DESIGN ORIGINS: Tools and Typography

The beginnings of design included illuminated manuscripts and movable type, and evolved from there during the Industrial Revolution and Victorian Era.

Illuminated Manuscript

Writing began in the Medieval Era with the quills and chisels that scribes used to create elaborate manuscripts. They often used skinny lettering to save space, which we see in the Gothic fonts we still have at our disposal today. At that time, manuscripts were only available to people who could read; namely, the wealthy. It was a mark of wealth if someone owned a manuscript.

Gutenberg, who we often associate with the invention of the printing press, actually invented something far more important during the Industrial Revolution: movable type. He was able to create a system using movable molds to reproduce letters on parchment. This invention came from a growing need to share information with the masses. In fact, because it was possible to distribute identical copies of manuscripts, many people at that time thought it was an act of witchcraft.

Victorian Era Advertisement

From there, society became more consumer-oriented in theĀ Victorian Era. Design played a big role; billboards and advertisements could be mass produced. However, the principles of design we follow today were not set in stone back then. In the Victorian Era, it was all about whose ad could stand out the most. Several fonts were used in a single ad, and there was virtually no white space. Everything was over the top, including the outrageous claims some ads made. An interesting design fact of the ads at this time is that artists stayed completely anonymous. In my next post, you’ll see how these ads compare with the evolution of advertising in Europe, where artists valued aesthetics over consumerism.


Blog at