• Olly Jordan

Chapter 43 - Once Upon a Dream - Typography Through Time


' “Illustrious” Origins Writing is one of the most fundamental forms of communication, and it traces its roots back to hieroglyphs or pictograms. Used by ancient civilizations of the world to represent ideas, these images soon evolved into alphabets and phonographic writing, which led to the development of various typographic systems. Typography has an “illustrious” history and is obviously a crucial aspect of graphic design. Sure enough, typeface designers need to have a thorough understanding of typography—especially its evolution over the centuries—in order to incorporate or revive older or even extinct typefaces, depending upon their requirements, and give the letters a modern touch. Let’s go through the evolution of typography briefly to gain a bit of insight. We will not delve fully into the rich history of typography (as it can go on endlessly) but cover some essentials that changed the course of typography.

Ancient Era – Saying it with Pictures Ancient cave paintings that date back to 20,000 B.C. are perhaps the very first recorded written communication. However, formal writing is said to have been developed by the Sumerians at around 3,500 B.C. As civilizations advanced, the need to communicate complex concepts grew—hence the development of Egyptian hieroglyphics. By 3100 B.C., the Egyptians began incorporating symbols or ideograms into their art, architecture and writings. Also, by 1600 B.C. Phoenicians developed phonograms, or symbols used to represent spoken words. At present, we have a number of phonograms laced in the English alphabet such as% to represent “percentage” and # to represent “number” and so on and so forth. It is Phoenicians who are credited with creating the very first alphabet and around 1000 B.C.—the same alphabet was used by the Greeks. In fact, the word Alphabet is a combination of the first two Greek letters, Alpha and Beta. The Romans, after several years, used this Greek Alphabet and on the basis of the same, styled the Uppercase Alphabet, which is still used today. They also refined the art of handwriting and fashioned a number of different styles of lettering. Additionally, they also introduced different scripts – formal and informal for official and unofficial writings respectively.

The Middle Ages – Handwritten and Well-Illustrated Manuscripts The Middle Ages were all about hand-written and well-illustrated manuscripts. It led to the evolution of a wide range of writing styles. Unicals and half unicals were prominent features, with rounded, elaborate lettering. The art of Calligraphy along with page layout and lettering forged new ground. Calligraphy masters travelled across the known world to share their knowledge with the educated elite.

The Book of Kells, c. AD 800, is lettered in a script known as “insular majuscule,” a variety of uncial script that originated in Ireland. (Image source)

Gutenberg and Modern Typography As we all learned in history class, the development of moveable type and the printing press in the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg was a turning point for the modern world—and, of course, modern typography. During this time, both practical and decorative typefaces appeared en masse, along with a lighter, more ordered page layout with subtle illustrations. By the Industrial Revolution typography was all about communicating with the masses. Through signs, posters, newspapers, periodicals and advertisements, typefaces became larger and catchier, with bolder lettering and shading—as well as experimental serif and sans serif typefaces. Ornamental typography was another major highlight in this era. In the 1800’s, medieval art and hand crafted individual art has become commonplace, and international artistic styles developed considerably.

Shifting to the Present Graphic designers these days have the luxury of endless tools and technology to create a wide range of typographic styles and even entire families of font families and typefaces. Armed with the knowledge of typographic history, graphic designers can expand their horizons and enhance their skills to produce a much more refined body of work. Understanding the various visual communication principles in typography since the beginning of time can help designers determine which elements have more or less remained the same and which ones have evolved with time—as well as the factors that contributed to their success or failure.

From ancient typographic styles to classic movable type, the history of typography can help designers develop a more informed and cohesive style that builds on the past. There is so much to learn from the past, and so much inspiration to be discovered. History also allows designers to learn from the past mistakes, understand common threads, reinvent classic letterforms and develop innovative typographic styles, which they can proudly add to an existing portfolio or body of work.

In Conclusion The practically-endless body of work that represents typography makes it impossible for graphic designers nowadays to become familiar with each and every typeface design that exists. However, it is important that to be well-versed in typographic styles, iconic typefaces from the past, and the origins of common typefaces. It’s not just about theoretical knowledge, either; a strong foundational understanding of typographic history helps designers understand and meet the needs of their clients more effectively.' http://www.printmag.com/typography/evolution-typography-history/

It is obviously important to know when why and how typography has evolved over time and the process in which that are undertaken to do so. I think that following in the style that Disney created their typography for the title sequence of Sleeping Beauty would be good because that not only captures the exact feeling of the time, but it is obviously a clear link to the film before you even know what the book is about.


As a way of emphasising that this is a slightly darker twist on the film however, I think it would be good to maybe have a worn out look or with imperfections to the font like splats or spillages of ink to help resemble how the world and the story is not perfect or as it should be. This kind of detail is the most important for me to design and get right for the front cover as well as the spine of the book because that is essentially the logo and branding of the book. The blurb on the back should complement the main typography, but remembering the size of the actual book at all times, so legibility will be key when creating my own font.

Typography Inspiration for my project

These are some initial images that I found for inspiration of how I wanted my logo to look for the book cover. What I liked is the way that some of the letters were made imperfect with the use of water so this was something that I wanted to explore when creating my own lettering.


Typography Experiments

Here are some experiments using a calligraphy pen. I am not really experienced with using pen and ink in this way, so it was important to get a little bit of practise in before designing the logo, especially when my handwriting is naturally awful anyway.

Within my sketchbook I have done some experimentation with calligraphy to help myself to become familiar with this kind of medieval typeface. I have also experimented with potential logo designs for the title of the book, this page helps to show my different directions I have been thinking about, the top and bottom designs both show a very medieval flowing design, whereas the middle design shows an abstracted splatty design. The swirly typography at the top and bottom is very medieval inspired with the decorative elements but also inspired by Sleeping Beauty with the scary tree/vines and rose/tiara icons. This could work nicely, but I think on the cover of a small book, the title would look too complex and potentially hard to read.

The design in the middle shows what looks like normal medieval calligraphy, but it has been abstracted and altered with ink splats. This distortion of expectation is very inspired by the theme of the book with Aurora believing that she is in reality when in fact she is trapped in a cursed dream. The typography reflects Aurora’s feelings within the narrative because her reality is not as it truly is.

Logo Designing

Following on with the idea of abstracting the text for the title, I created a couple of different versions of the title and splatted each of the designs to mess it up a bit. Some of the titles are more messy and illegible than others, but I decided to pick the good looking letters from each version to make just one version of the title as you can see in my development below.

From the second row onwards, you can see my new use of the my hand rendered splatty typography. This does work nicely and the abstraction is not too distracting or cause the letters to become illegible. The reason why the font is sometimes in yellow is because I am considering gold foiling the title. Finishing processes of the book is something I will also have to think about, so it makes sense to consider them now in the design process, I think that gold foiling will work nicely on with the green and mark making background as it will add a new layer to the book cover.

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