50s Style Fonts

Written by sharon secor
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The new photographic technologies that began to move into common usage during the middle of the 20th century gave rise to a variety of '50s-style fonts, some of which continue to be influential, even in today's ultra-modern era of digital typesetting and fonts. One important technology affecting fonts created during that decade was phototypesetting, which offered greater versatility and ease in font creation than had been previously available.


In 1955, while working for IBM, Howard G. Kettler designed Courier, one of the most far-reaching and influential fonts to come out of that decade. This sans serif style, with its monospace design, was perfect for the modern world, its electric typewriters and the explosion in computer technologies that would soon follow. Courier came to be broadly used and served as the foundation for an entire family of fonts. In recent years, this font has begun to wane in its popularity, with the U.S. State Department discontinuing its use as its official font.


The Mistral font was created by the French graphic designer and painter Roger Excoffon in 1953, and was inspired by his own handwriting. This font falls into the script category of typefaces, with the graceful lines of the Mistral font becoming one of Excoffon's most recognisable fonts. Typical uses for this font style include fine invitations and formal announcements.


The 1952 creation of the famed German typeface and font designer Hermann Zapf, Melior has a meaningful place in font history because it is one of several transitional designs that came out during that decade. These fonts were referred to as transitional, because they straddled the old and modern eras of typeface design, synthesising elements of both realms. Melior was a serif synthesis type, keeping the small strokes at the end of letters that the sans serif types did away with in their sleek, modern design.


The Univers font is categorised as a realist sans serif, and was created in 1954 by award-winning designer Adrian Frutiger. Frutiger was inspired to create his Univers font after seeing the success of the modern sans serif designs, including Helvetica, designed in 1951 by Max Miedinger. Sleek, smooth and modern, the Univers font was designed to be a general-use font, suitable for a broad range of applications. After its introduction into the typesetting world, this font came to be widely used, set in metal type and with the phototypesetting techniques that came into common use during the 1950s. It became one of the most famous of the fonts designed by Frutiger.

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