What is Typography?

Typography (Greek: typos “form”, graphein “to write”) is:

the art and technique of setting written subject matter in type and arranging that type in physical or digital form to make written language most appealing to learning and recognition.

Many books on typography take a narrow Western perspective looking, apart from an overview of development of alphabets (See History of the Alphabet). In this project I focus on these Western traditions. But other cultures have a rich traditions of calligraphy with vibrant contemporary innovations, including printed typography. I begin to look at these in Assignment 4 (See Islamic Calligraphy ) and this is an important area where I would like to research in future, building on my academic study of linguistics and Asian languages and my interest in Japanese and Chinese traditions.


Type: the name of the individual metal letters used in letterpress printing.

Font: characters in a given typeface – all the uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation, numbers and symbols in different point sizes.

Typeface: group of fonts of related design eg italic, bold, upper case, lower case etc.

Typography: design and use of typefaces.

Typesetting: act of using type to create words, sentences, lines of text.

Typeface Design: Typeface design is sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers.


Research: Western Typeface classification

Research: History of Type Design

Project 3.1 : Type Samples Sketchbook


Typography has a ‘specific purpose of so arranging letters, distributing the space and controlling the type as to aid to the maximum the reader’s comprehension of the text. (Stanley Morrison 1928)

Typography is performed by typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, clerical workers, and everyone else who arranges type for a product. In modern times, typography has been put in film, television and on-line broadcasts to add emotion to communication. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of visual designers and lay users.

The arrangement of type involves consideration of:


Research: The language of type: Typography principles pdf 

Research: Modernist typography

Typographers: Joseph Muller Brockman, Jan Tschichold, Massimo Vignelli, El Lissitsky, 

Research: Experimental typography

Experimental typography 

Typographic Art

Typographers: Emigre Magazine, Robert Massin, Kurt Schwitters, Dada,  Concrete poetry, Filippo Marinetti, Wolfgang Weingart, Neville Brody, David Carson

Exercise: Experimental typography: 20,000 Leagues

See also Typography Resources 

International Swiss Style


Experimental Jetset Lars Muller Norm

Wim Crouwel


edited from Wikipedia International Topographic Style

The International Typographic Style, also known as the Swiss Style, is a graphic design style that emerged in Russia, the Netherlands and Germany in the 1920s and developed by designers in Switzerland during the 1950s. The International Typographic Style has had profound influence on graphic design as a part of the modernist movement, impacting many design-related fields including architecture and art.

It emphasizes cleanliness, readability and objectivity. Hallmarks of the style are asymmetric layouts, use of a grid, sans-serif typefaces like Akzidenz Grotesk, and flush left, ragged right text. The style is also associated with a preference for photography in place of illustrations or drawings. Many of the early International Typographic Style works featured typography as a primary design element in addition to its use in text, and it is for this that the style is named. The influences of this graphic movement can still be seen in design strategy and theory to this day.


The style emerged from a desire to represent information without the influence of associated meaning; i.e.)objective information. In the year of 1896 the Akzidenz Grotesk Typeface was released by H. Berthold AG type foundry as an attempt to capture an objective style, and from this point the International Typographic style evolved as a modernist graphic movement that sought to clearly convey messages in a universally straightforward manner.

Two major Swiss design schools are responsible for the early years of International Typographic Style. A graphic design technique based on grid-work that began in the 19th century became inspiration for modifying the foundational course at the School of Design in 1908. Shortly thereafter, in 1918 Ernst Keller became a professor at the Zurich School of the Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) and began developing a graphic design and typography course. He did not teach a specific style to his students, rather he taught a philosophy of style that dictated “the solution to the design problem should emerge from its content.”This idea of the solution to the design emerging from the problem itself was a reaction to previous artistic processes focused on “beauty for the sake of beauty” or “the creation of beauty as a purpose in and of itself”. Keller’s work uses simple geometric forms, vibrant colors and evocative imagery to further elucidate the meaning behind each design. Other early pioneers include Théo Ballmer and Max Bill.

The 1950s saw the distillation of International Typographic Style elements into sans-serif font families such as Univers. Univers paved the way for Max Miedinger and collaborator Edouard Hoffman to design the typeface Neue Haas Grotesk, which would be later renamed Helvetica. The goal with Helvetica was to create a pure typeface that could be applied to longer texts and that was highly readable. The movement began to coalesce after a periodical publication began in 1959 titled New Graphic Design, which was edited by several influential designers who played major roles in the development of International Typographic Style. The format of the journal represented many of the important elements of the style—visually demonstrating the content—and was published internationally, thus spreading the movement beyond Switzerland’s borders. One of the editors, Josef Müller-Brockmann, “sought an absolute and universal form of graphic expression through objective and impersonal presentation, communicating to the audience without the interference of the designer’s subjective feelings or propagandist techniques of persuasion.” Many of Müller-Brockmann’s feature large photographs as objective symbols meant to convey his ideas in particularly clear and powerful ways.

After World War II international trade began to increase and relations between countries grew steadily stronger. Typography and design were crucial to helping these relationships progress—clarity, objectivity, region-less glyphs, and symbols are essential to communication between international partners. International Typographic Style found its niche in this communicative climate and expanded further beyond Switzerland, to America.

One of the first American designers to integrate Swiss design with his own was Rudolph de Harak. The influence of International Typographic Style on deHarak’s own works can be seen in his many book jacket designs for McGraw-Hill publishers in the 1960s. Each jacket shows the book title and author, often aligned with a grid—flush left, ragged-right. One striking image covers most of the jacket, elucidating the theme of the particular book. International Typographic Style was embraced by corporations and institutions in America from the 1960s on, for almost two decades. One institution particularly devoted to the style was MIT.

Associated movements

During 1900s other design based movements were formulating, influencing and influenced by the International Typographic movement. These movements emerged within the relationships between artistic fields including architecture, literature, graphic design, painting, sculpting etc.

De Stijl was a Dutch artistic movement that saw prominence in the period between 1917-1930. Referred to as neoplasticism, this artistic strategy sought to reflect a new Utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. It was a form of pure abstraction through reduction to the essentials of form and colour, employing vertical and horizontal layouts using only black and white and primary colors. Proponents of this movement included painters like Piet Mondrian, Vilmes Huszar and Bart van der Hoff as well as architects like Gerrit Rietveld, Robert van’t Hoff and J.J.P. Oud.

Bauhaus was a German-based movement that emphasized purity of geometry, absence of ornamentation and the motto ‘form follows function’. This was a school of thought that combined craftsmaking with the fine arts and was founded by Walter Gropius. The goal was to work towards the essence of the form follows function relationship to facilitate a style that could be applied to all design problems; the International Style.

Constructivism was an art/architectural philosophy that emerged from Russia in 1920s. The style develops by assorted mechanical objects that are combined into abstract mobile structural forms. Hallmarks of the movement include geometric reduction, photo-montage and simplified palettes.

Suprematism, which arose in 1913, is another Russian art movement similarly focused on the simplification and purity of geometric forms to speak to values of spirituality.

All of these movements including the International Typographic styles are defined by reductionist purity as a visually compelling strategy of conveying messages through geometric and colour-based hierarchies.


James Goggin

Practice website    archive

It’s Nice That

James Goggin is a Chicago-based British and/or Australian art director and graphic designer from London via Sydney, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Auckland, and Arnhem. Together with partner Shan James, he runs a design practice named Practise working with clients across Europe, Asia, Australasia, and North America. James has taught at design schools in Europe, Australasia, and the United States, including Werkplaats Typografie, Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), and at Rhode Island School of Design, where he is currently a visiting thesis critic. He frequently gives lectures and runs workshops around the world, and occasionally writes about art and design practice. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Design Archive, and he has been a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale since 2010.

Mass Contacts Dialogues

Typography in Photoshop

Photoshop does not have so much flexibility in terms of vector type controls. But is better for projects aiming for artistic integration of type into images – for example Jabberwocky.

Video tutorials

Really good rapid overview of all type options in Photoshop  (in Hindi but I understand Hindi).

Type on a path

Good on the basic controls and keyboard shortcuts and exactly where to cllick when to make this process less frustrating. And stop things springing and disappearing.

Warp tool distorts text. On a path does not.

Keyboard: T, P, A and ShiftA. Kerning put cursor between letters and Alt left and right arrows.

Text Effects

Uses a more painterly approach and brushes for effects on the text.

Text art

uses patterns and actions.

Actions and Type Patterns series

History of the Alphabet

Source edited from: Wikipedia History of the Alphabet

Most or nearly all alphabetic scripts used throughout the world today ultimately go back to the proto-alphabet consonantal writing system used for Semitic languages in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. Mainly through Phoenician and Aramaic, two closely related members of the Semitic family of scripts used during the early first millennium BCE, the Semitic alphabet became the ancestor of multiple writing systems across the Middle East, Europe, northern Africa and South Asia.

Some modern authors distinguish between:

  • consonantal scripts of the Semitic type, called “abjads“, where each symbol usually stands for a consonant.
  •  “true alphabets” consistently assign letters to both consonants and vowels on an equal basis.

In this sense, the first true alphabet was the Greek alphabet, which was adapted from the Phoenician. Latin, the most widely used alphabet today, in turn derives from Greek (by way of Cumae and the Etruscans).

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Hieroglyphs were employed in three ways in Ancient Egyptian texts: as logograms (ideograms) that represent a word denoting an object pictorially depicted by the hieroglyph; more commonly as phonograms writing a sound or sequence of sounds; and as determinatives (which provide clues to meaning without directly writing sounds). Since vowels were mostly unwritten, the hieroglyphs which indicated a single consonant could have been used as a consonantal alphabet (or “abjad”). This was not done when writing the Egyptian language, but seems to have been significant influence on the creation of the first alphabet (used to write a Semitic language).

Mesopotamian cuneiform


Developed in Ancient Egypt to represent the language of Semitic-speaking workers in Egypt. This script was partly influenced by the older Egyptian hieratic, a cursive script related to Egyptian hieroglyphs. It has yet to be fully deciphered. However, it may be alphabetic and probably records the Canaanite language. The oldest examples are found as graffiti in the Wadi el Hol and date to perhaps 1850 BCE. The table below shows hypothetical prototypes of the Phoenician alphabet in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Several correspondences have been proposed with Proto-Sinaitic letters.

Possible Egyptian prototype
Phoenician PhoenicianA-01.svg PhoenicianB-01.svg PhoenicianG-01.svg PhoenicianD-01.svg PhoenicianE-01.svg PhoenicianW-01.svg PhoenicianZ-01.svg PhoenicianH-01.svg PhoenicianTet-01.png PhoenicianI-01.svg PhoenicianK-01.svg
Possible acrophony ʾalp ox bet house gaml throwstick/camel digg fish/door haw, hillul jubilation waw hook zen, ziqq handcuff ḥet courtyard/fence ṭēt wheel yad arm kap hand
Possible Egyptian prototype
Phoenician PhoenicianL-01.svg PhoenicianM-02.svg PhoenicianN-01.svg PhoenicianX-01.svg PhoenicianO-01.svg PhoenicianP-01.svg PhoenicianTsade-01.svg PhoenicianQ-01.svg PhoenicianR-01.svg PhoenicianS-01.svg Proto-semiticT-01.svg
Possible acrophony lamd goad mem water nun large fish/snake samek fish ʿen eye piʾt bend ṣad plant qup monkey/cord of wool raʾs head šananuma bow taw signature

This Semitic script adapted Egyptian hieroglyphs to write consonantal values based on the first sound of the Semitic name for the object depicted by the hieroglyph (the “acrophonic principle”). So, for example, the hieroglyph per (“house” in Egyptian) was used to write the sound [b] in Semitic, because [b] was the first sound in the Semitic word for “house”, bayt. The script was used only sporadically, and retained its pictographic nature, for half a millennium, until adopted for governmental use in Canaan.


The first Canaanite states to make extensive use of the alphabet were the Phoenician city-states and so later stages of the Canaanite script are called Phoenician. The Phoenician cities were maritime states at the center of a vast trade network and soon the Phoenician alphabet spread throughout the Mediterranean. Two variants of the Phoenician alphabet had major impacts on the history of writing: the Aramaic alphabet and the Greek alphabet.


Chart showing details of four alphabets' descent from Phoenician abjad, from left to right Latin, Greek, original Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic.
Chart showing details of four alphabets’ descent from Phoenician abjad, from left to right Latin, Greek, original Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic.

The Aramaic alphabet, which evolved from the Phoenician in the 7th century BCE as the official script of the Persian Empire, appears to be the ancestor of nearly all the modern alphabets of Asia:

Greek alphabet

By at least the 8th century BCE the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet and adapted it to their own language, creating in the process the first “true” alphabet, in which vowels were accorded equal status with consonants.

The letters of the Greek alphabet are the same as those of the Phoenician alphabet, and both alphabets are arranged in the same order.

However, whereas separate letters for vowels would have actually hindered the legibility of Egyptian, Phoenician, or Hebrew, their absence was problematic for Greek, where vowels played a much more important role. The Greeks used for vowels some of the Phoenician letters representing consonants which weren’t used in Greek speech. All of the names of the letters of the Phoenician alphabet started with consonants, and these consonants were what the letters represented, something called the acrophonic principle However, several Phoenician consonants were absent in Greek, and thus several letter names came to be pronounced with initial vowels. Since the start of the name of a letter was expected to be the sound of the letter (the acrophonic principle), in Greek these letters came to be used for vowels. For example, the Greeks had no glottal stop or voiced phuaryngeal sounds, so the Phoenician letters ’alep  and `ayin  became Greek alpha and ‘ ‘ (later renamed o micron , and stood for the vowels /a/ and /o/ rather than the consonants /ʔ/ and /ʕ/. As this fortunate development only provided for five or six (depending on dialect) of the twelve Greek vowels, the Greeks eventually created digraphs and other modifications, such as ei,
ou, and which became omega), or in some cases simply ignored the deficiency, as in long a, i, u.

Several varieties of the Greek alphabet developed. One, known as Western Greek or Chalcidian, was used west of Athens and in southern Italy. The other variation, known as Eastern Greek, was used in Asia Minor (also called Asian Greece i.e. present-day aegean Turkey). The Athenians (c. 400 BCE) adopted that latter variation and eventually the rest of the Greek-speaking world followed. After first writing right to left, the Greeks eventually chose to write from left to right, unlike the Phoenicians who wrote from right to left. Many Greek letters are similar to Phoenician, except the letter direction is reversed or changed, which can be the result of historical changes from right-to-left writing to boustrophedon to left-to-right writing.

Greek is in turn the source for all the modern scripts of Europe. The alphabet of the early western Greek dialects, where the letter eta remained an h, gave rise to the Old Italic and from these Old Roman alphabet derived. In the eastern Greek dialects, which did not have an /h/, eta stood for a vowel, and remains a vowel in modern Greek and all other alphabets derived from the eastern variants: Glagolitic, Cyrillic, Armenian, Gothic (which used both Greek and Roman letters), and perhaps Georgian.

Latin alphabet

A tribe known as the Latins, who became known as the Romans, also lived in the Italian peninsula like the Western Greeks. From the Etruscans, a tribe living in the first millennium BCE in central Italy, and the Western Greeks, the Latins adopted writing in about the seventh century. In adopted writing from these two groups, the Latins dropped four characters from the Western Greek alphabet. They also adapted the Etruscan letter F, pronounced ‘w,’ giving it the ‘f’ sound, and the Etruscan S, which had three zigzag lines, was curved to make the modern S. To represent the G sound in Greek and the K sound in Etruscan, the Gamma was used. These changes produced the modern alphabet without the letters G, J, U, W, Y, and Z, as well as some other differences.

C, K, and Q in the Roman alphabet could all be used to write both the /k/ and /ɡ/ sounds; the Romans soon modified the letter C to make G, inserted it in seventh place, where Z had been, to maintain the gematria (the numerical sequence of the alphabet). Over the few centuries after Alexander the Great conquered the Eastern Mediterranean and other areas in the third century BCE, the Romans began to borrow Greek words, so they had to adapt their alphabet again in order to write these words. From the Eastern Greek alphabet, they borrowed Y and Z, which were added to the end of the alphabet because the only time they were used was to write Greek words.

The Anglo-Saxons began using Roman letters to write Old English as they converted to Christianity, following Augustine of Canterbury’s mission to Britain in the sixth century. Because the Runic wen, which was first used to represent the sound ‘w’ and looked like a p that is narrow and triangular, was easy to confuse with an actual p, the ‘w’ sound began to be written using a double u. Because the u at the time looked like a v, the double u looked like two v’s, W was placed in the alphabet by V. U developed when people began to use the rounded U when they meant the vowel u and the pointed V when the meant the consonant V. J began as a variation of I, in which a long tail was added to the final I when there were several in a row. People began to use the J for the consonant and the I for the vowel by the fifteenth century, and it was fully accepted in the mid-seventeenth century.

Table above shows simplified relationship between various scripts leading to the development of modern lower case of standard Latin alphabet and that of the modern variants:

Letter names and order

The order of the letters of the alphabet is attested from the fourteenth century BCE in the town of Ugarit on Syria’s northern coast.Tablets found there bear over one thousand cuneiform signs, but these signs are not Babylonian and there are only thirty distinct characters. About twelve of the tablets have the signs set out in alphabetic order. There are two orders found, one of which is nearly identical to the order used for Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and a second order very similar to that used for Ethiopian.

It is not known how many letters the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet had nor what their alphabetic order was. Among its descendants, the Ugaritic alphabet had 27 consonants, the South Arabian alphabets had 29, and the Phoenician alphabet 22. These scripts were arranged in two orders, an ABGDE order in Phoenician and an HMĦLQ order in the south; Ugaritic preserved both orders. Both sequences proved remarkably stable among the descendants of these scripts.

The letter names proved stable among the many descendants of Phoenician, including Samaritan, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek alphabet. However, they were largely abandoned in Tifinagh, Latin and Cyrillic. The letter sequence continued more or less intact into Latin, Armenian, Gothic, and Cyrillic, but was abandoned in Brahmi, Runic, and Arabic, although a traditional abjadi order remains or was re-introduced as an alternative in the latter.

The table is a schematic of the Phoenician alphabet and its descendants.

nr. Reconstruction IPA value Ugaritic Phoenician Hebrew Arabic Greek Latin Cyrillic Runic
1 ʾalpu “ox” /ʔ/ 1 Aleph ʾālep אʾālef ʾalif Α alpha A А azŭ *ansuz
2 baytu “house” /b/ 2 Beth bēt בbēṯ ﺏ‎ bāʾ Β bēta B В vĕdĕ, Б buky *berkanan
3 gamlu “throwstick” /ɡ/ 3 Gimel gīmel גgīmel ﺝ‎ jīm Γ gamma C, G Г glagoli *kaunan
4 daltu “door” / diggu “fish” /d/, /ð/ 4 Daleth dālet דdāleṯ ﺩ‎ dāl, ذ‎ ḏāl Δ delta D Д dobro
5 haw “window” / hallujubilation /h/ 5 He ה ﻫ‎ hāʾ Ε epsilon E Е ye, Є estĭ
6 wāwu “hook” /β/ or /w/ 6 Waw wāw וvāv و‎ wāw Ϝ digamma, Υ upsilon F, V, Y Ѹ / ukŭ → У *ûruz / *ûram
7 zaynu “weapon” / ziqqu “manacle” /z/ 7 Zayin zayin זzayin ز‎ zayn or zāy Ζ zēta Z / З zemlya
8 ḥaytu “thread” / “fence”? /ħ/, /x/ 8 Heth ḥēt חḥēṯ ح‎ ḥāʾ, خ‎ ḫāʾ Η ēta H И iže *haglaz
9 ṭaytu “wheel” /tˤ/, /θˤ/ 9 Teth ṭēt טṭēṯ ط‎ ṭāʾ, ظ‎ ẓāʾ Θ thēta Ѳ fita
10 yadu “arm” /j/ 10 Yodh yōd יyōḏ ي‎ yāʾ Ι iota I І ižei *isaz
11 kapu “hand” /k/ 20 Kaph kap כ ךkāf ك‎ kāf Κ kappa K К kako
12 lamdu “goad” /l/ 30 Lamedh lāmed לlāmeḏ ل‎ lām Λ lambda L Л lyudiye *laguz / *laukaz
13 mayim “waters” /m/ 40 Mem mēm מ םmēm م‎ mīm Μ mu M М myslite
14 naḥšu “snake” / nunu “fish” /n/ 50 Nun nun נ ןnun ن‎ nūn Ν nu N Н našĭ
15 samku “support” / “fish” ? /s/ 60 Samek sāmek סsāmeḵ Ξ ksi, (Χ ksi) (X) Ѯ ksi, (Х xĕrŭ)
16 ʿaynu “eye” /ʕ/, /ɣ/ 70 Ayin ʿayin עʿayin ع‎ ʿayn, غ‎ ġayn Ο omikron O О onŭ
17 pu “mouth” / piʾtu “corner” /p/ 80 Pe פ ף ف‎ fāʾ Π pi P П pokoi
18 ṣadu “plant” /sˤ/, /ɬˤ/ 90 Sade ṣādē צ ץṣāḏi ص‎ ṣād, ض‎ ḍād Ϻ san, (Ϡ sampi) Ц tsi, Ч črvĭ
19 qupu “Copper”? /kˤ/ or /q/ 100 Qoph qōp קqōf ق‎ qāf Ϙ koppa Q Ҁ koppa
20 raʾsu “head” /r/ or /ɾ/ 200 Res rēš רrēš ر‎ rāʾ Ρ rho R Р rĭtsi *raidô
21 šinnu “tooth” / šimšsun /ʃ/, /ɬ/ 300 Sin šin שšin/śin س‎ sīn, ش‎ šīn Σ sigma, ϛ stigma S С slovo, Ш ša, Щ šta, / Ѕ dzĕlo *sowilô
22 tawu “mark” /t/, /θ/ 400 Taw tāw תtāv ت‎ tāʾ, ث‎ ṯāʾ Τ tau T Т tvrdo *tîwaz

These 22 consonants account for the phonology of Northwest Semitic. Of the 29 consonant phonemes commonly reconstructed for Proto-Semitic, seven are missing: the interdental fricatives ḏ, ṯ, ṱ, the voiceless lateral fricatives ś, ṣ́, the voiced uvular fricative ġ, and the distinction between uvular and pharyngeal voiceless fricatives ḫ, ḥ, in Canaanite merged in ḥet. The six variant letters added in the Arabic alphabet include these (except for ś, which survives as a separate phoneme in Ge’ez ): ḏāl; ṯāʾ; ḍād; ġġayn; ṣ́ẓāʾ; ḫāʾ

Complex derivations and independent alphabets

Although this description presents the evolution of scripts in a linear fashion, this is a simplification. For example, the Manchu alphabet, descended from the abjads of West Asia, was also influenced by Korean hangul, which was either independent (the traditional view) or derived from the abugidas of South Asia. Georgian apparently derives from the Aramaic family, but was strongly influenced in its conception by Greek. A modified version of the Greek alphabet, using an additional half dozen demotic hieroglyphs, was used to write Coptic Egyptian. Then there is Cree syllabics (an abugida), which is a fusion of Devanagari and Pitman shorthand developed by the missionary James Evans.

Possible independently invented alphabets are:

  •  Meroitic alphabet, a 3rd-century BCE adaptation of hieroglyphs in Nubia to the south of Egypt
  •  Rongorongo script of Easter Island.
  • Maldivian script, which is unique in that, although it is clearly modeled after Arabic and perhaps other existing alphabets, it derives its letter forms from numerals.
  • Korean Hangul, which was created independently in 1443.
  • Osmanya alphabet was devised for Somali in the 1920s by Osman Yusuf Kenadid, and the forms of its consonants appear to be complete innovations.
  • Zhuyin phonetic alphabet derives from Chinese characters.
  • Santali alphabet of eastern India appears to be based on traditional symbols such as “danger” and “meeting place”, as well as pictographs invented by its creator. (The names of the Santali letters are related to the sound they represent through the acrophonic principle, as in the original alphabet, but it is the final consonant or vowel of the name that the letter represents: le “swelling” represents e, while en “thresh grain” represents n.)
  • In early medieval Ireland, Ogham consisted of tally marks
  • monumental inscriptions of the Old Persian Empire were written in an essentially alphabetic cuneiform script whose letter forms seem to have been created for the occasion.

Islamic calligraphy

From Free Islamic Calligraphy

Al Talaq
Al Talaq

Meriem Marsli

Edited and extended from Wikipedia

Islamic calligraphy, is the artistic practice of handwriting and calligraphy, based upon the alphabet in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. It includes Arabic , Ottoman, and Persian calligraphy. It is known in Arabic as khatt Islami (خط اسلامي), derived from the word ‘line’, ‘design’, or ‘construction’.

The development of Islamic calligraphy is strongly tied to the Qur’an; chapters, and excerpts from the Qur’an is a common and almost universal text upon which Islamic calligraphy is based. Deep religious association with the Qur’an, as well as suspicion of figurative art as idolatrous has led calligraphy to become one of the major forms of artistic expression in Islamic cultures.

As Islamic calligraphy is highly venerated, most works follow examples set by well established calligraphers, with the exception of secular or contemporary works. In antiquity, a pupil would copy a master’s work repeatedly until their handwriting is similar.

The most common style is divided into:

1. Kufic: oldest angular style

2. Naskh (نسخ nasḫ): cursive style . With variants Thuluth (ثلث ṯuluṯ)  Ruq‘ah (رقعة ruqʿah)

With the spread of Islam, the Arabic script was established in a vast geographic area with many regions developing their own unique style. From the 14th century onward, other cursive styles began to developed in Turkey, Persia, and China.

3. Nasta‘liq (نستعلیق nastaʿlīq) developed in Persia

4. Diwani (ديواني dīwānī) developed in Ottoman Empire

5) Sini is a style developed in China. The shape is greatly influenced by Chinese calligraphy, using a horsehair brush instead of the standard reed pen. A famous modern calligrapher in this tradition is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang.

Instruments and media

The traditional instrument of the Islamic calligrapher is the qalam, a pen normally made of dried reed or bamboo; the ink is often in color, and chosen such that its intensity can vary greatly, so that the greater strokes of the compositions can be very dynamic in their effect. Some styles are often written using a metallic-tip pen.


Islamic calligraphy is applied on a wide range of decorative mediums other than paper, such as tiles, vessels, carpets, and inscriptions. Before the advent of paper, papyrus and parchment were used for writing. The advent of paper revolutionized calligraphy. While monasteries in Europe treasured a few dozen volumes, libraries in the Muslim world regularly contained hundreds and even thousands of books.

Coins were another support for calligraphy. Beginning in 692, the Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing visual depiction with words. This was especially true for dinars, or gold coins of high value. Generally the coins were inscribed with quotes from the Qur’an.

By the tenth century, the Persians, who had converted to Islam, began weaving inscriptions onto elaborately patterned silks. So precious were calligraphic inscribed textiles that Crusaders brought them to Europe as prized possessions. A notable example is the Suaire de Saint-Josse, used to wrap the bones of St. Josse in the Abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer near Caen in northwestern France.

Kufic – Iraq

9th century Qur’an, an early kufic example from the Abbasid period

Bowl with Kufic Calligraphy, 10th century.Brooklyn Museum


Kufic is the oldest form of the Arabic script developed around the end of the 7th century in the areas of Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. It was the main script used to copy Qur’ans from the 8th to 10th century and went out of general use in the 12th century when the flowing naskh style become more practical, although it continued to be used as a decorative element to contrast superseding styles.

The Archaic Kufi consisted of about 17 letters without diacritic dots or accents. Afterwards, dots and accents were added to help readers with pronunciation, and the set of Arabic letters rose to 29.

There were no set rules of using the Kufic script; the only common feature is the rigid, angular, linear strokes and shapes of the characters – a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Through use in different regions, countries and calligraphers, the style later developed into several varieties, including floral, foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and squared kufi.Common varieties include square Kufic, a technique known as banna’i. Contemporary calligraphy using this style is also popular in modern decorations.

Decorative kufic inscriptions are often imitated into pseudo-kufics in Middle age and Renaissance Europe. Pseudo-kufics is especially common in Renaissance depictions of people from the Holy Land. The exact reason for the incorporation of pseudo-Kufic is unclear. It seems that Westerners mistakenly associated 13–14th century Middle-Eastern scripts as being identical with the scripts current at the time of Christ, and thus found natural to represent early Christians in association with them.


Muhaqqaq script in a 14th-century Qur’an from the Mamluk dynasty.

The use of cursive script coexisted with kufic, but because in the early stages of their development they lacked discipline and elegance, cursive were usually used for informal purposes. With the rise of Islam, new script was needed to fit the pace of conversions, and a well defined cursive called naskh first appeared in the 10th century. The script is the most ubiquitous among other styles, used in Qur’ans, official decrees, and private correspondence. It became the basis of modern Arabic print.

Standardization of the style was pioneered by Ibn Muqla (886-940 A.D.) and later expanded by Abu Hayan at-Tawhidi (died 1009 A.D.) andMuhammad Ibn Abd ar-Rahman (1492–1545 A.D.). Ibn Muqla is highly regarded in Muslim sources on calligraphy as the inventor of the naskh style, although this seems to be erroneous. However, Ibn Muqla did establish systematic rules and proportions for shaping the letters, which use ‘alif as the x-height.

Variation of the naskh includes:

  1. Thuluth is developed as a display script to decorate particular scriptural objects. Letters have long vertical lines with broad spacing. The name reference to the x-height, which is one third of the ‘alif.
  2. Riq’ah is a handwriting style derived from naskh and thuluth, first appeared in the 9th century. The shape is simple with short strokes and little flourishes.
  3. Muhaqqaq is a majestic style used by accomplished calligrapher. It was considered one of the most beautiful scripts, as well as one of the most difficult to execute. Muhaqqaq was commonly used during the Mameluke era, but the use become largely restricted to short phrases, such as the basmallah, from the 18th century onward.


A cursive style developed in the 14th century by Mir Ali Tabrizi to write the Persian language for literary and non-Qur’anic works. Nasta’liq is thought to be a later development of the naskh and the earlier ta’liq script used in Iran. The name ta’liq means ‘hanging’, and refers to the slightly steeped lines of which words run in, giving the script a hanging appearance. Letters have short vertical strokes with broad and sweeping horizontal strokes. The shapes are deep, hook-like, and have high contrast.

Nasta’liq calligraphy by Mir Emad Hassani, perhaps the most celebrated Persian calligrapher.

In the 17th century Morteza Gholi Khan Shamlou and Mohammad Shafi Heravi created a new genre called cursive Nastaʿlīq Shekasteh Nastaʿlīq. Almost a century later, Abdol-Majid Taleqani, who was a prominent artist at the time, brought this genre to its highest level. This calligraphic style is based on the same rules as Nas’taliq. However, cursive Nas’taliq has a few significant differences: it provides more flexible movements, and it is slightly more stretched and curved. Yadollah Kaboli is one of the most prominent contemporary calligraphers within this style.


is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks in the 16th and early 17th centuries. It was invented by Housam Roumi and reached its height of popularity under Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–1566). Spaces between letters are often narrow, and lines ascend upwards from right to left. Larger variation called djali are filled with dense decorations of dots and diacritical marks in the space between, giving it a compact appearance. Diwani is difficult to read and write due to its heavy stylization, and became ideal script for writing court documents as it insured confidentiality and prevented forgery.

List of calligraphers

Some classical calligraphers:

Ottoman era

How to do it

Filippo Marinetti




Marinetti typography  Google images


Edited from Wikipedia article


Marinetti is known best as the author of the Futurist Manifesto, which he wrote in 1909. It was published in French on the front page of the most prestigious French daily newspaper, Le Figaro, on 20 February 1909. In The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, Marinetti declared that:
“Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.”
Futurism had both anarchist and Fascist elements; Marinetti later became an active supporter of Benito Mussolini.

Marinetti, who admired speed, had a minor car accident outside Milan in 1909 when he veered into a ditch to avoid two cyclists. He referred to the accident in the Futurist Manifesto: the Marinetti who was helped out of the ditch was a new man, determined to end the pretense and decadence of the prevailing Liberty style. He discussed a new and strongly revolutionary programme with his friends, in which they should end every artistic relationship with the past, “destroy the museums, the libraries, every type of academy”. Together, he wrote, “We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism,patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman”.

The Futurist Manifesto was read and debated all across Europe, but Marinetti’s first ‘Futurist’ works were not as successful. In April, the opening night of his drama Le Roi bombance (The Feasting King), written in 1905, was interrupted by loud, derisive whistling by the audience… and by Marinetti himself, who thus introduced another element of Futurism, “the desire to be heckled”. Marinetti did, however, fight a duel with a critic he considered too harsh.

Writings and sound poems

His drama La donna è mobile (Poupées électriques), first presented in Turin, was not successful either. Nowadays, the play is remembered through a later version, named Elettricità sessuale(Sexual Electricity), and mainly for the appearance onstage of humanoid automatons, ten years before the Czech writer Josef Čapek would invent the term “robot”. In 1910, his first novel Mafarka il futurista was cleared of all charges by an obscenity trial.

That year, Marinetti discovered some allies in three young painters, (Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo), who adopted the Futurist philosophy. Together with them (and with poets such as Aldo Palazzeschi), Marinetti began a series of Futurist Evenings, theatrical spectacles in which Futurists declaimed their manifestos in front of a crowd that in part attended the performances in order to throw vegetables at them.

The most successful “happening” of that period was the publicization of the “Manifesto Against Past-Loving Venice” in Venice. In the flier, Marinetti demands “fill(ing) the small, stinking canals with the rubble from the old, collapsing and leprous palaces” to “prepare for the birth of an industrial and militarized Venice, capable of dominating the great Adriatic, a great Italian lake”.

About the same time Marinetti edited an anthology of futurist poets. But his attempts to renew the style of poetry did not satisfy him. So much so that, in his foreword to the anthology, he declared a new revolution: it was time to be done with traditional syntax and to use “words in freedom” (parole in libertà). His sound-poem Zang Tumb Tumb exemplifies words in freedom. Recordings can be heard of Marinetti reading some of his sound poems: Battaglia, Peso + Odore(1912) Dune, parole in libertà (1914) La Battaglia di Adrianopoli (1926) (recorded 1935)


Many Italian Futurists supported Fascism in the hope of modernizing a country divided between the industrialising north and the rural, archaic South. Like the Fascists, the Futurists were Italian nationalists, radicals, admirers of violence, and were opposed to parliamentary democracy. Marinetti founded the Futurist Political Party (Partito Politico Futurista) in early 1918, which was absorbed into Benito Mussolini‘s Fasci di combattimento in 1919, making Marinetti one of the first members of the National Fascist Party. He opposed Fascism’s later exaltation of existing institutions, calling them “reactionary”, and walked out of the 1920 Fascist party congress in disgust, withdrawing from politics for three years; but he supported Italian Fascism until his death in 1944. The Futurists’ association with Fascism after its triumph in 1922 brought them official acceptance in Italy and the ability to carry out important work, especially in architecture. After the Second World War, many Futurist artists had difficulty in their careers because of their association with a defeated and discredited regime. Marinetti sought to make Futurism the official state art of Fascist Italy but failed to do so.

Mussolini was personally uninterested in art and chose to give patronage to numerous styles and movements in order to keep artists loyal to the regime. Opening the exhibition of art by the Novecento Italiano group in 1923, he said, “I declare that it is far from my idea to encourage anything like a state art. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The state has only one duty: not to undermine art, to provide humane conditions for artists, to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view.”[26] Mussolini’s mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, who was as able a cultural entrepreneur as Marinetti, successfully promoted the rival Novecento group, and even persuaded Marinetti to sit on its board. Although in the early years of Italian Fascism modern art was tolerated and even embraced, towards the end of the 1930s, right-wing Fascists introduced the concept of “degenerate art” from Germany to Italy and condemned Futurism.

Marinetti made numerous moves to ingratiate himself with the regime, becoming less radical and avant-garde with each. He moved from Milan to Rome to be nearer the centre of things. He became an academician despite his condemnation of academies, married despite his condemnation of marriage, promoted religious art after the Lateran Treaty of 1929 and even reconciled himself to the Catholic Church, declaring that Jesus was a Futurist.



Western Typeface Classifications

Source: edited from Wikipedia Typeface 

Typeface classification is not easy because typographic tradition is self-referential – type designers often use older forms as a basis for experimentation and innovation.

Typeface design is also related to technology. From early Roman to 15th Century Western type was drawn by hand, either with a brush, a flat reed pen or a chisel. From mid-1500s casting letters in lead allowed new precision in form. In the 20th century use of cheap mass produced paper stock for eg newspapers and telephone directories meant that legibility had to allow for some bleeding of ink. Digital technology and type design software in the last decade has led to a rapid proliferation of typefaces by individual designers and artists.

The impossibility of a truly complete classification system has led many people to dismiss any attempt to classify typefaces — there are simply too many variables to make anything close to a practical, comprehensive system. Essentially, classification describes typefaces; it does not define them. It’s not inflexible, and is more of an aid than a rule.

20th Century classification systems

Over the past century, quite a few classification systems have been proposed. Most are generally believed to be subjective and incomplete, and many of them use the same terms for similar but slightly different classes.

An early system by French typographer Francis Thibaudeau, which provided the base for Vox’s later more thorough classification, includes four broad categories: Antiques (sans serifs), Égyptiennes (slab serifs), Didots and Elzévirs (faces with triangular serifs).

Bringhurst, in his Elements of Typographic Style — perhaps the standard in typographic textbooks today — categorizes typefaces loosely after periods of art history; for example, Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, etc. A book designer himself, Bringhurst focuses on text typefaces and practically ignores display type.

Currently the primary “official” classification system  is the Vox-ATypI system originally put together in 1954 by Maxmilien Vox.  Originally a ten-part classification, Vox revised his original proposal within months to a more compact nine-part scheme. These were subsequently expanded to 11 general categories, including non-Western type, with some subdivision. This classification tends to group typefaces according to their main characteristics, often typical of a particular century (15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th century), based on a number of formal criteria: downstroke and upstroke, forms of serifs, stroke axis, x-height,  etc ???. Although the Vox-ATypI classification defines archetypes of typefaces, many typefaces can exhibit the characteristics of more than one class.

The Vox-ATypI system  was adopted in 1962 by the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI), and in 1967 as the basis for British Standards Classification of Typefaces (BS 2961:1967).  But at the 2010 ATypI general meeting, the association stated that the Vox-ATypI system was seriously flawed, and to create a new working group on typeface classification.

Adobe, Wikipedia and the growing numbers of font websites also have their own classifications.

Serif fonts

Classical or old style 

characterized by triangular serifs, oblique axis and low stroke contrast

Humanist or Venetian

Centaur, a humanist typeface
Humanist, humanistic, or humanes include the first Roman typefaces created during the 14th and 15th century by Venetian printers, such as Nicolas Jenson. These typefaces sought to imitate the formal hands found in the humanistic (renaissance) manuscripts of the time. These typefaces, rather round in opposition to the gothics of the Middle Ages, are inspired in particular by the Carolingian minuscule imposed on his empire by Charlemagne.
Key characteristics:
  • short and thick bracketed serifs, ascenders with slanted serifs
  • stress that approximates that of a broad-nibbed pen held at an angle to the page
  • a slanted cross stroke on the lowercase ‘e’,
  • low contrast between horizontals and verticals and thick and thin strokes.

Examples: Centaur, Adobe Jenson, Berkeley Old Style and Cloister.


Garamond, a Garalde typeface
 Garalde typefaces represent the late Renaissance evolution from the earlier Venetian style, and include some of the most common typefaces of today. Also called Aldine, this group is named in homage to Claude Garamond and Aldus Manutius. In France, under King Francis I, the garaldes were the tool which supported the official fixing of grammar and orthography.
Key characteristics
  • finer proportions than the humanists
  • horizontal cross-stroke on the lower case e
  •  stronger contrast between downstroke and upstroke, thick and thin strokes.
  • stress is inclined on an oblique axis to the left
  • bracketed serifs.
Examples: Bembo, and Garamond, Minion.


Bulmer, a transitional typeface
The transitional, realist or réales represent a transition between Garalde and Didone typefaces, embodying the rational spirit of the Enlightenment. They were the first typefaces to be drawn as shapes in their own right. Louis XIV wanted to invent new typographical forms to find a successor of the Garamond and at the same time compete in quality with the different printers of Europe. The term realist derives from the Spanish for “royal”, because of a typeface cast by Christophe Plantin for King Philip II of Spain.
Key characteristics:
  • vertical, or near vertical, stress
  • marked contrast between main and connecting hairline strokes
  • serifs are thin, flat and bracketed

Examples: Baskerville, Times Roman, Perpetua, Stone Serif.

Serif Fonts: Moderns

The moderns can be broken down into Didone, mechanistic and linear categories, and are characterized by a simple, functional feel that gained momentum during the industrial period.

Didone or Modern

Bodoni, a Didone typeface
The Didones or modern typefaces from the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century draw their name from the typefounders Didot (1764-1836) and Bodoni (1740-1813). They were a response to improvements in late 18th-century paper production, composition, printing and binding, which made it possible to use typefaces with strong vertical emphasis and fine hairlines.They correspond to the Didot of theThibaudeau classification. The didones in particular made it possible for the First French Empire to employ typefaces very different from the typefaces used by the kings from the Ancien Régime.
Key characteristics:
  •  very strong contrast between full and connecting strokes (the connecting strokes being extremely fine
  • vertical stress
  • unbracketed hairline serifs
  • constructed rather than drawn.

Examples: Bodoni, Didot, Fenice and Walbaum.

Serif fonts: Mechanistic,  slab or Egyptian 

Rockwell, a mechanistic typeface
 Also called mechanical, slab serif, or mécanes, the name of this group evokes the mechanical aspect of these typefaces. Until the late 18th century, type was used primarily for books. But with the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the 19th century came an increased use of billboards and other forms of advertising. These required bolder typefaces that stood out from the competition. They correspond to the Egyptiennes of Thibaudeau classification, reflecting the public’s enthusiasm for the archaeological discoveries of the time.
Key characteristics:
  • sturdy
  • very low contrast in stroke weight
  • includes both typefaces with bracketed serifs (clarendons or ionics) and typefaces with heavy square/rectangular or unbracketed serifs (egyptians).
 Examples: Clarendon, Egyptienne, Chaparral Pro, Ionic No. 5, and Rockwell.

Sans Serif or Lineal

Lineals, or linéales, combine all typefaces without serifs (called sans-serif, gothic, or grotesque), all of which correspond to the Antiques of the Thibaudeau classification. But they were not widely adopted until the end of the 19th Century. The British Standard 2961 broke this group into 4 subcategories: Grotesque, Neo-Grotesque, Geometric, and Humanist.


Monotype Grotesque, a grotesque lineal typeface
Grotesque typefaces are sans serif typefaces that originate in the nineteenth century.
Key characteristics:
  • some contrast between thick and thin strokes
  • terminals of curves are usually horizontal
  • frequently has a spurred “G” and an “R” with a curled leg.

Examples: Franklin Gothic, Bell Gothic and Bell Centennial, Frutiger, Headline, Monotype 215,  and Grot no. 6.

Neo-grotesque or realist

Univers, a neo-grotesque lineal typeface
 Neo-grotesque typefaces are derived from the earlier grotesque faces, but generally have less stroke contrast and a more regular design. “Realist sans-serif” is a commonly encountered synonym for neo-grotesque.
Key characteristics:
  • they generally do not have a spurred “G”
  • terminals of curves are usually slanted
  • often have a large degree of subtlety and variation of widths and weights to accommodate different means of production (Hot type, foundry type, phototypesetting, see History of typography, 20th century).

Examples: Helvetica and Univers.


Futura, a geometric lineal typeface
Geometric typefaces are sans serif faces constructed from simple geometric shapes, circles and/or rectangles.
Key characteristics:
  • The same curves and lines are often repeated throughout the letters, resulting in minimal differentiation between letters.

Examples: Eurostile and Futura.


Gill Sans, a humanist lineal typeface
Humanist sans serif typefaces relate to the earlier, classical handwritten monumental Roman capitals and have a lowercase similar in form to the Carolingian script.

Examples:  Gill Sans and Optima.


The Calligraphics can be broken down into glyphic, script, graphic, blackletter, and Gaelic categories, and are characterized by a suggestion of being hand-crafted.


Trajan, a glyphic typeface
 The glyphic, incised, or incise are typefaces which evoke the engraving or chiseling of characters in stone or metal, as opposed to calligraphic handwriting.
Key characteristics:
  • small, triangular serifs or tapering downstrokes.
  • greater emphasis on the capital letters in glyphic typefaces, with some faces not containing a lowercase.

Examples: Albertus, Copperplate Gothic, and Trajan.


Mistral, a script typeface
The scripts or scriptes include typefaces which evoke the formal penmanship or cursive writing. Typefaces imitating copperplate script form part of this family. Scripts are distinct from italic type.
Key characteristics:
  • seem to be written with a quill, and have a strong slope.
  •  letters can often be connected to each other.

Examples: Bickham Script Pro, Champion Script Pro, Raniscript, Shelley, Mistral and Francesca.


Banco, a graphic typeface
The graphic, manual, or manuaires, are based on hand-drawn originals which are slowly written with either a brush, pen, pencil, or other writing instrument.
Key characteristics:
  • generally do not represent writing
  • are intended for display or headlines.

Examples: Banco and Klang.


Fette Fraktur, a blackletter typeface
The blackletters or fractures (often included in the graphics)
Key characteristics:
  • pointed and angular forms
  • modelled on late medieval hands written with a broad-nibbed pen.
Example:  Fraktur.


Duibhlinn, a Gaelic typeface

Gaelic type was added to the classification at the AGM of the Dublin meeting of ATypI, on 12 September 2010.

Non-Latin or ‘exotics’

Gathers (without distinction of style) all writing systems not based on the Latin alphabet: Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, etc. English printers traditionally called these exotics.

Websites and font libraries

Font recognition

identifont: http://www.identifont.com

Free fonts






Generates type pictures from photos