Term Paper: Revolution of Typography on the Internet

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¶ … revolution of typography on the Internet, including how type on the Internet has changed over time. Typography on the Internet has radically changed over time, and it has become an integral portion of the Web design experience. In the beginning, typography was not a major concern, but as Internet usage grew, the typography grew and evolved, as well, and now, it is the medium of information, research, news, and entertainment online. Internet typography is one of the most important aspects of Internet technology. It has changed over time, and odds are it will continue to evolve in the future, probably into something that we can only imagine, right now.

Essentially, typography is the lifeblood of the information age, from articles on the Internet to text for text messaging on electronic devices, it all depends on typography.

Typography actually began in the fifteenth century when Gutenberg invented the first printing press in 1452. Before that, monks and other learned individuals tediously transcribed everything by hand. The printing press revolutionized printing, reading, and disseminating information, just as the Internet has revolutionized those actions again. One writer notes, "Internet communication offers great advantages in terms of range, extent, variety, and speed" (Holt 2). Of course, all that communication, or a good part of it, begins with Internet typography.

It is interesting to note that when Gutenberg first developed the printing press, typography took off, there were numerous designs and innovations within the first 25 years of the press' inception, and then design tapered off. Experts believe the same will hold true for Internet typography. They also believe the first 25 years will show the most rapid growth, and it will slow down after that (Jones 236). It was of course, much more difficult to design typefaces for the printing press. Another writer notes, "The design of these early type efforts could never get too involved as all copy was cast from lead matrices or carved in wood, which meant that curving text or getting letters to conform to specific shapes would have been impractical" (Osterer 44). Today, design and implementation is far easier, and the Internet changes so rapidly, that would have to be the case. It is easy to see how typography has improved in the last decade or so of Internet development, so it is certain that new developments will continue in the future, and they will be even more innovative and enlightening for the user.

One writer notes the origins of typography on the Internet were quite minimal. He notes, "The first versions of HTML did not even allow web designers control over what typeface they were to use for their page" (Morrison). The first computers displayed text in amber or green tones, and users had no control over those colors, either. As the Internet evolved and began to gain in popularity, there were developments in the typefaces available.

Morrison continues, "Typeface is a specific size and style of type within a type family. The two main styles of typeface used on the web are serif and sans serif" (Morrison). Serif is a type with small lines on the letters, (this typeface, Times New Roman), is an example of a serif type, while Ariel is an example of sans serif, a typeface without the lines. Most experts and designers agree that serif is easier to read in print form, while sans serif is easier to read online. Verdana, a sans serif font, has been designed specifically for use on the Web, and it is the most common font in use on the Internet today (Morrison).

Clearly, because most Web pages are text-based, typography is one of the most important elements of Web design. Graphics are important, but another writer notes, "When designing a website, you should always think 'text'" (Tomlinson 23). Thus, typography is what brings the surfer in, appeals to their visual sense, and helps them decide whether to buy a product, go further in the Web site, or leave and go somewhere else. Typography, then, is the nucleus of the Internet, and without it, there would be no Internet. Poor typography can be a negative experience for the surfer, and if the topography is bad enough, it may drive them away from the site altogether. Early Web sites used mainly Times New Roman, or even worse, Courier as their main typefaces, and used little graphic design to break up the pages; thankfully, Internet typography has come a long way since then.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), developed in the mid-90s, and allowed designers real control over typographical content on the Web. CSS has gone through several designs, making it even more suitable for Web design and typographical control. Essentially, CSS is a stylesheet language compatible with HTML and XML Web documents. It is used to define fonts, colors, and styles in compatible styles, and that will allow the page to be utilized in different ways (to be printed, for example). CSS added more style and substance to Web pages, and gave designers more options for content and appearance (Waefer).

Another revolution in Internet typography was the advent of aliased vs. anti-aliased text. Before the advent of Windows XP and the Mac OS 10, users had no control over aliased text, which sometimes caused jagged edges on the text that made it difficult to read. Now, users can select anti-aliased text in these operating systems, making the typography smoother and more effective. Writer Morrison states, "This is a great option in terms of design because it uses color variations to make jagged or stair stepping angles seen in aliased text look smoother" (Morrison). However, small anti-aliased text can sometimes be blurry and difficult to read (Morrison).

Scalability is another innovation in typography that allows the user to make the text on a page larger or smaller, making it easier to read in just about any situation. The Internet used to be only accessible to those with good or even excellent eyesight, but scalability allows even visually impaired users to utilize at least part of the Internet, and it is another innovation that indicates how the typography of the Internet is both innovative, revolutionary, and constantly on the move.

There is another exciting aspect of the Internet typography revolution, and that is the ability for just about anyone to design his or her own typeface, creating a new Internet typography in the blink of an eye. Another writer notes, "Software packages like Fontographer now allow anyone to create convincing fonts and have also spawned many experimental typefaces and curious hybrids such as Fontshop's Fudoni (Futura + Bodoni)" (Osterer 44). This allows for much more creativity and diversity than ever before, and it allows much more creative freedom on the part of Web and graphic designers. The Internet has revolutionized graphic arts and how graphics are created, as well, and that adds to the overall appeal of the typography and Web page design.

Hypertext is another revolutionary innovation that floods Internet typography. Hypertext is the ability to click on a word in a Web page and have it do something or take the reader to another Web page. This ability has changed the way people research information on the Web, and it has come to as commonplace as watching television or listening to music. Two authors note, "By introducing alternate paths, information lacks the closure of the traditional printed narrative" (Heller and Meggs 237). This means the Internet experience can go on as long as the user wants it to, unlike the traditional use of typography, print media, where there is always a definite end to the book, magazine, or letter.

Hypertext is one of the most innovative and important aspects of Internet typography, but is it actually typography itself? In a word, yes. Hypertext is the result of coding, to be sure, but it changes the actual look and feel of a Web site, because it appears in a different color or size, and often, when a user's mouse hits the hypertext, it displays a new block of text. Thus, it has to mesh with the typography. Everyone has visited a poorly designed Web page where the hypertext was presented in a color that blended into the text, or did not change color after the user visited the link, and it is very difficult to use these poorly designed pages. Thus, hypertext is a part of the overall typography of a site, because it has an effect on the text around it, and on the user's experience.

Just as just about anyone can develop new Internet typography, users have the final control over the design and implementation of that typography, because they can change the look of a Web page or typeface by altering it on their computer, or choosing another typeface. Morrison continues, "No matter how hard a designer tries to develop the perfect combination of typeface and size, the user can still designate any typeface and size he or she wants, and there is nothing the designer… [END OF PREVIEW]

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