CREATIVE FUTURES: History Of Typography and Font Families

In this post I will be talking about the history of one of the most important aspects of design, Typography. Typography is one of the most important tools when it comes to Design, and In this post I will give a detailed description about how it has come to be over the years.


A short brief history of the “Pictograph” which was the first form of written language, using drawings to signify what they resemble. Pictographs were used all over the world by different tribes and cultures which date right back to 9000BC. Inspired by the pictograph, there where “logographic” such as the “Ideographic” which came about during 5000BC, which where drawings that would represent an event, concept, or idea. ideographic inspired the Egyptians to create the “Hyrogliphic”, the hieroglyphic was the first written language that would use drawings of objects to describe sound. We still use logographic in the modern-day for signs, because it is a lot quicker, using iconic images that every one understands, it allows us to communicate something across a lot faster.


During 1200bc the “Phoenicians” gained independence from the Egyptians, they went onto developing the first alphabet that consisted of letters, the “Proto-Canaanite Alphabet” which was derived from the Egyptian hieroglyphics, this style of alphabet is “Semitic”. Here is an image of the Proto-Canaanite Alphabet, I have taken from Wikipedia, this link also gives more information on the Phoenician Alphabet.

The Greeks caught onto the Proto-Canaanite Alphabet, and then went onto forming their own version, this is where the roots of the modern-day alphabet started to grow. The Greeks added 5 vowels to the alphabet, the only thing is this language had no real structure as of yet, there where no spaces, punctuation or even lower case letters.

After the Greeks had their input into the Alphabet, the next big Civilisation to catch onto the Proto-Canaanite, was the Romans the creators of the original “Serif” font. The Romans added some letters “A – B – E – Z – H – I – K – M – N – O – T – X – Y” taken from the “Etruscan Alphabet”, which is based upon the Greek Alphabet.  They then went onto re-constructing the letters “C – D – G – L – P – R – S – V”, and then re-used the letters that were taken out by the Greeks “F – Q”, and the reason the letter “Z” is located at the very end of the alphabet is because, the Romans wanted to discard it, but then realised it was indispensable. Because every script had to be written by hand, and the smaller the type the faster it could be written down, so over the years of writing down the letters we found that using smaller versions was a lot faster, but they where not exactly lower case yet, they where just smaller versions of upper case letters, they named this “Semi-Unical” case.

The Romans then went onto adding the letters “U – W” which where both based upon the letter “V” in the year 1000, followed shortly after the letter “J” which was based upon the letter “I”, and was added by the year 1500. Then came spacing between words which was added by the 11th Century, and then followed by punctuation which was developed by the 15th century, after the Chinese company “Han Chinese” developed the first printing press.

Charlemagne the king of Italy during 732, the man who invented the lower case, he named it “Caroline Miniscule”. It was the first lower case version of the alphabet, instead of using smaller versions of the capitals, he reformed them into smaller letters. After the Chinese invented the first printing press

Johannes Gutenberg – Movable Type Printing
(IMG taken from – ““)

johannes_gutenberg (1)
A German blacksmith who goes by the name of “Johannes Gutenberg”, was the first man to develop “Movable Type Printing”, instead of hand writing manuscripts and using “Wood Block Printing”. Gutenberg had created type pieces created from alloy, tin, and antimony. pieces that are still used today, this allowed for neater lettering, thus leading towards typography and fonts. Guttenberg was a true pioneer of modern-day typography.

During 1500, an Italian printer who goes by the name of “Aldus Manutius”, created the Italic type face one of the most popular type face’s in the modern-day, and also developed the semi colon, and the comma. Johannes Gutenberg and Aldus Manutius had great input into modern-day typography, they really have set their mark in the history for design. This is where the design aspect started to come into print, it was no longer just a form of communication it was now starting to become a work of art.


TYPOGRAPHY (Font Families)

Serif Type Face (Serifed Type Face)

The Serif, is a Roman typeface that was first discovered in the “Latin Alphabet”, the Serif is still one of the most popular type faces today. A Serif type face, is where at the end of a letter there is an extra stroke, the reason for the extra stroke is because, the Romans used to paint the type onto stone and the brush would flare at the end of a letter creating that extra stroke, and then a stone carver would follow the brush marks and catch that extra stoke at the end of a letter. Here is an image of original Roman stone carvings of serifs.

This Image is taken from –









In 1816 A British man who goes by the name of “William Calson” who developed a type face that did not include Serifs for printing, he named it the “Sans-Serif” Sans is a French word for without. The type face also included strokes that have even width, unlike the Serif which has thick and thin strokes. But really he just revived the type face from Latin, Greek, and Etruscan inscriptions. Here are the differences between the two.

This image is taken from –


There are three main types of Serif fonts used in the modern-day know as, “Old Style Serif”, “Modern Serif”, and “Slab Serif” here I will show you the different types of Serif.

(All images in the section are taken from

The Old Style Serif
The old style Serif is the type I explained first, the differentiation between the size of the stokes on the type face is the biggest tell-tale sine of an Old Style Serif as though it has been hand painted like the Romans used too. Also the Serifs at the end of the letters are slanted, here is an image of old an old style serif.

The Modern Serif (Modern Roman)
The Modern Serif also known as “Modern Roman” features closed square serifs at the end of each letter, and is distinguishable down to the vertical stress and strong contrast. This type face would not be used for a large piece of text, mainly down to the fact it would be hard to read if you where to minimise the body of the text, because of its bold features it would be quite hard to read.

The Slab Serif (Egyptian)

The Slab Serif also known as (Egyptian) features bold text similar to the Modern Serif. Both the vertical and the horizontal edges of these fonts are thick, and they also have horizontal serifs. Probably one of the most famous Slab Serif fonts in the font family would have to be “Clarendon”, this font is probably the best example of a Slab Serif. The Slab Serif is also easier to read in blocks of text, compared to the Modern Serif, you will find the Slab Serif being used in children’s books. The Slab Serif started out in the “Industrial Revolution”, the transition from hand production to machines.

Other Fonts…


 Gestual (Script)

Is a font that simulates the style and copy’s the varied strokes when handwriting. Script fonts are very recognisable but can be very hard to read. You would not use this font for a large amount of text either. Gestual fonts are also widely used today, for branding. Big names like Coca-cola, Super Dry both use Gestual fonts for there branding.

Here are some examples…

(Images taken from – “CokeSuper Dry“)










This font comes in all different shapes and sizes, like the gestural font you wouldn’t use this in large amounts of text. Decorative fonts are usually used for artistic purposes, like for the front cover of a child’s book, or for some form of application on a tablet, or a video game. Probably one of the biggest examples of the use of Decorative text would be, Cbeebies.

Here are some examples…

(Images taken from – “Cbeebies“)






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