The development of technological advancements is instrumental in the progression of typography as a tool and a design form. The new technologies inspired designers to explore new capabilities and then changed the boundaries of existing visual language structures of the Industrial Revolution, as they wanted to express their unique experiences and differentiate themselves from the who did the job before them.
Typography is defined as a study, use, and design of sets of identical repeated letterforms, the invention of printing technologies drastically changed the nature of written communication that the term typography was used to describe it. It did not matter whether the typefaces look formal or informal, geometric or organic, messy or clean typographic quality was based on their reproducibility.
The Birth of Photography
The principles of a camera were known in antiquity, the actual chemistry that was needed to register an image was not available until the nineteenth century. The artists from the Renaissance going forward used the camera obscura, which was normally a small hole in the wall of a darkened box that would pass light through the hole and project an upside-down image (lumen candela, 2019. lumen. [Online]
[Accessed 15 September 2019]). The Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce invented the light-sensitive surface and that’s how the basic principle of photography was born.
The development of photography largely related to technological improvements in three areas, speed, resolution, permanence. Niepce’s famous photograph View from The Window at Gras (1826) was the first photograph that required a very slow speed, it took 8 hours to photograph a single photo. The photos were taken using a camera obscura to expose a copper-plated coated in silver and pewter, in Niepce’s image there was a blurry quality which was due to changing conditions during the long exposure time, causing the resolution of the image to be grainy and hard to read. The other challenge Niepce’ faced is that of permanence, because many of his early images turned black over time due to continued exposure of light. In 1839 there was an invention of a chemical that reversed the light sensitivity of paper called hypo.
A variety of techniques were experimented by photographers that came after Niepce’. In 1839 Louis Daguerre invented a new process that he named daguerreotype, this invention reduced exposure time and created a lasting result, but the invention managed to produce a single picture.
In February 1841 an Englishman called William Henry Fox Talbot experimented with what would eventually become his calotype method. Talbot invention included the creation of a negative paper, and the new technology involved the transformation from negative to positive image, this allowed more than one copy of a picture. In 1844 the detail of Talbots method was seen in his famous photograph, The Open Door which captures the view through a medieval-looking entrance. The rough stones texture surrounded the door, the vines grew up the walls and the rustic broom that leaned in the doorway demonstrated the minute details captured by Talbots photographic improvements. (lumen candela, 2019. lumen. [Online]
[Accessed 15 September 2019])
In 1851 the collodion method was introduced. The collodion method involved a substance called a gun cotton which was used onto the glass plate, this allowed even shorter exposure time (3-5 minutes), as well as a clearer image. By the year 1867, there was another invention called a dry glass plate, this invention reduced the inconvenience of the wet cotton collodion method, this allowed advancements in technology to continue making photography less labor-intensive.
In the year 1878 glass plates could be purchased, but the glass plates eliminated the fool of chemicals, the new advancement decreased the exposure time by 1/25th of a second, this allowed moving objects to be photographed and lessened the need for a tripod. 1878 remarked the new development which is celebrated in Eadweard Maybridges sequence of photographs called Galloping horse.
The invention of the steam engine came after Gutenberg’s printing press.
In the early 1800s a German printer, Friedrich Koening developed the steam-powered printing press. The process of steam-powered printing press involved inking metal type and debossing it onto the surface of the paper. There were new developments made to accommodate the new way of printing. By the middle of the 19th century, presses could produce 25 000 copies per hour, but each letter on a word, book, magazine, and newspaper were set by hand. In the year 1886, Ottmar Merganthaler invented the Linotype machine which could create type automatically. This invention involved a person hitting a typewriter key, and this created a matrix that would line up with other characters and the melted lead would be poured into all the letters. The result would be a plate of raised letters that contained an entire page in one block. The Linotype machine could do the work of seven or eight compositors at the same time. The civilization was shifting from humanist values to preoccupation with material goods which was declared by critics of the new industrial age. Public education and literacy quickly developed with the new technology as the need for reading material become important and widely available. The overpowering need for mass communication led to mass production of goods. The linotype moved quickly in the production of periodicals and illustrated weeklies, including the Saturday Evening Post. The technological advances in steam-powered printing presses led to the global spread of words and pictographs, and the age of mass communication arrived.