20th century typography

Graphic design until the 1980s was normally a collaborative process. The designer was a creative visionary who came up with a conceptual and aesthetic approach to a client's project. The designer would assemble typography (there was no way for a designer to create type unless they drew it themselves or used something like Letraset), images (there were no online image banks, so this often involved supervising photography), and arranging for any other services needed, including printing. The designer was like a film director more than an independent creator.


Archetype was started by Richard Hunt in 1987 as a type shop, supplying type to graphic designers and publishers, using the electronic Alphatype CRS sheet fed typesetter with 8-inch 128k program and data disks driven by a PC with a 286 processor with an additional Alphatype-designed board that replaced the original minicomputer, with a darkroom and film processor to photographically develop the sheets. It used the original dedicated typesetting keyboard.

Client relationship

Archetype supplied the typography. Although most designers were not involved with production of type beyound specifying the typeface, point size, leading and measure, they had to able to tell if type was good, if it matched their vision, even if they didn't always know why type was good or why it worked. At Archetype there was always a lot of dialogue between us and the designer. This would involve everything from suggesting different typeface, size and leading, to adjusting tracking and kerning, usually without any discussion. We would adjust rags and justification parameters as well. One advantage, in terms of quality, was that the program would halt if the program couldn't set a line with the set parameters. The typesetter would then intervene to adjust the type in the way he or she thought best.

21st century

Today, the business has changed radically from the early days. Type shops disappeared, and the traditional typography had to find other occupations. Most left the business entirely, as the model changed to a 'service bureau' model. Today, designers produce most type themselves, though consultants and freelancers are still used for handlettering, to complete large and complex jobs, refinements to logotypes, and adjustment and creation of typefaces. The most common outside suppliers today are web coders. Now that designers produce the type that they used to rely on type specialists for, they need skills that used to be relegated to others.