Revival Types: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past, by Paul Shaw New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017, 256pp. HB 9780300219296. $40.
Reviewed by Misty Thomas-Trout
Misty Thomas-Trout is Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Dayton.
Revival Type is an episodic journey visualizing typographic revivals that connect the past with the present. Shaw, a graphic designer, typographer, and design historian, insightfully highlights examples of digital revivals from 1990–2016. Shaw’s interpretation of a type revival is one that exists digitally with characters that are “derived from a previous typeface or example of lettering” (3). Author of Blackletter: Type and National Identity and Helvetica and the New York City Subway System, Shaw’s new book is a densely-packed history that makes the complex subject of type revivals invigorating for experts and easier for novices to understand.
Shaw offers insights into the approaches and processes designers use to develop and define a
Shaw not only explains the historical frameworks of different types and the unique features that lead to their classification according to the systems developed by Francis Thibaudeau in 1921, and revised with subcategories by Maximilien Vox in 1925 respectively. Shaw also develops new classifications for a few of the more unruly typefaces. For example, the chapter on Late Victorian Types gathers the eclectic type revivals drawn from the Artistic Printing era (
The author helpfully highlights the inspiration behind each revival, but his categorization of each as either spirit- or structure-based might have been more thoroughly explained. In the introduction, Shaw identifies Quatro as a specific typeface that captures the spirit of the original model and he suggests Garamond Premier Pro is an example of a structure-based revival adapted for current technology. One could argue that every revival captures the spirit of its original model if enough characteristics are visually translated into the new revival. So a more elaborate definition of the specific criteria behind distinguishing spirit- and structure-based would have been helpful.
Shaw’s text is accompanied by ample illustrations that breathe life into every part of the letters and allow the reader to understand typography’s living history. For example, a detail photograph of Text Romeyn (1739) is paired with its digital revival DTL Fleischmann D designed in 1992. Both versions are stunning baroque-style
Paul Shaw’s Revival Types: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past introduces helpful definitions and new approaches that will strengthen reader’s understanding of the history of graphic design and more specifically of typography and the complex subject of type revivalism. Robust historical context and explanation of how type influences visual culture and inspires contemporary type