Who was Garamond, anyway? The history behind 5 classic typefaces

Fast Company | 3/23/2019 | Sean Adams
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Claude Garamond is credited with the first version of Garamond, designed c. 1532. There is dispute over the actual provenance, as some claim present-day Garamond is based on the work of Jean Jannon’s designs 60 years after Garamond’s forms. The evolution of the typeface was based more on economic issues than aesthetic: the thinner strokes and larger counters using less ink and drying faster during the printing process.

Garamond is a classic typeface that communicates authority and academia. Employed historically as a book typeface, Garamond reads as “literature” without appearing overly decorative. As a common typeface, Garamond is unobtrusive. It doesn’t call attention to itself, allowing the images or written content to be most prominent.

Century - Technologies - Ink - Formulas - Paper

By the late 18th century, printing technologies, new ink formulas, and better paper provided the ability to print more delicate forms. Giambattista Bodoni designed Bodoni as a more geometric form, with straighter lines and more extreme variations between thick and thin parts of the letters. The forms follow the tenets of rationalism, a movement popular in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Bodoni has the classical forms of an old style serif typeface, but the sharper edges and straight lines give a more modern and fresh impression. Bodoni was a favorite of Massimo Vignelli, who limited his typographic options. He stated, “Out of thousands of typefaces, all we need are a few basic ones, and trash the rest.”

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