Typeface and fonts are the visual presentation of language. These fonts imply different meanings to the language that is used. For example, Times New Roman is a standard for academic writing. Cambria is used often for blogs and journal writing. Technical writing is usually presented in the font that this paper employs, Calibri. The sizing is also standardized; usually 12-pt font is the academic standard. These standard evolved from the advances that technology has accomplished, and as a result, typography has added an element of visual interpretation to language that did not exist prior to our digital age. Prior to the new digital age, a handwritten note could impart meaning through the use of all capital letters and exclamation points in order to relay excitement, or a love letter might be composed in the neatest of cursive; or conversely, a scrawled messy handwritten note might imply that the author was upset.
With digital typeface, these nuances are lost; however, the nuances are recreated with typeface and font styles. A good question is how this typeface technology has advanced and who it is that has developed and created these typefaces, essentially our new language of expression. The future of typeface is broadened now that most written words never need to be physically written down, i.e. printed on paper. The computer screen is the new paper, and typeface is no longer restricted by printing capabilities. The fonts of the future are rooted in the past, but future fonts depart from historical typeface. In this manner, a new history of typeface, the non-printed version, is being developed during our time. The future of digital font is just now taking off, and the generations before have paved the path to understand historical font and create new, modern fonts.
Prior to printing on paper, there is a history of cave paintings. Paleolithic cave paintings, Lascaux, were an example of graphic design’s progress in the most rudimentary form. However, the cave paintings were a form of font. In 2000 BC, the Sumerians developed Ideographs, creating a symbolic system known as Cuneiform. Hieroglyphics followed in Egypt. However, in Egypt the papyrus plant developed into paper. This is the first printing. Shortly after, the Ancient Greeks developed the Phoenician language, and the Romans began perfecting the writing of these letters, known as serifs. Therefore, Roman Serifs are the first example of font and expression. Jump forward to modern times and consider the exponential growth from hieroglyph to digital printing. Although the difference is night and day, the ultimate purpose is a shared means of expression. Fonts are the character of the written word; fonts impart meaning and value.
Adobe broke out of the literal block grid that held back the ability to make typeface that exceeded the contours of a square. But, this break out was predated by the development of PostScript: The founding partners, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, left Xerox in the early 1980s to market the computer language (Interpress) they had helped to develop for that company. This new language, PostScript, was licensed by Adobe to manufacturers of laser printers, notably Apple.�(Kinross). These laser printers were at first just making better versions of grid-locked typeface. However, the implications of the laser printer were yet to be fully comprehended.
Adobe was founded in 1983, in Mountain View, Ca., and two principle designers are responsible for recreating all fonts that have been used in historical writings. These two designers are Carol Twombly and Robert Slimbach, (Kinross). The newest Adobe font is Source Sans, a departure from the developments of Twombly and Slimbach. Source Sans has been adopted as the official font of Stanford University, and it has been developed specifically for web interface: Open source, at its core, means access. For this reason, Source Sans is more than a mere typeface. It痴 a platform for development, expansion, and education.�(Ruger). Implications of these developments are that for future font interfaces, the language of visual interpretation is exponentially growing.
The two founding fathers of Bitstream are Matthew Carter and Mike Parker. Although they founded Bitstream two years prior to Adobe, in 1981, Adobe took off much faster than Bitstream. Both Carter and Parker are responsible for having developed and created the Bitstream Charter typeface. This typeface challenged the Stone typeface family developed by Sumner Stone at Adobe, (Kinross). Both of these designs were released in 1987, and were a premier non-historical typeface. The new Charter font was designed to take into account the ability of printers. These fonts are sympathetic to the printer’s ability to produce low or higher resolution images. The ability of the laser printer to exceed the grid blocks of the first printers is how the typeface developers were freed to pursue new avenues of typeface that were not historical in any sense. However, certainly these “new” typefaces are historical; they are the first typefaces that are not based upon printing ability. Because older typefaces relate to the reader an archaic meaning, newer typefaces escape this rut and as such, illuminate new interest in the written word.
Both Adobe and Bitstream are the main contributors to understanding the analog printing of the past, and the developments of the typefaces of the future, those that are not tied to any analog need to physically print the written word. The manner that typeface has developed has been related directly to the advancements of the printer: “Over centuries of human development, type evolved, and hundreds of different typefaces were produced and used by printers, with distinctive aesthetic styles emerging from different places and philosophies. Some of these changes were influenced by larger cultural movements, such as romanticism and modernism.” (Wang 3). Most of the changes were dictated by the ability to actually print different typefaces. With the modern preferred method of reading online periodicals, journals, and news, the printer is becoming an accessory to, rather than the dictator of, typeface.
Kinross, Robin. “The Digital Wave”. Eye, 7:2, 1992. Web 18 May 2016.
Rugen, Chris. “Source Sans”. Typographica, Eds. Coles, Stephen, and Karen Litherland, 13 March 2013. Web 18 May 2016.
Wang, Tim. “Fonts and Fluency: The Effects of Typeface Familiarity, Appropriateness, and Personality on Reader Judgments”. University of Canterbury Thesis, 2012. Web 18 May 2016.