The Prints and the Pauper


In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg entered into an agreement with one Johann Fust, a Mainzer goldsmith and guildsman, to borrow a staggering 800 Rheingulden at 6 percent interest. Gutenberg’s sales pitch must have been convincing, for Fust would later testify that he himself had borrowed money in order to fund the loan. Gutenberg sank the money into his workshop and promptly defaulted upon the interest payments. Fust must have been incandescent in his rage, and yet, two years later, as recorded in the inevitable court judgment, he would go on to lend Gutenberg another 800 Rheingulden on the condition that Gutenberg take on Fust’s adopted son, Peter Schöffer, as his foreman. Gutenberg assented, Schöffer was hired, and Fust paid out the second loan.

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Making Fonts: Proza Libre


When I started the development of Proza, I didn’t want to deal with the limitations of a low-resolution rasterizer. As a result, Proza is completely stuffed with diagonal and curved lines, and tiny details that help to bring the texture alive in print, but that are something of a nightmare for a low-resolution rasterizer. As soon as Proza was done, however, I felt the need to make a version that would work well on digital screens, so I simply converted it to a web font, and made my own web test page to see how it would look. It looked as terrible as I expected, so I opened up the font and began editing; hesitantly at first, trying to keep as much of its character alive as possible, but more vigorously with every update. By the time I was done, only the skeleton of Proza remained. The result, Proza Libre, is released on Google Fonts, freely available to use for anybody under an open source license.

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Making Grifo


Grifo, the Portuguese word for griffin, a mythical creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. We can imagine how threatening this creature might appear, and would probably want to stay well clear of its sharp claws and beak. Grifo the typeface also has sharp serifs and terminals. It’s full of talon shapes, like the c, e, the bottom curve of the t, and, most obviously, in the commas and quotes. The name of such a hybrid creature like the griffin felt appropriate for a typeface that is itself a hybrid, both in terms of its letterforms and function. Grifo’s design draws on the rationality and extreme high stroke contrast of the neoclassic types, but has bracketed serifs and sharp triangular terminals, instead of ball terminals. Some serifs in the lowercase letters were removed, therefore a, d, and u are a mix of sans serif and serif forms. Moreover, because Grifo comprises different optical sizes, its suitable for both display and text settings.

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The First Roman Fonts


The Renaissance affected change in every sphere of life, but perhaps one of its most enduring legacies are the letterforms it bequeathed to us. But their heritage reaches far beyond the Italian Renaissance to antiquity. In ancient Rome, the Republican and Imperial capitals were joined by rustic capitals, square capitals (Imperial Roman capitals written with a brush), uncials, and half-uncials, in addition to a more rapidly penned cursive for everyday use. From those uncial and half-uncial forms evolved a new formal book-hand practiced in France, that spread rapidly throughout medieval Europe.

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New Lands in Arabic Type

Image 8

Greta Arabic is the counterpart of the Greta Sans type system. This text is a reflection on the journey of creating and developing the first Arabic type system of this scale.

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Brim Narrow – making a chromatic typeface


Brim Narrow is a chromatic typeface. It has eight type styles, designed to stack together. Combining particular styles and assigning each a color produces a huge variety of visual effects.

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The First Title-Pages


The book in its present form is a product of evolution, serendipity, and design. Its size and proportions accommodations to the human form: the length of our arms; the type size a concession to our visual acuity. Ostensibly, the form of the book has changed little in the past 500 years. The very first printed or typographic books resembled their manuscript forebears, but as printing spread rapidly throughout Europe in the fifteenth century, the printed book took on its own, unique characteristics. Page numbers, running heads, indices, colophons, printing in color – some unknown to manuscript book production – soon became commonplace.

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Universal Grotesk


Universal Grotesk

I remember looking at this book cover every evening before falling asleep. I was perhaps 13 or 14, and I didn’t really know who Franz Kafka was, but this book with the weird ‘f’ on the spine caught my attention.

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Designing Vinter


The process of drawing Vinter fonts began almost six years ago. The initial spark originated from one of the many magazines I regularly purchase for inspiration in my work as a graphic designer. Its headlines were set in an extremely thin sans serif, employing the thick–thin contrast commonly found in antiqua designs.

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This Month in Typography


Welcome to this month’s roundup of type-related information and entertainment. Today, we go to a galaxy far, far away, take a typographic tour down Broadway, see what it takes to create a Chinese font, wax nostalgic about punctuation that never caught on, find the world’s most expensive-looking font, greet the public preview of FontLab VI, wonder if graffiti is fun or dumb, discover an amazing paper archive, learn about signcrafting and stone carving, ponder what’s next for magazines, see the beauty of quantum blackboard scribbles, learn about all sorts of different space characters, tour the secret libraries of London, and much more!

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Pure Gold


Both the Roman, Pliny (ca. 61–113) and the Greek historian, Herodotus (ca. 484–425 BC), mention gilding; the latter writing that the Egyptians gilded wood and metal. It has been used in decorating ceramics, in art, and at least from the fifth century in the production of illuminated manuscripts, reaching its peak in the especially exquisite illuminated Books of Hours produced from the thirteenth century.

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The First Illustrated Books


The early history of illustrated printed books is also the history of woodcut. Woodcut illustrations long predate the mid-fifteenth-century introduction of movable type to Germany. They were used extensively in the printing of textiles many hundreds of years before in Europe and the Far East. Designs were cut in relief in wood, inked, then stamped onto fabric by hand. Woodcuts were also used in the production of playing cards, most notably in Augsburg. Prior to Gutenberg, woodcut or xylographic books, including Ars Moriendi and the Cologne Chronicle, – where entire pages of text and illustration were carved in relief – have survived in relatively large numbers.*

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Incunabula letterpress typographic firsts