Chilliwack, British Columbia

Kayla Adams - Project Manager at Very Good Creative Co
Kayla Adams December 20, 2017

From Gutenberg Print Press
to Responsive Web Design

Graphic Design, Web Design, and Brand Identity

In today’s digital landscape, people are more aware than ever of the way in which content is presented to them. Content is the backbone of commerce, and knowing how to place and organize it is key in effectively communicating your message. While often unconsidered, typography is crucial in characterizing and illustrating a deliberate feeling. To ignore the impact that typography has on our global visual culture, is to completely overlook an essential part in any presentation process.

In and of itself, typography is a medium of communication; it works to create harmony, and to establish an information hierarchy. In other words: typography is the visual component of any written word, and in order to determine which elements will work with which projects, it’s important to have some knowledge about what did and didn’t work throughout the course of the development of this art form.

Visualizing the complexity of typographical history.

Throughout history, typography has been influenced by technological advances, and culture shifts. Humans began recording written communication long before websites, magazines, and newspapers. It’s believed that throughout the process of advancing civilization by learning to convey complex concepts, the Sumerians developed the written word in 3500 BC. From there, the Egyptians began using images and symbols to represent the spoken word, and by 1000 BC Phoenicians had developed the very first alphabet (named for the first two Greek letters: alpha and beta). From there, the Romans began experimenting with things like capitalization, handwriting, and creating different styles of lettering.

“The importance of the book as an object perhaps reached its zenith in the Middle Ages, when illuminated manuscripts were examples of multimedia writing at its finest, in which all the elements functioned symbolically as well as aesthetically to define a verbal-visual meaning.”

-Bolter J.

In The Middle Ages, manuscripts became incredibly relevant. They were very expensive because of their difficulty to produce: they, of course, had to be hand written. Specialized occupations began to develop, and through this process evolved a wide new range of writing styles. Thus, the art of calligraphy was born.

The 15th century brought with it the birth of Johannes Gutenberg, and a turning point for both the contemporary world and modern typography. The invention of the printing press allowed for the use of moveable typefaces, creating a way for the common human to afford the written word. Throughout the process of designing the printing press, Gutenberg became the architect of the world’s very first typeface: blackletter.

Modern blackletter caligraphy by Ardit Sheholli

Soon, others began dabbling in the new art of experimenting with typeface. In 1470, Nicolas Jenson created Roman Type, which was more legible than Blackletter and became hugely popular. 1501 saw Aldus Manutius create the concept of italics in order to save money by fitting more words onto a page. William Caslon came up with what we now call “old style” type in 1734, demonstrating greater refinement characterized by contrast between thick and thin strokes and a generally sharper appearance.

The printing press allowed the focus of the Industrial Revolution to become communication to the masses. Signs, periodicals, and posters were born, and utilizing both bolder lettering and shading, became more and more eye-catching.

Today’s technology allows graphic designers a wide variety of tools to create an almost unlimited range of typographic styles, aided by the numerous typefaces now available online to utilize. Having knowledge of the history of typography is beneficial in determining how to proceed with each individual project, and allows the artist an understanding of what has worked in the past — and what hasn’t.

The refined hand-lettering work of Peter Steffen

Examples of those on the leading edge of typographic design are designers like Peter Steffen, who attacks each new project with fresh eyes. A background in the sport and street lifestyle industry is evident in the substance and style of his work.

Bridging the gap between flow and structure, Jonatan's typographic style illustrates the growth of modern design principles.

Hailing from Indonesia, Novia Jonatan is another typographist to keep an eye on when talking about the current developments in typography. Her ability to craft flowing scripts with unique flourishes pushes the art to both a graceful and energetic place.

Liaw makes lettering modern with a unique approach to colour.

Earning her a job at Nike, Jennet Liaw’s work is 2017 typography incarnate. Her designs are changing the way the world looks at and perceives brands like Uber, Fox, Sony Pictures, and even Apple. Edgy, dreamy, streamlined, her work is definitely something to keep an eye on in order to stay at the forefront of today’s typography.

New technology and fresh standards continue to put a new face on typography. As this unique craft continues to evolve, innovation, knowledge of the past, and a vision or the future, are all important tools in any designers kit.

Kayla Adams is a Project Manager at Very Good Creative Co., a design-driven marketing agency based in Chilliwack, BC. They are a growing team of creative problem-solvers who work with ambitious leaders, entrepreneurs, and businesses to create beautiful brand identities, websites, print materials, and more. Say hi at hello@verygoodcreative.co.

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