Change in the 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!


  • Lyr,

    I'm afraid you've oversimplified the processes. It's not entirely clear how early punchcutters designed their types, which is to say that we have few examples of drawn "artwork" models. We do know, however, that 20th-century punchcutters did follow the designs of others, such as Charles Malin's work on some of Eric Gill's and Hans Mardersteig's types, August Rosenberger's cutting of Zapf's early types, and P.H. Rädisch's work for Jan van Krimpen, at Enschedé. In these cases, the drawing and rendering into punches were two very distinct steps. It should be noted that the aforementioned punchcutters also performed an invaluable editorial function, especially when the designs had to be interpreted in different sizes. One must consider how decorative types were made in the 19th century, most often cut into soft metal from which matrices were "grown" through electrotyping, and how mechanical engraving (the Benton machine) obviated the need for cutting punches altogether at certain foundries. Then there was the justifier and the caster.

    In the large sense of things, the tasks have not changed entirely in the digital world, though it is now reasonably efficient for one person to perform all of them, and the tasks themselves have changed their names and techniques. (It should be noted, though, that fonts with a broad array of OpenType features have given rise to a new kind of specialist, at least for the moment.) And it's reasonable to assume that some people are better at some tasks than they are at others.

    What's different is that, today, one can rush into type design with little skill and even less discipline, which would not have been tolerated in the world of real hardware. But really good work is another matter, and it hasn't changed. The number of fonts that will last into the future has gone up, but probably not as a percentage of the total output.