Sunday, 9 January 2011

Contextual Studies: Looking at Type (Part 1)

In this lesson of contextual studies we looked at the importance of Moving Type within media, this includes text, film and interactive media such as video games. In the first part of the lesson we looked at the history of Moving Type and how it's developed over centuries.

Movable type was first established in the fifteenth-century by Johannes Gutenberg (pictured right) in Germany. Gutenberg modernised the way in which books were published by creating the world's first printing press in which individual letters are cast in metal and placed in order on the press to be printed upon the paper. The letters were formed on blocks of metal known as "The Shank" and the letter itself extruded out from the block, this was known as "The Face". The typography that Gutenberg first used for his printing press was very reminiscent of the font known as "Blackletter". The "Blackletter" font was most commonly used by calligraphers when it came to writing out copies of the bible before Gutenberg's press was invented.

As printing as a medium developed so did the concepts behind it, a common aspect that saw much development through the years was the method of storage of the letters. Over time individual compartments in boxes that held the letters changed sized, eventually leading to letters that would be used more often such as 'e' and 's' recieved more space in the storage box, looking something similar to the picture on the left (not the different sized compartments).

The next development in the story of the printing press is in 1457 when Johann Fust and Peter Shoffer joined the metal plates with wood cut ones and created two-colour prints, so for example every letter at the start of a new sentence is red. This new variation of type first appeared in "The Mainz Psalter" but it wasn't just the use of more than one colour that made this book so special, at the end of a book was the world's first Colophon, a page that contained information about the book's production and the Publisher's name.

Over the years various new types were formed, a popular method was joining different qualities from different fonts to create a new one such as a font created by Nicolas Jenson in the late fifteenth century in which he combined original Gothic calligraphy with human like handwriting to create a new type. In the early sixteenth century, publisher Aldus Manutius started using italics and cursive fonts, this allowed for more words to fit on a page making printing more economic.

In the following centuries type changed and evolved to suit it's different requirements ranging from use in art to early advertisements. Type has taken many changes, even today new fonts are still being created, it should be noted that the Bauhaus movement created many fonts that are used today.

Next I'll be looking at the way that type has been used on moving media and how sound and moving picture has made type even more dynamic.

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