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ktinkel
09-21-2005, 02:21 PM
When grunge type was in its heyday, way back in the 1990s, its adherents seemed to think they were unusually original in their font designs. But experimental type was not invented in the late 20th century.

Matthew Carter gives a wonderful talk on this subject, illustrated with fonts from the 15th through 20th century, all considered to be radical for their times. They were, too β€” they look pretty odd even today. And then there were all the experiments by Bayer, Tschichold, and others from the Bauhaus era. Not to mention some of the wild display fonts fromt he 1960s and 70s.

But every generation likes to feel as if it is changing the world. When it comes to type, though, there is very little durable change. Most readers consider that a virtue, in fact.

Calligrapher and type designer Paul Shaw, one of the more thoughtful writers on type today, has posted a lovely essay on the AIGA* web site entitled β€œThe Digital Past: When Typefaces Were Experimental (http://designforum.aiga.org/content.cfm?ContentAlias=_getfullarticle&aid=1112055)” covering typographic experiments since 1968. This may be the definitive article, in fact β€” it is difficult to find coherent information about type developments in our own time.

Highly recommended reading.

* AIGA: American Institute of Graphic Arts