Historical Type

When looking through the ‘Megg’s History of Graphic Design’ for History class I came across these images from the 19th Century.

typeinspiration1 typeinspiration2

Usually, I wouldn’t like this kind of type, and I wouldn’t think it as ‘good’, but being in a textbook maybe validated it as good in my mind? I don’t think I’d use this kind of type in any of my works either, I prefer cleaner more minimal looks, but looking at them as they are, I really liked them.

Why? Well what caught my eye was their look of something out of an antique shop. Vintage like  type. Something like 3D text that looks horrible as WordArt here looks like something that would be used in an old/classic Disney movie. Or an old movie poster. The reason this is appealing I could say is nostalgia. But then again this kind of type was never around in my childhood. I like it because of the ‘coolness’ I (and I’m sure many others) associate with antique or old things. Things before my time.

The book explained that these were types created by foundries and how Victorians seemed to love complex designs. They were the ones that considered sans-serifs to be grotesque…
Anyway, In the first image (1835), apart from making the letters look beautiful, I don’t see any other meaning/concept being conveyed through the design of the type.

The second one, however (1867 – not as old) seems to try matching the type design with the meaning of the word. ‘Growing Plants’ has curly serifs, like vines. ‘Flag of Truce’ looks very official (the only san serif in the list) and clean–no patterns or shades. The same way, ‘snakes’ has a bit of the texture and gradation of a snake’s skin and ‘comic tricks’ looks playful (or like it’s attempting to be an optical trick). The fact that such designs aren’t as common in the mainstream world today is probably what appealed to me the most. They’re quirky.


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