Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The power of type

For many years, yours truly was a graphic designer creating annual reports and corporate collateral with emphasis on clean design and the proper use of appropriate fonts as type conveys many meanings due to how a specific typeface is developed. Years ago, I took a course with Ed Bengeat, a true giant of typeface design whereby we learned about color, spacing and the notion of intuition in designing fonts that work, a task requiring skill, talent and perseverance, something Ed had to the nth degree. With this being said, Sean Abrams has created a masterwork detailing the history of type with emphasis given to the 5 classics, along with significant others, every designer of note should know about without question.

William Caslon designed Caslon c. 1725, basing the typeface on 17th-century Dutch type drawings. Caslon is a further evolution of Bembo, with letterforms aligned less with handmade calligraphic forms. The strokes have even contrast between the thick and thin weights and simpler curves.

Throughout the 18th century, Caslon was the dominant typeface for text and book publishing. The first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence was typeset in Caslon. The typeface fell out of favor during the 19th century but became the “go-to” typeface for much of the 20th century. A maxim from mid-century art directors expresses its popularity: “You can’t go wrong with Caslon.”

Sean Abrams' The Designers Dictionary of Type is a must-have for designers of all stripes. :)

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