Typographic design is a complex area of human activity, requiring a broad background for informed practice. This chapter explores the basic language of typography. Letterforms, the fundamental components of all typographic communications, are carefully examined. Nomenclature, measurement, and the nature of typographic font and family are presented.
The alphabet is a series of elemental visual signs in a fixed sequence, representing spoken sounds. Each letter signifies only one thing: its elementary sound or name. The twenty-six characters of our alphabet can be combined into thousands of words, creating a visual record of the spoken language. This is the magic of writing and typography, which have been called “thoughts-made-visible” and “frozen sounds.”
The four timelines in chapter one graphically present the evolution of letterforms and typographic design from the beginning of writing to the present. Our contemporary typographic forms have been forged by this historical evolution. Typography evolved from handwriting, which is created by making a series of marks by hand; therefore, the fundamental element constructing a letterform is the linear stroke. Each letter of our alphabet developed as a simple mark whose visual characteristics clearly separated it from all the others.
The marking properties of brush, reed pen, and stone engraver's chisel influenced the early form of the alphabet (Fig. 1). The reed pen, used in ancient Rome ...