IXD102 – Gutenberg and Moveable Type

Pioneers of Type Design

In today’s class, we looked at some of the history of typography, including artists and inventors who were the pioneers of type design, such as Johannes Gutenberg and Albrecht Durer.

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg was a German inventor and printer, who introduced printing to Europe with his mechanical movable-type printing press. However, printing did not originate in Europe, as many believe to be so due to Gutenberg’s accomplishments with the press. What he did was refined what had already been invented in China, during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD), and made it more efficient to be used.

Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Durer was a German painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. He established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was well-known across the world, due to being one of the first to use the monogram, which allowed him to easily trademark his work to clearly show it was his to anyone that viewed it.


We then began looking at the different ways in which type is constructed, and how it is made up. We were taught how the many different elements of typefaces are important to consider when choosing a font. To further expand, the difference between Serif and San Serif is something we into. A serif font is when a decorate stroke is used to finish off the ends of letters, whereas a sans serif (non-serif) is the opposite, and does not have decorative strokes.

We also looked into the important of letter spacing, which is also called tracking. This refers to the adjustment of the space between letters in a piece of text. It is important when choosing between large and small text sizes, as a larger text size uses tighter letter-spacing, as this improves readability. For smaller sizes, a looser letter-spacing is used, as this increases contrast between letter shapes.

Another element we explored was line lengths, which is the width of each line in a piece of text. Having a piece of text with line lengths that are too narrow or too wide can make it very difficult to read, so it is important to find the appropriate balance between wide and thin for the correct text size.

We then looked into a brief history of some typefaces. This allowed me to delve deeper into a variety of typefaces, and made me think about which would be best to choose for my type specimen screen. Out of all the typefaces we looked at, I definitely liked Helvetica the most. Max Miedingers was the creator of Helvetica, who wanted a clearer and more refined typeface than what was available at the time.

Other fonts that we looked at were:

  • Futura
  • Palatino
  • Times
  • Gill Sans
  • Baskerville

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