Author: nick2828 (page 7 of 84)

The Venetian Roman typographic influence

Drawing Romans NGS

This article is an edit and patch piece with useful links and background to the Venetian classics – Nick Garrett

Aldus Manutius NGS

Aldus Manutius

All rivers lead to Venice

Venetian/Aldine: Because of its location and status as a center of trade, Venice also became the focal point of type design and printing in the late 15th century. The most influential Venetian work came from Aldus Manutius, a printer and publisher whose books were renowned for their authoritative scholarship. As they also were of the highest technical and aesthetic quality of their day, they were in great demand, and the typefaces they employed were widely copied by other printers.

The leading publisher and printer of the Venetian High Renaissance, Aldus set up a definite scheme of book design, produced the first italic type, introduced small and handy pocket editions (octavos) of the classics, and applied several innovations in binding technique and design for use on a broad scheme.

He commissioned Francesco Griffo to cut a slanted type known today as italic.

He and his grandson Aldus Manutius, the Younger, also a printer, are credited with introducing a standardized system of punctuation.

Imprint and motto


In 1501, Aldus began to use, as his publisher’s device, the image of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor. His editions of the classics were so highly respected that almost immediately the dolphin-and-anchor device was pirated by French and Italian publishers. More recently, the device has been used by the nineteenth-century London firm of William Pickering, and by Doubleday. Aldus adapted the image from the reverse of ancient Roman coins issued during the reigns of the Emperors Titus and Domitian, AD 80–82. The dolphin and anchor emblem is associated with Festina lente (Hasten slowly), a motto that Aldus had begun to use as early as 1499, after receiving a Roman coin from Pietro Bembo, which bore the emblem and motto.

Griffo Typefaces

For his series of pocket-sized editions of the classics, Manutius designed a new font in which the letters were inclined which he called “italic” in reference to classical Italy. Despite trying to have the font patented, he could not stop printers outside Venice from copying it, leading to the font’s popularity outside of Italy. 

Type designs based on work designed by Francesco Griffo and commissioned by Aldus Manutius include Bembo, Poliphilus, Garamond, and Hermann Zapf‘s Palatino and Aldus.


Aldus typeface

Greek classics

Aldus’ most important type, designed by Francesco Griffo, was created for a 60 page essay by Cardinal Pietro Bembo, in 1495. The typeface, called Bembo after the manuscript’s author, was a Roman design of great typographic significance. Its popularity spread throughout Europe and remained the major influence in type design for the next hundred and fifty years. All of the type designs which we call Old Style can be traced back the design of Bembo.

Aldus Bembo NGS

Pocket books, the birth of the Italicised Roman

Among Aldus’ many innovations was publishing personal versions of the classics in a small format which was easy to carry. Books of that time were very large, usually read while being supported by a lectern. Aldus correctly recognized a market for a smaller, easily transportable book which would fit conveniently in a pocket or saddlebag.

These, the forerunners of today’s pocket-size books, utilized another of Aldus’ unique innovations. They were printed in a new style of type which he commissioned from Griffo. This type, patterned after the official cursive hand of scholars and professionals, called cancellaresca, was designed at an angle, carried a distinct flavor of handwriting, and featured smaller character widths.

This typestyle, the first italic letterform, allowed for more characters per line than the Roman style, thus fitting more text to the smaller page format of his personal books. These books were enormously popular and had a profound effect on education and the diffusion of knowledge.

A twentieth century revival of the Venetian types, Bembo is a copy of the Aldine Roman typeface cut by Francesco Griffo.

Typeface: Bembo

Released by Monotype in 1929

A twentieth century revival of the Venetian types, Bembo is a copy of the Aldine Roman typeface cut by Francesco Griffo.Bembo is a classic typeface displaying the characteristics which identify Old Style designs:

  • minimal variation in thick and thin stroke weight
  • small x-height
  • ascender height exceeding cap height
  • oblique stress
  • short, bracketed serifs with cupped bases
  • angled serifs on lower case ascenders

A good type choice for expressing classic beauty and formal tradition, it reads well in large amounts of text and is an excellent book face.

Bembo is a classic typeface displaying the characteristics which identify Old Style designs:

  • minimal variation in thick and thin stroke weight
  • small x-height
  • ascender height exceeding cap height
  • oblique stress
  • short, bracketed serifs with cupped bases
  • angled serifs on lower case ascenders

A good type choice for expressing classic beauty and formal tradition, it reads well in large amounts of text and is an excellent book face.

Later French influences

French/Garamond: By the 16th century, France became a leading influence in printing and typography. The most popular type designs of the time were those of Claude Garamond, who was heavily influenced by the Aldine types. As Aldus Manutius was an innovator in publishing, Garamond was certainly innovative in his type designs. While the typographic form was basically a copy of hand lettering, Garamond was perhaps the first to consider the qualities of letterform design as distinct from earlier manuscript styles. Thus his designs, while based on the Venetian types, introduced subtle and delicate refinements: more open lower case characters with generous counters, larger capitals, and a delicate grace to the curved strokes.

While these refinements are subtle, they nonetheless produced type which was at once more graceful and inviting to the eye than the popular Aldine Roman. Garamond’s type was a great success and became so widely accepted that it is considered to be the final deathblow to the Gothic letterforms. Many contemporary variations of Garamond continue to be among the most widely used typefaces today.

Garamond’s innovations established many of today’s typographic conventions. His appreciation of the Aldine italic was such that he felt it to be a suitable complement to all of his Roman types. Thereafter, for each roman typeface he created, he also designed a complimentary italic style. This concept was so universally accepted that the italic became a standard variation to Roman types.

Garamond also established the concept of the commercial type founder. Since the time of Gutenberg, custom dictated that printers design and cast their own types. They also manufactured their own paper, and formulated their own printing inks. When a printer created a particularly popular typeface, other printers were quick to copy the designs for their own typecasting.

Whether Garamond wished to preserve the integrity of his own designs, or merely make additional profit is not known, but he initiated the practice of casting his types for retail sale to other printers. This eventually led to the establishment of independent businesses which were exclusively devoted to the design, cutting, and casting of type for sale to the printing trade.

These establishments, called typefoundries, became sources of type for many printers and were instrumental in the widespread acceptance and distribution of new designs.

Typeface: Garamond

Designed by Claude Garamond in 1532

he preeminent French Old Style design exhibits subtle refinements to the Venetian designs with its graceful serifs and delicate weight changes.

  • Counters are generous, with the exception of the lowercase ‘a’ and ‘e’, which are small.
  • Lowercase top serifs are extended, diagonal, and curve to join the main strokes.
  • The Uppercase ‘T’ is unique, with the top left serif slanted and the top right serif straight.

Garamond remains one of the most popular text faces today. It is highly readable, lends a graceful quality to text, and its long ascenders give it a light, airy quality.

Influence in the modern era

The Doves 002

Manutius’ name is the inspiration for Progetto Manuzio, an Italian free text project similar to Project Gutenberg.

The novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan features a fictionalized version of Aldus Manutius, as well as a fictional secret society devoted to him. One of the novel’s characters, Griffo Gerritszoon, designs a fictitious font called “Gerritszoon” which is preinstalled on every Mac, in allusion to Manutius’ associate Francesco Griffo, the designer of italic type.

Aldus, a software company founded in Seattle in 1985, that created PageMaker for the Apple Macintosh, is named after Manutius and used his profile as part of their company logo. Aldus was purchased by Adobe Systems in 1994.

Altsys and Aldus FreeHand

In 1984, James R. Von Ehr founded the Altsys Corporation to develop graphics applications for personal computers. Based in Plano, Texas, the company initially produced font editing and conversion software; Fontastic Plus, Metamorphosis, and the Art Importer.[6] Their premier PostScript font-design package, Fontographer, was released in 1986 and was the first such program on the market. With the PostScript background established with Fontographer, Altsys also developed FreeHand (originally called Masterpiece) as a Macintosh Postscript-based illustration program that used Bézier curves for drawing and was similar to Adobe Illustrator. FreeHand was announced as “…a Macintosh graphics program described as having all the features of Adobe’s Illustrator plus drawing tools such as those in Mac Paint and Mac Draft and special effects similar to those in Cricket Draw.”[7] Seattle’s Aldus Corporation acquired a licensing agreement with Altsys to release FreeHand along with their flagship product, Pagemaker, and Aldus FreeHand 1.0 was released in 1988.[7] FreeHand’s product name used intercaps; the F and H were capitalized.


The partnership between the two companies continued with Altsys developing FreeHand and with Aldus controlling marketing and sales. After 1988, a competitive exchange between Aldus FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator ensued on the Macintosh platform with each software advancing new tools, achieving better speed, and matching significant features. Windows PC development also allowed Illustrator 2 (aka, Illustrator 88 on the Mac) and FreeHand 3 to release Windows versions to the graphics market.

Failure ignites innovation… Dyson on creativity and design

Matthew Syed

Writer & Broadcaster

Please, no more brainstorm sessions. This is how innovation really works.

Progress is often driven not by the accumulation of small steps, but by dramatic leaps. The television wasn’t an iteration of a previous device, it was a new technology altogether. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity didn’t tinker with Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, it replaced it in almost every detail. Likewise Dyson’s dual-cyclone vacuum cleaner was not a marginal improvement on the conventional Hoover that existed at the time, it represented a shift that altered the way insiders think about the very problem of removing dust and hair from household floors.

James Dyson is an evangelist for the creative process of change, not least because he believes it is fundamentally misconceived in the world today. As we talk in his office, he darts around picking up papers, patents, textbooks, and his own designs to illustrate his argument. He says:

Dyson’s journey into the nature of creativity started while vacuuming his own home, a small farmhouse in the west of England, on a Saturday morning in his mid-twenties. Like everyone else he was struck by just how quickly his cleaner lost suction.

Dyson strode into his garden and opened up the device. Inside he could see the basic engineering proposition of the conventional vacuum cleaner: a motor, a bag (which also doubled as a filter), and a tube. The logic was simple: dust and air is sucked into the bag, the air escapes through the small holes in the lining of the bag and into the motor, and the dust (thicker than the air) stays in the bag.

He says:

This realization triggered a new thought: what if there were no bag?

This idea percolated in Dyson’s mind for the next three years. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he was already a qualified engineer and was helping to run a local company in Bath. He enjoyed pulling things apart and seeing how they worked. He was curious, inquisitive, and willing to engage with a difficulty rather than just accepting it. But now he had a live problem, one that intrigued him.

It wasn’t until he went to a lumberyard that the solution powered into his mind like a thunderbolt.

 Dyson rushed home. This was his moment of insight. “I vaguely knew about cyclones, but not really the detail. But I was fascinated to see if it would work in miniature form. I got an old cardboard box and made a replica of what I had seen with gaffer tape and cardboard. I then connected it via a bit of hose to an upright vacuum cleaner. And I had my cardboard cyclone.”

His heart was beating fast as he pushed it around the house. Would it work? “It seemed absolutely fine,” he says. “It seemed to be picking up dust, but the dust didn’t seem to be coming out of the chimney. I went to my boss and said: ‘I think I have an interesting idea.’ ”

This simple idea, this moment of insight, would ultimately make Dyson a personal fortune in excess of ?3 billion.

A number of things jump out about the Dyson story. The first is that the solution seems rather obvious in hindsight. This is often the case with innovation, and it’s something we will come back to.

But now consider a couple of other aspects of the story. The first is that the creative process started with a problem, what you might even call a failure, in the existing technology. The vacuum cleaner kept blocking. It let out a screaming noise. Dyson had to keep bending down to pick up bits of trash by hand.

Had everything been going smoothly Dyson would have had no motivation to change things. Moreover, he would have had no intellectual challenge to sink his teeth into. It was the very nature of the engineering problem that sparked a possible solution (a bag less vacuum cleaner).

And this turns out to be an almost perfect metaphor for the creative process, whether it involves vacuum cleaners, a quest for a new brand name, or a new scientific theory. Creativity is, in many respects, a response.

Relativity was a response to the failure of Newtonian mechanics to make accurate predictions when objects were moving at fast speeds.

Masking tape was a response to the failure of existing adhesive tape, which would rip the paint off when it was removed from cars and walls.

Dropbox, as we have seen, was a response to the problem of forgetting your flash drive and thus not having access to important files.

This aspect of the creative process, the fact that it emerges in response to a particular difficulty, has spawned its own terminology. It is called the “problem phase” of innovation. “The damn thing had been bugging me for years,” Dyson says of the conventional vacuum cleaner. “I couldn’t bear the inefficiency of the technology. It wasn’t so much a ‘problem phase’ as a ‘hatred phase.’ ”

Creativity is, in many respects, a response.

We often leave this aspect of the creative process out of the picture. We focus on the moment of epiphany, the detonation of insight that happened when Newton was hit by the apple or Archimedes was taking a bath. That is perhaps why creativity seems so ethereal. The idea is that such insights could happen anytime, anywhere. It is just a matter of sitting back and letting them flow.

But this leaves out an indispensable feature of creativity. Without a problem, without a failure, without a flaw, without a frustration, innovation has nothing to latch on to. It loses its pivot. As Dyson puts it: “Creativity should be thought of as a dialogue. You have to have a problem before you can have the game-changing riposte.”

Perhaps the most graphic way to glimpse the responsive nature of creativity is to consider an experiment by Charlan Nemeth, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and her colleagues. She took 265 female undergraduates and randomly divided them into five-person teams. Each team was given the same task: to come up with ideas about how to reduce traffic congestion in the San Francisco Bay Area. These five-person teams were then assigned to one of three ways of working.

The first group were given the instruction to brainstorm. This is one of the most influential creativity techniques in history, and it is based on the mystical conception of how creativity happens: through contemplation and the free flow of ideas. In brainstorming the entire approach is to remove obstacles. It is to minimize challenges. People are warned not to criticize each other, or point out the difficulties in each other’s suggestions. Blockages are bad. Negative feedback is a sin.

The second group were given no guidelines at all: they were allowed to come up with ideas in any way they thought best.

But the third group were actively encouraged to point out the flaws in each other’s ideas. Their instructions read: “Most research and advice suggests that the best way to come up with good solutions is to come up with many solutions. Free-wheeling is welcome; don’t be afraid to say anything that comes to mind. However, in addition, most studies suggest that you should debate and even criticize each other’s ideas [my italics].”

The results were remarkable. The groups with the dissent and criticize guidelines generated 25 percent more ideas than those who were brainstorming (or who had no instructions). Just as striking, when individuals were later asked to come up with more solutions for the traffic problem, those with the dissent guidelines generated twice as many new ideas as the brainstormers.

Further studies have shown that those who dissent rather than brainstorm produce not just more ideas, but more productive and imaginative ideas. As Nemeth put it: “The basic finding is that the encouragement of debate— and even criticism if warranted— appears to stimulate more creative ideas. And cultures that permit and even encourage such expression of differing viewpoints may stimulate the most innovation.”

The reason is not difficult to identify. The problem with brainstorming is not its insistence on free-wheeling or quick association. Rather, it is that when these ideas are not checked by the feedback of criticism, they have nothing to respond to. Criticism surfaces problems. It brings difficulties to light. This forces us to think afresh. When our assumptions are violated we are nudged into a new relationship with reality. Removing failure from innovation is like removing oxygen from a fire.

Think back to Dyson and his Hoover. It was the flaw in the existing technology that forced Dyson to think about cleaning in a new way. The blockage in the filter wasn’t something to hide away from or pretend wasn’t there. Rather, the blockage, the failure, was a gilt-edged invitation to reimagine vacuum-cleaning.

Imagination is not fragile. It feeds off flaws, difficulties, and problems. Insulating ourselves from failuresis to rob one of our most valuable mental faculties of fuel.

“It always starts with a problem,” Dyson says. “I hated vacuum cleaners for twenty years, but I hated hand dryers for even longer. If they had worked perfectly, I would have had no motivation to come up with a new solution. But more important, I would not have had the context to offer a creative solution. Failures feed the imagination. You cannot have the one without the other.”

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