This website just passed its twentieth birthday. In web years, that’s more like a centennial.
Typographica was born on May 1, 2002. It was an era without social media, when the easiest way to publish your thoughts on the internet was through a forum or a blog, and those platforms freely connected to one another through the beauty of HTML and the World Wide Web.
Throughout the 1990s, the nerdiest typographic chatter online was limited to obscure newsgroups and email lists. There wasn’t a dedicated type forum on the web until 2000, with the launch of Typophile (2000–2019). And, at the time, the only two regularly updated blogs dedicated specifically to type were David John Earls’ Typographer (1999–2009) and Andy Crewdson’s Lines & Splines (2000–2002). Noting the lack of a collaborative blog, Joshua Lurie-Terrell — a graphic designer and printing history enthusiast based in Sacramento — spontaneously opened a Blogger account, gave it a name borrowed from Herbert Spencer’s famous mid-century journal, and soon offered author access to anyone in the field who was interested in contributing.
Looking back at the bite-size, mostly-text, link-laden posts of those first few months, it becomes clear: early Typographica was essentially Type Twitter before there was Twitter. It was a daily stream of links to and from other blogs, of breaking industry news that wouldn’t get covered in printed media until weeks later, of projects and observations, deep thoughts and plain silliness.
At the risk of waxing nostalgic, I’m posting a few highlights from that time (thanks to Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, as our own archive only goes back to 2004). I do this not just because it’s fun to reminisce, but because I yearn for the kind of freewheeling conversations and community an informal blog could create. Some of these connections seem less possible in an Instagram world that siloes individuals, discourages outbound links, demands “engagement” in the form of empty praise, and generally gives people less control over the stuff they make.
I hope the pendulum begins to swing back toward truly independent publishing, and that people rediscover the magic of the blog. Hat tip to friends like Alphabettes who already have.
Highlights from Typographica’s First Year
- May 12, 2002 — “The End of And Era”
Patric King laments the end of Lines & Spines.
- May 13, 2002 — “Fonts for OT belong on TP”
King on Adobe’s first OpenType collection.
- May 23, 2002 — “Bradbury’s Case for a Unicase”
Gregory Cadars finds a nice web guide (now offline) to Bradbury Thompson’s Alphabet 26 concept.
- May 31, 2002 — “RIP FontFont.de”
One of several snidely critical posts that miraculously led to the author getting hired by FontShop.
- Jun 1, 2002 — “Where in the World Isn’t Christian Schwartz?”
“8 years, 7 foundries. The man is only 25.”
- Jun 25, 2002 — “Gotham Relay”
The initial release of Gotham. Little did we know it would soon become the face of the aughts.
- Jun 30, 2002 — Arial. It doesn’t suck.
Su’s daring defense of the typeface type lovers love to hate.
- Jul 8, 2002 — “Kareful Pixels”
That brief moment when Susan Kare’s non-Apple pixel fonts were available for public licensing.
- Jul 14, 2002 — “Do a Tee for Typophile”
A competition judged by Cyrus Highsmith, Jonathan Hoefler, Carlos Segura, Rich Roat, and Erik van Blokland. (Mark Simonson won in November.)
- Jul 20, 2002 — A report of TypeCon2002
“Up for bid at the auction was a sign that John Downer had hand-painted at the workshop. The sign became the target of a lengthy bidding war, finally going for $135 CAD. As the audience applauded the winner, another Downer sign was presented to everyone’s surprise. Then another. Then another. Each one went pretty high. By the fourth sign, James Montalbano yelled from the back of the room: ‘He’s in the hall painting these things while we bid!’ Pleased with the results of the auction, Downer later announced he was going to go back into grocery-sign painting full-time.”
- Jul 31, 2002 — Photostatic Notes from the Underground
As she often did, Jenny Pfafflin expands our minds with something fascinating that is tangentially related to typography.
- Aug 16, 2002 — The Serif Is Dying
(Perhaps the 2020s will be the decade when it comes back to life — at least for display use.)
- Sep 4, 2002 — “Oh Yeah? Embed This!”
When ITC and Agfa Monotype tried to legally prevent Adobe from allowing users to embed fonts in PDFs.
- Sep 27, 2002 — Anti-Piracy, the Dutch Way
Kai Bernau on Underware’s permissive licensing for students. Perhaps the first foundry to offer trial fonts for educational use?
- Oct 9, 2002 — “I Really Want to (Type) Direct”
Kristen Dooley wonders if the title of type director has “gone the way of the gandy dancer”.
- Nov 6, 2002 — “Zero Rules”
Issue 2 of digital interview magazine, Règles:Zéro. “I’d like to see a world where designers had free access to all existing fonts, and their clients pay for what is used.” — Miles Newlyn
- Nov 26, 2002 — Trick or Treat?
- Dec 7, 2002 — Small Talk
Typophile’s typography lingo generator still works in the Wayback Machine. For a contemporary take, see NaN and Production Type’s ThisFontDoesNotExist.