Short stories behind your favourite classic fonts

Guest Post by Julie Brown-Hallman

Once upon a time there was a beautiful serif font

 that became one of the most famous fonts in the land. Designed by Claude Garamond, born in 1530, the little font was used in many books and put forth a new generation of fonts including, Sabon.

Everyone knows the classic fonts, and usually has a favourite. But we don’t usually know the history or stories behind them. Did you know there’s “Five Families of Type”? (Garamond, Baskerville, Bodoni, Century Expanded and Helvetica). I found this great blog by Chris Spooner offering little tidbits about some of those classic – as well as modern – fonts.

Helvetica – designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann.

Bodoni – Giambattista Bodoni named his font after himself in 1798.

Clarendon – described as a “fat slab serif” (how dare you?!), designed by Robert Besley in 1845.

Futura – popular for logos, was created in the Jazz Age by Paul Renner.

News Gothic – Morris Fuller Benton designed this in 1908 and 69 years later, it was used in the Star Wars opening credits.

Gill Sans – famous for use in the London Underground signage, created by Eric Gill in 1926.

Meta – a modern classic designed in 1986 by Erik Spiekermann.

Mrs Eaves – a new design that looks classic, designed by Zuzana Licko in 1996.

Myriad – created for Adobe by Robert Slimback and Carol Twombly and very popular about 15 years ago. A modern classic.

Every designer has a favourite font, and currently mine is Gotham. I love this sans serif because of its beautifully round lines. Designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in 2000, its inspiration comes from lettering found on older New York City buildings, particularly the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It has a geometric, architectural structure reminiscent of fonts created in the 20s and 30s (see Futura above). It’s noted for its use in the 2008 Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign.

The little font, satisfied with its legacy, lived happily ever after.

The End.

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