and mechanical forms along with a clean look and a sense of quality. In Paris, the Art Deco movement became popular. On October 29, 1929 the stock market crashed bringing an end to the roaring twenties and the beginning of the Great Depression.

Category: Sans Serif
Creator: Bauhaus school.
Year: 1925.
  • No serifs
  • No need for an upper and lower case for each letter (The argument for single alphabet was based on the fact that the upper case is not heard but only seen.
  • “M” and the “W” are the same shape but inverted.
  • “X” is little more than and“O” cut in half and turned inside-out.
  • Monoline.
  • Range of a few angles, arcs and and selected lines.
  • Minimalist.

Gill Sans
Sans Serif
Classification: Humanist
Designer: Eric Gill
Year: 1926
  • Uppercase of Gill Sans is modeled on the monumental Roman capitals.Futuratypeface.jpg
  • Capital “M” based on the proportions of a square with the middle stroke meeting at the center of the square.
  • More of a mechanical feel rather than that of geometric sans-serifs like Futura.
  • Letters do not look consistent. For instance, the top strokes of counters do not touch the top of the stems.

Category: Sans Serif
Classification Geometric Sans Serif
Creator: Paul Renner
Year: 1927
  • Most important geometric sans.
  • One of the earliest sans serifs.
  • Crisp clean.
  • Circular, straighten Y tail.. Lack of a tail on the lower “j.”

Classification: Sans Serif
Designer: Rudolf Koch
Year: 1927
  • German expressionism influenced.
  • Stroke weights are more varied than most geometric sans serifs, and the terminus of vertical strokes are cut to a near eight degree angle. Broadway.jpg
  • Not quite sitting on the baseline and making a more animated less static feeling than the future typeface.
  • The Uppercase characters are broad and show influence of monumental roman capitals.
  • The capital “W” is splayed and the “G” has no terminal.

Category: Sans Serif
Classification: Display/Decorative
Created by Morris Fuller Benton
Year 1927
  • Heavy contrast of thick and thin strokes. Stems are extremely bold as the arms and legs are a hairline.
  • Unbalanced.
  • Influenced by Art Deco.
  • Geometric design.

Art Deco had arrived in the US before the end of the 1920's. Throughout the early 1930's it rose to prominence in US architecture. Even with the failed economy, buildings such as the Chrysler Building and the Rockefeller Center were completed. The 1930's were a time of great unrest. With the US suffering from the Great Depression, Spain locked in a civil war, and the rise of Nazism in Germany, many artists found it hard not to give up their art for revolution. Tschichold was arrested and removed from his job in Munich by the Nazi government. Soon after the Bauhaus was closed forcing Kandinsky and Naum Gabo to move to France and London respectively, taking their Bauhaus ideals with them. By 1939 rising concerns in Europe could no longer be ignored and the world was thrown into another war.

Times New Roman
Category: Serif
Classification: TransitionalTimes_New_Roman.jpg
Creator: Stanley Morison/Victor Lardent
Year 1931
  • Doesn’t take up much room on the page.
  • Romanized.
  • Contrast between thick and thin stroke.
  • Short ascenders and descenders typical of newspaper type.

Category: Serif
Classification: Glyphic
Designer: Berthold Wolpe with the Monotype Corporation.
Year: 1932
  • The uppercase "M" middle stoke does not reach the baseline.
  • Chisel look rather than written look.
  • Uniform in width.
  • The uppercase “U” has a stem on the right side which makes it look like a lowercase.
  • The lowercase “e” and “g” have large open bowls.
  • The serifs are reduced and simplified. Serifs are more thickened terminals than separate strokes, tending towards the look of a humanist style.
  • Sharp without spikiness.
  • Flare at the Terminals.

Catergory: Serif
Classification Geometric Slab serif/Egyptian
Foundry Monotype
Year 1933 (however might have been invented in the nineteenth century)
  • Very heavy serifs with no bracketing. No extreme weight change in the stroke. Monoline stroke.
  • Very strong adaptable display face for headlines and posters.
  • Clipped slab serifs, angular terminals.
Other facts: Used heavily by companies such as Guinness and Docklands light Railway during the 1980s and 90s.

Abstract Expressionism arose quickly in the 1940's. Artists were heavily influenced by World War II and a sense of loss in faith and alienation. Work moved away from flowers and nudes toward darker and heavier subject matter. A war time economy constricted growth and forced women and remaining men into other industries that supported the military. Due this, ideas and advances typography were stunted. At the same time, the war gave birth to the propaganda poster. Even with the war's end in 1945, it would still be 1950 before artists moved away from Abstract Expressionism.

Category: Sans Serif
Classification: Display
Creater: R. Hunter Middleton
Year 1940s
  • Used for detailing military equipment.
  • Mix of industrial and hand-crafted nature of its operation.
  • Only capital letters with rounded edges and thick main strokes.
  • Breaks in the face to give it the appearance of the stenciled alphabets used on boxes and crates.

By 1950 much of the negativity left by both World War II and the Great Depression was gone. Thousands of servicemen had returned home. A post war economic boom and the threat of Atomic War had occurred and pushed much of the world into consumerism. Industries returned to their former products or started making new peacetime products. Corporations expanded and at the same time families expanded in the Baby Boom. People had more choices of product than they had ever had before. Televisions had begun to find there way into many houses opening up new audiences. At the same time, the television inspired integrated lettering. In the late 1950's, the US became involved in Vietnam.

Catergory Sans Serif
Classification: Neo-grotesque/sans serif/lineal
Designer: Max Miedinger, Eduard Hoffman from Switzerland (linotype)
Year: 1957
  • Monoline in weight.
  • Huge difference from the Grotesque group is the “G” does not have a loop but an open stroke.
  • More of a design feel rather than a handwritten feel.
  • No serifs.
  • High x-height.

Other facts: One of the most popular fonts in the world. Also called Haas Grotesque.

Category Script
Classification: Casual Script
Designer: Roger Excoffon
Year: 1953
  • Stroke has an informal graphic quality similar to brush and ink.
  • Lowercase letters are carefully designed to connect on a line to an extent.
  • Descenders are long, and increase the sense of motion.
  • Several specially designed ligatures. In lowercase mistral is a true connecting script similar to cursive writing.

Category: Sans Serif
Classification Neo-Grotesque Sans Serif
Designer: Adrian Frutiger
  • More of a design feel rather than a hand drawn feel.
  • Indented to be universal.
  • High x-height.
  • No serifs.
  • Monoline.

With consumerism running rampant and rapid growth in television and technology, the 1960's was the decade that reinvented type. The photocomposition had all but become the standard. Leaving the metal foundries and their more expensive hot metal behind. The use of computers in printing first started. Pop Art was huge in the US because of its blatant industrial and commercial environment. Minimalism would follow in its garish foot steps. The 1960's also brought about sweeping social change. Attitudes towards sex and gender began to shift. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights. Anti-communism and anti-war sentiments swept across the US. The US extended its involvement in Vietnam. The 1960's were a time of unprecedented civil change and activism the likes of which have not been seen since.

Avant Garde
Year: 1970s3387541588_2f91af8e93.jpg
  • Bowl of “R” doesn’t close, but “P” does.
  • Curve on tail of capital “Q.”
  • Abbreviated descenders.
  • Low crossbar on “G.”
  • Ligatures and tight fit.
  • Rectangular dots over “i” and “j”.

Catergory: Serif
Classification: Garalde
Classification: Old style
Designer: Jan Tschichold
  • Oblique stroke on lower-case ascender serifs.
  • Contrast between thick and thin

Extra information on the 60s: Graphic expression utilizing silk-screen printing for psychedelic poster. Typefaces were expressive, organic and unreadable.

With the mass adoption of phototypesetting in high demand, many manufacturers had to rush to keep up. The search for new typefaces was in full force. The led to many new and variant types and at the same time the decline of quality. The early 1970's saw the US pull out of Vietnam and put the first man on the moon. Artists found that minimalism did not give much to express with, thus Post Minimalism began. Post Minimalism added more intellect to the art and gave birth to new forms such as performance art and earth art.

Catergory: Humanist Sans-serif
Designer Adrian Frutiger
Year: 1975
  • Sans serif typeface with the cleanness of the univers typeface, but with the organic aspects of “Gill Sans.”
  • Legible and distinctive typeface.
  • Various angles, sizes and distances.
  • Ascenders and descenders are very prominent.

ITC Benguiat
Category: Serif
Classification: Display
Designer: Ed Benguiat
Year: 1977
  • Decorative.
  • Based on the Art Nouveau period.
  • Extreme high X-height combined with multiply widths and weights.

American Typewriter
Category: Serif
Classification: Old style
Creator: Joel Kaden and Tony Stan
Year: 1974
  • Old-fashion style.

Other types in this decade are Souvenir and Serif Gothic. Many types were unreadable in the period due to experiments with spacing between the type. Many poorly drawn faces were created. This lead to decline in typographic quality .

The 1980's saw the release of the Apple Macintosh computer, the first computer to have “wysiwyg” (what you see is what you get) presentation. The use of computers in design was concrete. Artists still wanted to move away from Minimalism. Art in the 1980's was retrospective and at times quite jaded. Many artists thought that only old, white, European men would gain notoriety. Painting was resurrected after its death in the 1970's. Toward the end of the 1980's the Cold War began to end due to The Soviet Union's impending collapse. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down.

Catergory: Serif
Creator Charles Bigelow
  • Created for Adobe Systems.
  • Basic letter forms that can emerge from the noise of the printer marking techniques.
  • Certain traditionally complex details such as swelling stems, brackets and serifs are rendered diagrammatically as polygonal shapes rather than as subtle curves.
  • First original face designed for laser printers, being tolerant of different resolution.

Sans Serif
Designer Susan Kare for Apple Computer.
  • Was used in the Macintosh operating system user interface. Was important to Apple’s brand identity. Also used in the iPod user interface.
  • High legibility
  • Disliked in the typographic establishment.

The 1990's is known as the Information Age. The US became the undisputed top power in the world and its economy was very strong. The boom of digital technologies gave birth to a time of new and intense creativity around typography. Self expression and self indulgence were unleashed across the populace. Due to the fact that computers are a big part of the 1990's anyone could be a typographer, although there was another decline in quality. CD-ROM and the internet became popular and created many new typefaces. Many usages of types were found to be unlicensed and type producers started to move away from making type to distributing type. In the early 1990's OpenType was created. Democracy and capitalism married, creating a new world for designers. A world where everyday people interact with type more than they ever had before.


Blackwell, Lewis. 20th-Century Type. Great Britain. 2004.
Willen, Bruce and Strals, Nolen. Lettering & Type. New York, 2009.
Arnason, H.H and Prather, F. Marla. History of Modern Art. New York, 1998.
Carter, Sebastian. 20th Century Type Designers. Great Britain. 2002.


Print Media:
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Posters
  • Billboards


Garamond is a very old typeface said to have first create for the French King Francis I in the 1540 Since then this style serif typeface has been used in various forms across the world, since then it wasrecreated by Adobe Corporation and made their version called“Adobe Garamond” which was use in various books.


Baskerville is classified as transitional serif typeface; Designed by John Baskerville from England and named after him in 1757, this font was the result of an experiment to improve upon some other typefaces.Baskerville’s different designs and its different sizes are used widely in books, especially text books and otherform of printed educational materials.


Franklin Gothic
Is an extra-bold sans-serif type originated (1872–1948) and created by Morris Fuller Benton.“Gothic” is an increasingly term meaning for sans-serif. It has been used in many advertisements and headlines in newspapers.



Futura is another sans-serif typeface created by Bauer Type Foundry in 1927. This font is based on geometric shapes; it was originally cast in Light, Medium, Bold, and Bold Oblique fonts and later on evolves and redeveloped in different format.


Gill Sans
It originated in England in 1928 and was developed by Monotype. This sans-serif typeface was originally designed by Douglas Cleverdon and later adapted developed by Eric Gill. Inspired by Edward Johnston’s type design for London Underground, this font finds use in a variety of products and designs like Mac OS X and some Microsoft products.


Is a number of serif typeface designed by William Caslon I 1692–1766, and later on adapted by Adobe Corporation to produce their own version “Adobe Caslon”, this type is widely used on newspaper, and a notable use of this type is in article body of “ The New Yorker”


Rockwell is a variation of the geometric slab serif design primarily used by Egyptians in the early nineteenth century. It was first used by Monotype Corporation in 1934 and since then has found its way into many popular prints including New York Times, the font is used mainly for headlines, short text and posters.


Univers, a font designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1954 and has lots of similar characteristics with Helvetica. Univers’ design is such that it can be easily read from long distances when compared to other fonts.

Helvetica is the most influential as well as the most widely used font till date. This sans-serif typeface was created by Max Meidinger, a well known Swiss designer and Eduard Hoffmannin 1957.Helvetica is used by the world’s top brands like 3M, AT&T, American Airlines, Microsoft and Toyota have chosen this font type in their marketing campaigns.


Is a sans serif typeface designed by Matthew Carter for Microsoft Corporation; this typeface is a staple and widely use in the web.


Myriad is another great font designed by Carol Twombly and Robert Slimbach for Adobe Corporation. It is generally use by Apple Incorporated for their products like ipod, similar devices and advertising materials. Myriad has variations like Myriad Pro, Myriad Web, Myriad Wild and more.


Ben Flynn
Ben Flynn is a London base street artist that started as a “Graffiti Writer”; however “Graffitti” has a really bad reputation and there is a question on legality, Ben Flynn started to use Typefaces to continue his writing, and now he is recognized by the Government as a “Street Artist” http://einesigns.co.uk/diary/

The Rise of the Indie Fonts
Back in the early days they lead alloys, wood, casting irons etc... but with the emergence of Digital Technology Indie Type Companies rises as well, to give us a different or modern approach on typefaces.
  • Altered Ego Fonts
  • Fonthead Design
  • WC Fonts

Digital Font Makers (Software)
These days anyone can produce their own typeface, with the accessibility of technology and tools, Here are some Software:
  • Fontographer
  • FontLab
  • FontCreator

Comic Sans Criminal
Started as a graphic design project by a student name Matt Dempsey; and turn into an overnight viral sensation.

Helvetica is an indie full length documentary about typography and graphic design, centered on the typeface of the same name. Directed by Gary Hustwit, it was released in 2007 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the typeface's introduction in 1957.



Though there are virtually thousands of typefaces available for use today, most of which were designed during the 20th and 21st centuries, there are only a few noteworthy key players who were largely influential on each other and many other typeface designers since: Eric Gill, Jan Tschichold, Paul Renner, and Adrian Frutiger. The influence of these individuals on the industry aren't confined only to the typefaces they designed, but also to their revolutionary concepts and theories of typeface design and their political defiance and the effect that had on the industry.

Eric Gill

Eric Gill was born gill_portrait_d12865i43.jpgin Brighton, Sussex in 1882. In addition to being a typographer (though he never considered himself to be one) he was also a sculptor, a wood engraver, an author and a sketch artist.

While studying to be an architect in 1900, Gill grew frustrated with his studies and started taking evening classes in stonemasonry at Westminster Technical Institute and calligraphy at Central School of Arts and Crafts. It here where he met, was taught by, and eventually influenced by Edward Johnson – the creator of the typeface appearing on the London Underground signage (1916) (Gill had collaborated with Edward Johnston in the early design of the Underground typeface, but dropped out of the project before it was completed.)

He was highly mobile during the course of his eclectic career, doing everything from carving stone sculptures (Prospero and Ariel, and others for the BBC's Broadcasting House in London in 1932), to opening a printing press and lettering workshop (1928), to publishing essays on a diverse range of topics including God, typography, and male sexuality, to designing typefaces for the Monotype Corporation – the most infamous being Gill Sans.

Gill was made a Royal Designer for Industry (the highest British award for designers) by the Royal Society of Arts and became a founding-member of the newly established Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry.

Gill designed eleven typefaces:
  • Perpetua (1926)
  • Perpetua Greek (1929)
  • Golden Cockerel Press Type (1929)
  • Solus (1929)
  • Joanna (1930-31)
  • Aries (1932)
  • Floriated Capitals (1932)
  • Bunyan (1934)
  • Pilgram (1953)
  • Jubilee (1934)

Gill Sans
Gill Sans (1927-30) first appeared in 1926 when Douglas Cleverdon opened a bookshop where Eric Gill painted the fascia over the window in sans-serif capitals based on the typeface designed by Johnson in 1916 for the London Underground. Gill had also sketched a guide for Cleverdon to make future notices and announcements.

While working for Monotype Corporation, Gill attempted to make the ultimate legible sans-serif typeface (function well as a text face and for display) based on the original typeface found at Cleverdon’s bookstore. Though he was influenced by Johnson’s London Underground typeface, he noted in his Essay on Typography (1931) that Johnston’s letters were not entirely satisfactory or ‘fool-proof’, and that his new Monotype Sans Serif, the prototype of Gill Sans, was superior. Although some writers have celebrated the individual qualities of Gill Sans Q, R, a, g and t, as designs in their own right, some contend that the majority of character shapes in Gill Sans are actually worse than in Johnston’s design of fifteen years previous. It has been suggested that because Gill’s patron, Stanley Morison, an advisor to the Monotype Corporation, was probably the single most powerful individual in the industry in the 1920s, it was likely that Gill Sans would be adopted as one of the most widely used typefaces in England; however, Gill Sans was designed from a prototype that wasn’t intended for text face but only for display.

Despite controversy, Gill Sans has become known as “the Helvetica of England: ubiquitous, utilitarian and yet also quite specific in its ability to point to our notions of time and place.” Gill Sans is the standard typeface for the LNDR railway system in every facet of the company's identity, from locomotive nameplates and station signage to restaurant car menus, printed timetables and advertising posters. The Church of England adopted Gill Sans for the Common Worship family of service books. The British Government formally adopted Gill Sans as its standard typeface for use in all communications and logos in 2003. The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) adopted the typeface as its corporate typeface in 1997. In the “Penguin Composition Rules” it specifies the use of Gills Sans for book titles and in branding their pelican imprint.

Visual Comparisons
“The original design3-variants-a_-_gillssans.jpg for ‘a’ is strikingly similar to Johnston’s (as might be expected), followed by a second attempt which was put into production and can be seen on early specimen sheets. The third and least satisfactory character is seen in all versions of Gill Sans since the early 1930s.

li1.jpg“Stylistically it calls into question Gill’s deletion of the foot serif for the lowercase ‘l’ in Johnston’s model – a feature which had an essential function within that alphabet, as it allowed distinction between the numeral 1, uppercase ‘I’ and lowercase ‘l’. In Gill Sans (appointed typeface to a nation of shopkeepers), this feature is absent and Monotype were obliged to produce a complete alternate cut for Gill Sans, designated ‘F’ that included a ‘proper’ numeral 1 that could be used for numerical setting, such as shop window prices and timetables. This tradition, upheld by Monotype until the early 1990s, was not carried forward to Adobe GillSans.rty_gills_sans_johnson.jpg

“The lowercase ‘y’ was designed with a straight descending tail which makes the character appear rigid and unbalanced. This feature, like the overdrawn arms of ‘a’ and ‘r’ with their conflicting terminations, fails to reflect any notion of rhyme or reason in the ‘improvement’ of the ‘unsatisfactory’ Johnston letterforms.”

Reproduction of Gill Sans
The process which Gill found both technically repugnant and morally repulsive, in terms of the reproduction of his penmanship, was the photographic scaling of his artwork ‚ which he remarked upon as ‘beastly in itself’ ‚ using stinking chemicals and producing a ‘scratchy’ result. Another reason, perhaps, for his rejection of the photographic process was that it allowed for a dishonest faking, where errors and second thoughts could be disguised and the reduction in scale misleadingly suggested the artist was endowed with a miraculously minute precision in drawing detail.”

Jan Tschichold

Jan-Tschichold-001.jpgJan Tschichold, a typographer, a book designer, a teacher and a writer was born in 1902 in Leipzig, Germany.

Jan was trained in calligraphy which was a background that set him apart from other typographers from the time as they had mostly been trained in architecture or the fine arts.

The first photo-typesetting machine in operation, a combination of manual phototypesetting machine and make-up machine, the Uhertype, was introduced in 1925. The machine’s typefaces were designed by Jan Tschichold.

Tschichold was a leading advocate of Modernist design with an influential magazine supplement (1925), a personal exhibition (1927) and his most infamous work Die Neue Typographie (The New Typography). The book read as a manifesto of modern design condemning most fonts but sans-serif or grotesque. He later condemned his publication as too extreme after slowly abandoning his written beliefs around 1932. He began accepting classical Roman typefaces for body-type and moved toward Classicism in print design. He eventually even condemned Modernist design in general.

“After Tschichold took up a teaching post in Munich at the behest of Paul Renner, both he and Tschichold were denounced as "cultural Bolshevists". Ten days after the Nazis surged to power in March 1933, Tschichold and his wife were arrested. During the arrest, Soviet posters were found in his flat, casting him under suspicion of collaboration with communists and all copies of Tschichold's books were seized by the Gestapo. After six weeks a policeman somehow found him tickets for Switzerland, and he and his family managed to escape Nazi Germany in August 1933.”

250px-Penguin_editions.JPGBetween 1947-1949 Tschichold lived in England (the only period he didn’t live in Switzerland after leaving Germany) where he oversaw the redesign of Penguin paperbacks, with their famous, horizontally banded covers – orange for fiction, green for crime, blue for biography. During this process, he also created a standardized set of typographic rules to follow for each book design following; the Penguin Composition Rules. Pelican_book_covers.jpg

Typefaces Tschichold designed include:
  • Transit (1931)
  • Saskia (1931/1932)
  • Zeus (1931)
  • Sabon (1966/1967)

Paul Renner

tumblr_kzf88cFvV01qb08u7.gifPaul Renner was born in 1878 in Wernigerode, Germany

Growing up in Germany, Renner had a very assertive sense of leadership, duty and responsibility. He was suspicious of abstract art and disliked many forms of modern culture (jazz, cinema, and dancing). Interestingly enough, however, he admired the functionalist strain in modernism. Renner can be seen as a bridge between the traditional (19th century) and the modern (20th century), as he attempted to fuse the Gothic and the roman typefaces.

Renner made his opposition to the Nazis very clear, notably in his book Kultur-bolschewismus (Cultural Bolshevism). Although he was unable to find a German publisher, it was published in Switzerland. Soon after publication, it was removed from the book market in Germany (it was re-printed and re-issued in 2003). Renner was arrested and dismissed from his teaching post in Munich shortly after the Nazis gained power over Germany in 1933.

Typefaces designed by Paul Renner:
  • Architype Renner(1927)
  • Futura (1928)
  • Plak (1928)
  • Futura Black (1929)futura464.jpg
  • Futura light (1932)
  • Ballade (1938)
  • Renner Antiqua (1939)
Renner began working on the typeface Futura in 1924 and submitted it to the Bauer type foundry of Frankfurt-am-Main in 1925. Futura has remained in continuous production since its release in 1927 and revisions, updates, and elaboration of the Futura ‘family’ continued into the early 1970’s.

Revolutionarily, Renner sought to design a new type that would serve to diminish the variety of fonts required by German printing and reduce the overhead of maintaining multiple sets of letters.

Futura has become and influence for other geometric, sans-serif typefaces during the 20th century. Some of the influenced include:
  • Kabel
  • Spartan
  • Twentieth Century
  • Gentury Gothic
  • Gothic
  • Metro
  • Vogue
  • Nobel
  • Avenir
  • Opel
  • Tasse
  • Beteckna
  • Braggadocio
  • Fujiyama

“The commemorative plaque left on the Moon in July 1969 features text set in Futura.”

The original drawings for Futura are now in the Fundicion Tipografica Neufiville in Barcelona.

Extra bold weights were later added to the Futura family and were not part of Renners design.

Adrian Frutiger

Adrian Frutiger was born May 24, 1928 in Switzerland. He is one of the most prominent typeface designers of the 20th century and continues to influence the direction of digital typography in the 21st century. Frutiger has built a reputation for designing type for new technologies. Univers was created for the Lumityp Machine and OCR-B was designed to be read by computers. His most infamous typefaces are Univers and Frutiger.


“Frutiger moved to Paris where he started to work at the Deberny & Peignot typefoundry. Here he helped the foundry move classic typefaces used with traditional printing methods to newer phototypesetting technologies. At the same time Frutiger started to design his own typefaces, a few of which became very significant, earning him his status as a great type designer.”

The Frutiger Numbering System
Adrian Frutiger developed a unique classification system to eliminate confusion associated with naming and specifying typefaces. The number used in a font is a concatenation of two numbers; the first set defines weight, while the second defines width and position (eg. Univers 55). This system was first used with Univers and was adopted for use in his later typefaces.

Frutiger designed the Univers family of typefaces (20+ variants) in an attempt to improve upon 19th century grotesques and the more geometric sans serif. All variants have the same x-height, allowing them to be used in several different ways with out conflict on a single page.

Visual Comparison
Univers, Akzidenz-Grotesk, Folio and Helvetica are often compared and confused for each other. Differences between Univers and the two other fonts include:
  • The tail of 'a' and the top of '1' are much less rounded
  • 'G' is formed without a spur330px-AGcomparison08.svg.png
  • The arms of 'K' join at the stem
  • The tail of 'Q' runs along the baseline
  • The top of 't' is angled
  • 'Y' has a straight descender
  • Many of the numerals in Univers have straight vs. curved ascenders

In the early 1970s, the RATP, the public transport authority of Paris, asked him to examine the Paris Metro signage. He created a variation of his typeface, Univers, and developed it specifically for white-on-dark-blue backgrounds in poor light. Later, the French airport authority's commissioned Frutiger with "way-finding signage" for the new Charles de Gaulle International Airport which would require a typeface both legible from afar and from an angle. Originally titled Roissy, the typeface was renamed Frutiger when the Mergenthaler Linotype Company released it for public use in 1976.

Frutiger's typefaces include:
  • Ondine (1954)
  • President (1954)
  • Meridien (1955)
  • Egyptienne (1956)
  • Univers (1956)
  • Apollo (1962)
  • Serifa (1967)
  • OCR-B (1968)
  • Iridium (1975)
  • Frutiger (1975)
  • Glypha (1977)
  • Icone (1980)
  • Breughal (1982)
  • Linotype Centennial (1986)
  • Avenir (1988)
  • Westside (1989)
  • Herculanum (1990)
  • Vectora (1990)
  • Linotype Didot (1991)
  • Pompeijana (1992)
  • Rusticana (1993)
  • Frutiger Stones (1998)
  • Frutiger Symbols (1998)
  • Linotyoe Univers (1999)
  • Frutiger Next (2000)
  • Nami (2006)
  • Frutiger Arabic (2007)
  • Frutiger Serif (2008)
  • Neue Frutiger (2009)

Awards Received by Frutiger Include:
  • 1986 - The Gutenberg Prize of the City of Mainz (Germany)
  • 1987 - Medal of the Type Directors Club of New York
  • 1993 - Officier medallion, awarded by the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters)
  • 1993 - Grand Prix National des Arts Graphiques (France)
  • 2006 - Typography Award from The Society of Typographic Aficionados (SOTA)
  • 2006 – TDC2 award in the Type System / Superfamily category
  • 2009 – European Design Hall of Fame

Throughout his career, Frutiger has produced a number of books:
  • Type, Sign, Symbol (1980)
  • Signs and Symbols: Their Design and Meaning (1989)
  • The International Type Book (1990)
  • Geometry of Feelings (1998)
  • The Development of Western Type Carved in Wood Plates (1999)
  • Forms and Counterforms (1999)
  • Life Cycle (1999)
  • The Univers (1999)
  • Symbols and Signs: Explorations (1999)

adrian-in-action-726534.jpg“I first experienced the power of type to make the whole intellectual world readable with the same letters in the days of metal. This awakened in me the urge to develop the best possible legibility. The time soon came when texts were no longer set in metal types but by means of a beam of light. The task of adapting the typefaces of the old masters from relief type to flat film was my best school. When we came to the “Grotesk” style of sanserif, however, I had my own ideas which led to the Univers® family. Technological progress was rapid. Electronic transfer of images brought the stepping, followed by my feelings for form. But today, with curve programs and laser exposure, it seems to me that the way through the desert has been completed.

From all these experiences the most important thing I have learned is that legibility and beauty stand close together and that type design, in its restraint, should be only felt but not perceived by the reader. In the course of my professional life I have aquired knowledge and manual skill. To pass on what I had learned and achieved to the next generation became a necessity.” - Adrien Frutiger


Tools & Surfaces

  • Metal Type
  • Phototypesetting
  • Digital Revolution

Metal Type (Hot Type)



Created by Otto Mergenthaler in 1886, the characters (matrices) match a specific key on a keyboard. These matrices were stored in a unit called the magazine and when released, slid down chutes that were automatically assembled in a mold.

When the operator was finished typing, a button was pressed to release molten lead into the mold. This made a cast in the form of a line (also called a slug) with raised type characters across the top , hence the name 'Linotype'.

It was ten times faster than the hand composition method. The Linotype increased productivity, therefore copies became cheaper. Also, due to increased speed, copies were more quickly available to the public.




Created by Tolbert Lanston in 1887, the Monotype crafted text at a keyboard that punched character codes into a paper ribbon. The ribbon was then used in a separate casting operation to control the casting machine that produced composed type. Instead of casting a line of type, the Monotype cast individual letters.

A matrix case with 225 brass matrices was automatically moved under a mold, positioning the matrix for the next character in position to received molten lead. By casting one letter at a time, a Monotype machine achieved high-quality typesetting with single letters to be changed or corrected.

Both Linotype and Monotype manufacturers realized that the key to long term success of their machinery was dependent in part on the creation of a library of quality typefaces; both companies began an ambitious typeface development program, with extensive marketing efforts. The machines devastated the demand for handset text type but by dramatically reducing the cost of typesetting, these machines caused a publishing explosion. The cost of magazines, newspapers, and books dropped dramatically, enabling more people to afford them.

Phototypesetting (Cold Type)

In the early 1960s came phototype. Phototype systems were based on basic photography. Light is flashed through a transparent letter on a film negative, exposing it on a sheet of photographic paper. The fonts were located on rapidly spinning disk. The matrix evolved into
a continuously rotating disc carrying concentric rows of character images. Two generations of phototypsetting would emerge and printing was increasing handled by offset litho.


On the first generation of display phototype machines, type was set from film negatives. Existing keyboard units were retained, but the metal-casting units were replaced by a photographic device. All the characters in a font were clear images on a strip of black photographic film. The operator turned two handles to bring the negative of the next character into position. Looking through a viewer, the operator carefully spaced each character, then pressed a lever to flash a light and expose the letter on the photo paper.


To achieve more composition speed (to more quickly switch between matrices) the single disc was extended to a 5 disc.

Photosetting advantages over metal type:
- Film characters could be enlarged or reduced to any size.
- Allowed letters to be placed closer together, even overlapping.
- Distortion lens could italicize, back slant, expand, or condense the type.
- Costs decreased as film was cheaper than metal.
- Alphabets were drawn in one size only and adjustments were made


Around 1967, the second generation of direct-photography photocomposing machines broke away from the mechanical constraints of their predecessors. Phototypsetters stored characters on a computer disk as digital data, then displayed its image on a cathode ray tube to expose paper or film.

This breakdown of the mechanical link between type and image, along with the shift from relief to planographic printing surfaces that came with the rise of offset lithography, called into question all the conceptual and dimensional frameworks on which 500 years of received wisdom about type and typography had been built.


Digiset (1966) was the first typesetting machine that works with digitally assembled (bitmap) typefaces. This machine was the first of the third generation of photocomposition systems, which were the first true digital systems. The typefaces were created on a CRT (cathode ray tube, a small television screen). This image was projected onto film or photosensitive paper using a set of lenses. The Digiset could image 1000 characters per second.

Digital Revolution

During the mid-1980s and early 90s, another revolution was under way. Using microprocessors, personal computers, Adobe's PostScript page-description language, and page-layout software such a Pagemaker and QuarkXPress, designers combined type and images into on-screen layouts. In these decades, the boundaries between activities of design studios, offices and the printing/typesetting trades began to blur as a result of simultaneous developments in several different areas.

The latter half of the 20th century witnesses affordable software lead to a new generation of type designers from outside 'the system'. The WYSIWYG displays appeared during this time and personal computers come down in price.


Initially, the resolution on computer display was lower than on output display, which caused difficulty in terms of typographic adjustments. This was adjusted by treating the fonts in two forms: Type for output was represented in outline form and could be scaled by PostScript printers to any resolution. On-screen type was represented in bitmap form, with a standard set of point sizes hand-built for optimal display.



The digital type revolution posed significant challenges for established type suppliers and created opportunities for new type houses completely focused on the development of digital types. Linotype and Monotype for example, launched programs to digitize their type libraries, while other companies such as Bitstream (1981) and Adobe Systems (established in 1984) built businesses with the new digital technology.

By the late 1980s, laser printer resolution increased and digital image setting produced type rivaling the quality of phototype. This combined with the rapid movements in design software, resulted in the wholesale conversion of the type industry to digital technology within a few short years.



Baines, Phil & Haslam, Andrew. Type & Typography. London. 2005
Clair, Kate & Busic-Snyder, Cynthia. A Typographic Workbook: A Primer to History, Techniques, and Artistry. 2005.
Hollis, Richard. Graphic Design: A Concise History. London. 1994.
Southhall, Richard. Printer's Type in the Twentieth Century. New Castle & London. 2005.