Dew Gibbons + Partners


MONOTYPE : from print to pixel


Every time you see the written word, in newspapers, on digital screens, packaging or on the side of a London bus, you are observing typography, written in a way as to reinforce the word’s meaning and the context it’s placed in. And there is a very good chance that the typeface you see will either have been redrawn or in some instances designed by Monotype. Monotype has been at the forefront of typography innovation since the 1800s – giving its name to the first fully mechanical typesetting machine - and is still doing it today – pretty impressive. 

Being virtually neighbours, we invited a few people from the London Monotype hub over for lunch and a show-and-tell session at the DG+P Studio. They came with a box of beautiful original manuscripts, avant-garde tales and a ton of typeface leave behinds. Leading the discussion was Toshi Omagari, a polyglot typographer with a passion for typeface and an impressive portfolio, including his revived Metro Nova. Toshi’s presence was energising: showing us each Monotype typography artifact with a piece of historical information. In the case of the iconic Times New Roman, we were privileged to see the original hand-drawn document, rubbings out and re-draws, designer notes, dates and all.The design of typefaces is a historic craft, with its beginnings in the painstaking task of designing onto wood, metal and paper.  Now, with the rise of computers, the designer’s skillset has evolved, with a new type of innovation born from it.

Toshi, as comfortable with a pencil as with a keyboard, tells us of a technique he likes to use – a joystick used to play video games – allowing him a different kind of control and maneuverability. Computers have breathed a new kind of life into type, but what happens when you want the authenticity and originality of handwriting? How can we make sure that original flair is not lost in all the technology? This was something Monotype was challenged with when it came to making a font for Quentin Blake - an illustrator whose drawings and writing are known and loved globally – a straightforward typeface just wouldn’t do, instead a series of four alphabets were made which would be randomized upon typing, giving the impression of the real, un-orderly fashion, of handwriting. With Barack Obama and Kanye West, also getting in on the personalised typeface act, will the future see all of us typing in our own, unique handwriting? Whatever the answer, we can be sure of one thing though, Monotype will be in the mix!