Brief History of Typography

  • by Lois Nur Fathiarini
  • August 15, 2022
  • 3 minutes read


Typography can be explained as a visual language; it’s a sort of science in choosing and managing letters by arrange them in an allocated space to give certain feel or ambience, so it can help readers to conveniently reading a writing at its best. The art of typography, is a work or design by using letters as the main element.

Typography according by Roy Brewer (1971) has a rather wide area of work including page arrangement, page patterns and printed goods. In a simpler way, it includes choosing and arranging various things related with letters and lines arrangements (typeset), but not including illustrations and other non-letter elements on a printed page.

The history of typography

source: wordpress.com – Gabriel Chetchuti

The history of typography development starts from the use of pictograms. Pictograms early use were found in Norwegian Vikings and Sioux Indians. In Ancient Egypt, Hieratia was the letters used, or also well kniwn as Hieroglyph around 1300 BC. This form of typography is the root of Demotia form, which written using an early specific type of pen. Demotia letters develops and used to Crete until it reach Greece and then spread across Europe.

The peak of typography development is more or less happened around 8 BC in Rome, when they started to form their kingdom. Because Rome didn’t have their own typography system, they studied Etruria’s-local Italian on that era- typography system and perfected it into the famous Roman symbols and letters.

Typography has its development since it’s manual creation to the center of computerization process. Digitized era makes the use of typography is relatively easier and quick, with the so many letters of choice that we have today.

See also  5 Steps for Choosing Suitable Font for Your Design

Anatomy of Letters

source: Osman Assem

From its geometric shape, it divides into four major group:

  • Flat vertical line: E, F, I, H, L
  • Sloping vertical line: A, K, M, N, V, W, X, Y, Z
  • Curved vertical line: B, D, G, J, P, R, U
  • Curved line: C, O, Q, S

Typeface Classifications

In some of typography literatures typefaces can be classified to ease typeface identifications. According to general classifications and its daily use, and also based on the historical timeline and its functions, typefaces can be classified as below:

  • Blackletter / Old English / Textura, based on popular handwriting (script) in Middle Ages (around 17th century) in Germany (Gothic-style) and Ireland (Celtic-style).
  • Humanist / Venetian, based on Roman handwriting (script) in Italy. This style is very close to human natural handwriting.
  • Old Style, a serif typeface which has become a metal type once dominating printing industry for 200 years long.
  • Transitional, a serif typeface. Introduced around 1692 by Philip Grandjean and called ‘Roman du Roi’ of ‘King’s Typeface’, because it’s made by order from King Louis XIV.
  • Modern / Didone, a serif typeface, first seen in the end of 17th century, the start of a modern era.
source: Fonts.com
  • Slab serif / Egyptian, a serif typeface that showed up around 19th century. It’s called Egyptian because it resembles Ancient Egypt’s art and architecture style.
  • Geometric Sans-serif, its typeface is based on geometric forms such as rectangle and triangles.
  • Humanis Sans-serif, characterized by the presence of the hand and has a more organic structure.
  • Display / decorative, introduced around the start of 19th century, mostly used in posters and advertising. It has large font size.
  • Script and cursive, it resembles a human handwriting. While script has small size and connected, cursive is the opposite.
See also  Pick a Font, I Know You: The Importance of Font in Design


Hello! My name is Lois, I live in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. I am a tattoo artist and I also love sewing and making needleworks. I also do watercolor painting and illustrations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *