Change in type production process

What are your opinions on the loss of the 3 stage process for type production, (design, justification, and casting) due to computer software that rolls all 3 processes into one? has this change impacted on the quality of typeface created?

Thanks for any responses, much appreciated!

George Thomas's picture

Considering that the three-step process you mention pretty much became obsolete about forty or more years ago when phototype took over, you've left out a whole generation of production processes.

But you are correct about quality, but only in some quarters. There are many quality font developers out there who are just as good, if not better, than their predecessors.

Nick Shinn's picture

This might also be phrased the other way around, i.e. What are your opinions on the gain of consolidating the multi-stage process into one?

However, I don’t think the division of labor is irrevocably dependent on the state of technology, more to the maturity of the industry that centers on that technology. Now, many foundries separate the processes of concept, design, and production.

Digital fonts have been around for 25 years. The “quality of typeface created” has changed dramatically, from Matrix and Template Gothic to Gotham and Brandon Grotesque. The watershed was Zuzana Licko’s Filosofia.

charles ellertson's picture

Actually Nick, I've seen it argued that the Linotron 202, circa the 1960s, used "digital" type. Not sure I want either side of that one.

For the OP's term paper, it's the checking that matters. How does the type perform, with the materials involved. But checking on what?

What's changed is those materials -- nowadays, a font has to work with pixels on a screen, the range running from a 72-dpi computer monitor to a 300-dpi phone or tablet, soon higher still, I'll bet.

And with ink, dry toner(s) with inkjet or laser -- and printers having different resolutions & software, to the inks (soy or otherwise) with high-resolution offset printing.


Not a reasonable question, IMO

Albert Jan Pool's picture

I've seen it argued that the Linotron 202, circa the 1960s, used "digital" type.

According to the Linotype website, Linotron 202 was launched in 1978. The characters were stored as long-vector outlines so this was already pretty digital. Peter Karow’s Ikarus was presented at ATypI Warzawa in 1975. By that time there were also others who had been working on digital formats and software for digitizing, storing and rendering typefaces but experts of that time such as Robert Norton referred to Ikarus as ‘the only game in town’.

This is not where digital type started though … In their well researched book on Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell, which also covers the history of Hell Digiset (Hell’s digital typesetting system), Boris Fuchs and Christian Onnasch mention that the development of digital typesetting started with the Linotype 1010 in 1955. This machine scanned characters from a photomatrix and output them on photographic film by a CRT. As they did not store the characters, the process was not fully digital. The authors mention the start of digital typesetting at Hell in February 1964. By February 1965 the first typeface was coded on paper tape for CRT-output. In March the typeface date was converted from paper tape to a new magnetical storage medium that had just been developed by Siemens. The typeface matrix was 30 x 48 dots … In May and July Hell digitized its first sans serif. Other literature suggests that this may have been Digi Grotesk N (similar to Neuzeit-Grotesk). The first Digiset system was presented at the industry fair in Hanover, Germany in April 1966. The first working system was sold to RCA/USA in June 1966. The authors write that, after having convinced themselves that the Hell concept was better that their Videocomp, RCA decided to sell Hell’s Digiset typesetting system. RCA sold over 100 systems.

Concluding from these sources, Think we may say that digital type dates back to February 1965 (from the Hell perspective). By this month, February 2014, that’s about 49 years ago …

Nick Shinn's picture

Right. I was thinking in the context of this thread, of how Fontographer, which was introduced in 1986, changed the business, by making it possible for one person to make fonts.

Earlier, in a small design studio in 1978, I had been using an Itek Quadritek typesetting system. It was phototype, but the process was controlled with a “command line interface”.

The Quadritek, and the Compugraphic system used by many typesetting companies in Toronto at the time, had digital front ends.

But those earlier systems were part of the old type design set-up, split up into different specialist jobs.

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