Font History

The Sans Serif Typeface Makes Its Debut

The first sans serif typeface became commercially available at the same time as the first slab serif typeface. In 1816, William Caslon IV created “Two Lines English Egyptian,” commonly referred to as “Caslon Egyptian.” It immediately became popular, and advertising and other printed material from the early 1800s stood out as a result of its use.Caslon’s Two Lines Egyptian typeface (the “two lines” refers to the font’s height). Sans serif type was influenced by block lettering, which was popular in classical antiquity and included minimum or no serifs.

Egyptomania swept much of the Western world in the early 1800s, and both typography and design were influenced by Ancient Egyptian art and its blocky lettering style. The next major advancement in sans serif type came a century later, when Edward Johnston developed the iconic typeface for the London Underground, which is still in use today.

History of Typefaces in the Twentieth Century

More significant advances in typeface history occurred during the twentieth century. Frederic Goudy, who began his career in the 1920s, was the first full-time type designer. Copperplate Gothic and Goudy Old Style (based on Jenson’s Old Style typefaces) are two of his most well-known fonts. Max Miedinger developed Helvetica, possibly the most famous typeface of the twentieth century, in 1957. In the twentieth century, other minimalist typefaces like as Futura (created by Paul Renner) and Optima were created (developed by Hermann Zapf).

Typography in the Digital Age

Digi Grotesk, 1968

Rudolf Hell created the first digital typeface, Digi Grotesk, in 1968. Bitmaps were used in the early days of digital fonts, resulting in less-than-ideal legibility at small sizes. The first outline (vector) typefaces were created in 1974, resulting in improved readability while also lowering file sizes.

Open Type Fonts, 1997

TrueType fonts were developed in the late 1980s, allowing for the usage of a single file for both computer displays and output devices such as printers. OpenType fonts were created in 1997, allowing for the usage of a single font file on both Mac and PC platforms. In the same year, CSS included the first-ever font styling rules, and the following year, Internet Explorer 4 received the first support for web fonts (albeit they weren't widely used at the time).

The Evolution of Typefaces on the Internet


The twenty-first century saw significant advancements in online typefaces. WOFF (Web Open Font Format) was created in 2009 and added to the W3C open web standard. When all major browsers eventually introduced WOFF support in 2011, this paved the path for mainstream use of web fonts. The widespread acceptance of online fonts provides designers with nearly limitless typeface options. Widespread web font support transformed digital design, giving designers virtually limitless alternatives in web typography and ushering in trends like large typography and outline fonts. In 2016, the web typography revolution was bolstered by the inclusion of changeable fonts in the OpenType standard. Within a single font file, variable fonts can alter size and weight depending on where they’re utilized in a design. Because of this versatility, fewer font files are needed, resulting in faster page load times. People can use Google Fonts to limit their search results to only show variable fonts.

Scroll to top