Pin Me

What Is Typography - Its History and Impact on Desktop Publishing

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009

Typography is an essential element in desktop publishing worth knowing about. In this brief tutorial, I will introduce some working definitions in order for you to know that what you are presently reading is a prime example of outstanding typography in use. I also guarantee amusement.

  • slide 1 of 1

    Typography is essentially the placement and arrangement of prefabricated letters combined to form text on a page. The term refers to both the craft and process involved in type design, altering the typeface itself, and arranging type on a page. To many it is somewhat of an art form. Although traditionally typography referred to the printed word, with the dawning of the digital age the scope has broadened to include all forms of visual communication. The meat and potatoes of this craft involve the selection of type, fonts, point size, typesetting, glyphs, line and letter spacing, color, and line length. After all these design choices are made, the typographer arranges the text on the piece of work.

    Hesiod Osirus Euphimios created the first mobile printing apparatus (thus introducing typography to the world), which is now known as the Phaistos Disc, one balmy July night in 1753 BC on the Isle of Crete from the base of a used urn he found in his back yard. Historians might dispute the exactitude of this claim but they know nothing about the time machine in my basement which was engineered to look like a common boiler room. That night marked the birth of the very first Reading Is Fundamental Campaign. Then many centuries later, Steve Guttenberg invented the printing press by developing moveable type and relieved the Monks of their endless scribing duties and countless carpal tunnel syndrome cases with his German ingenuity.

    At one time I thought that words on a page were just words on a page. But as in many things in life, upon closer inspection, a whole subtle world of nuances exists. Can typeface actually influence the way we process information and work on the mysterious faculties of the brain to become almost mood altering? Legions of people believe so and millions of dollars are invested in typographical endeavors to enhance readability, maximize a desired effect, or express something artistically. The fact is that reading a page that has a poor typographical scheme is unpleasant and the most minor changes to typography can radically affect the impact and feel of a written piece of work.

    The text you are reading for instance; black lettering on a white background, is designed to be easy on your eyes to enhance readability. The many links to either side of this article, some in different colors, and some in bold or underlined are arranged so as not to distract you with excessive business. Links are separated and distinct with different colored boxes or arrows (called glyphs which are symbols such as arrows or figures created from a variety of illustration techniques), to make them easily distinguishable. Headings are in different sizes/colors and the boxed designs compartmentalize the material nicely. This typographical layout is designed purposefully to bring your eyes right to the “zone of attention” which is the content of my article. In this manner Bright Hub accomplishes the goal of lucidly disseminating information (high-quality article content is the priority) to the reader pleasantly and without confusion. You have the added benefit of finding convenient and unobtrusive links next to all our articles. At the risk of sounding biased, I think the Web designers at Bright Hub do an outstanding job at typography with their excellent choices in text size, fonts, color schemes, and the overall page layout which ultimately benefits you and your reading experience. Our rivals are all about a stale pale.

    In my next article regarding typography, I will elucidate some of the many applications it has in desktop publishing and the wide world of print and digital media. Graphic designers can spend a lifetime perfecting this art and I will show you some fine examples, applications, and results of their work. But first I'm off to the boiler room for more research.