Compromises required by photo-type technology, along with the 1970s passion for large x-heights, caused many widely used photo-type versions of classic fonts to fall into disfavour by the 1990. A growing awareness of the limitations of photo-type fonts accompanied the arrival of digital type and digitised versions of early 20th century classic faces that were embraced by many designers.[21] Like other classic typefaces, Bodoni and Didot had been the subject of many recent digital revivals, few of them following the exact rules and characteristics. But they surely served as inspiration for an enormous collection of modern style typefaces.

[21] Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.26
WTC Our Bodoni Archivi, Museo Bodoniano

OUR BODONI

In 1989 Tom Carnase drawn for the Vignelli office a descendant of Berthold Bodoni Antiqua called Our Bodoni. This decidedly modernist take on the Bodoni family was motivated by Massimo Vignelli’s frequent pairing of serif and sans-serif faces. Carnase adjusted the x-heights, shorted the ascenders and descenders to match the ratios found in Helvetica, and developed a set of four weights to allow for maximum control and contrast.

WTC Our Bodoni
Bodoni Antiqua

ITC BODONI

Two years later, International Typeface Corporation (ITC) sent a team of typeface designers to the Museo Bodoniano in Parma. The design team carefully examined the collection to determine which of the Bodoni fonts were most suitable to combine into a scalable set of digital fonts. This proved to be a difficult task because, unlike many contemporary type designers who might work on several distinctly different type designs over the course of a career, Bodoni spent his entire life refining and expanding the range of a single face.

The research team found that individual cutting included slight variations in serif structure adjustments to the shape of counter-forms, and other details. These variations became more obvious as the fonts evolved from very small sizes to large majuscules. To try to capture the subtle variations between cutting, the ITC team decided to create three separate sets of fonts. The first was a large display face optimised for a 72-point setting. The smaller faces were optimised for 6- and 12-point text. For the large face (later named ITC Bodoni Seventy Two), the team chose Bodoni’s Papale, or the Pope’s type as its model. The small face was modelled after Bodoni’s elegant text face Filosofia Bassano. In a daring experiment, the 12-point face was created by the process of computer-aided interpolation. The success of this middle synthesised version, according to Stone, is a testimony to the “precise visual image of Bodoni’s type which he developed and maintained over many years”. The three sizes of ITC Bodoni ensure that hairline strikes are not fragmented when printed small. The idea of issuing a set of fonts for different point-size range is a recent development in digital font design and distribution, although it was common in metal type cut for letterpress. This feature allows for increased fidelity to classic metal types.

ITC Bodoni Six
ITC Bodoni Twelve
ITC Bodoni Seventytwo

Unlike early Bodoni revivals that tended to oversimplify the geometry of the characters, the ITC versions strove to preserve the variety and unique characteristics of actual Bodoni type without resorting to photorealistic interpretations. The ITC version captures quite convincingly the often ignored organic properties of Bodoni’s type, evidenced particularly in the rounded serifs and the less rigid shape of the counter forms. Each size of the ITC Bodoni includes a roman, an italic, a bold and bold italic, and each weight includes a set of Old Style figures and small caps. A very recent addition to the family is a set of capitals based on Bodoni’s swash majuscules, the Majuscole Cancellaresche.[22]

[22] Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.26
ITC Bodoni Sev Swash

LT DIDOT

One of the most successful translations of Didot into a digital form was carried out by Adrian Frutiger for Linotype-Hell in 1991. The a sensitive interpretation of the French Modern Face Didot. The clear forms of this alphabet are faithful to the objectives and rational characteristics of the Enlightenment. Spans two weights with italics and a headline cut for larger sizes, all with optional Old Style numerals. The roman has small caps, initials, an open face, and two sets of ornaments.

LT Didot Headline
LT Didot Roman
LT Didot Italic
LT Didot Bold

HTF DIDOT

One year later, in 1992, Hoefler Type Foundry release HTF Didot. Commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar as the cornerstone of a new visual identity, HTF Didot expresses the Didot style with remarkable elegance and grace. Like ITC Bodoni, HTF Didot provides a set of fonts designed for use at very specific ranges of point size. Because of the razor-sharp strikes and serifs, a fully scalable HTF Didot requires seven separate sizes – below 10 point, 11-15, 16-23, 24-41, 42-63, 64-95 and 96 and above.

HTF Didot 06 Medium / 11 Medium / 16 Medium / 24 Medium/  42 Medium / 64 Medium / 96 Medium

The designer Jonathan Hoefler explains the historical precedent for this approach in the 1992 HTF catalog “Before the development of the pantographic punch-cutter at the end of the 19th century, it was impossible to duplicate the design of a typeface in multiple sizes. As a result, types often varied wildly from size to size, but the need to handcraft each particular size allowed punch-cutters to imbue each design with characteristics which were suitable to its size.” HTF Didot includes light, medium and bold weights, each with an accompanying italic. Harper’s Bazaar become a milestone in fashion publishing, its typeface singled out by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) as part of “one of the most dramatic magazine reinventions in history.” The HTF Didot typefaces continue to be a major part of the most fashionable brands, including Bazaar itself.[22]

[22] A testament to the flexibility and durability of the style — typography.com
LT Didot Headline
HTF Didot 96 Medium

BODONI FILOSOFIA

Another addition to the Bodoni family is Zuzana Licko’s Filosofia. Introduced in 1996, Filosofia expresses Licko’s preference for a geometric Bodoni. It incorporates features such as the “slightly bulging round serif endings that often appeared in printed samples of Bodoni’s work” — Filosofia specimen page in Émigre Catalog 1998. Filosofia comes in two sizes — a regular size for text and a grand size for display. The regular face features reduced strike contrast to allow for a very comfortable optical effect when set in running text, while Filosofia Grand adopts the more conventional proportions associated with Bodoni display types. It has a strong vertical feel due to its slightly condensed letterforms and strong vertical symmetry.

Filosofia Regular
Filosofia Grand

Filosofia offers an interesting contrast to the ITC Bodoni family. White the latter revival does a remarkable job restoring to contemporary use the look and feel of Bodoni’s pages, Filosofia draws from the originals in a distinctly postmodern way – creating a new face by repurposing admirable features from the past. [23]

[23] Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.60
Filosofia Regular
ITC Bodoni Seventytwo

LE JEUNE

A more recent Didot adaptation is Le Jeune, originally designed by Commercial Type partners Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz for Vanity Fair in 2013, is a modern adaptation of the idiom in four optical sizes, blends the precision of French neoclassical types with a more contemporary enlarged x-height and ball terminal shapes from the Anglo-American tradition. Where the French Moderns typically feature soft teardrop forms, Le Jeune features sharp, round ball terminals more typical of both the nineteenth century in Britain, and the later interpretations of these types for Photo-Lettering Inc. and its contemporaries in the US in the middle of the 20th century.

Schwartz and Barnes enlisted the help of designer and type historian Sébastien Morlighem to find a wide range of historical references across the French Modern era. To fulfil the requirements of modern use, Le Jeune comes in four optical sizes for use from huge headlines of 200 point and above, where contrast between thick and thin is most extreme, down to 6 point captions, where robustness is needed. In the largest sizes the family comes in six weights from a light to a full-figured black, while the text size omits the light and medium for a total of four weights.

CT Le Jeune Collection
CT Le Jeune Hairline
CT Le Jeune Poster
CT Le Jeune Deck

The various fonts that are today known simply as Bodoni or Didot usually adopt one consistent set of characters for each size. The many fonts of Bodoni and the Didots however contained a rich set of variants on certain letterforms from font to font and even included alternate versions of some characters within the same font. The wishbone v and w, and the splayed y found in Linotype Didot, for example, are among many variants of these forms in the Didot speciments. The HTF Didot adopts rounder forms (from the corps dix-huit of Didot le Jeune, which appear in the Specimen des Caracteres of 1819) which, to a modern eye, results in a more regularised face with a pleasing formal rhythm.[24]

[24] Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.63
HTF Didot Italic
LT Didot Italic

This article is part of my final project for the Advanced Typography Master 2016—2017 at EINA, Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona — The Revival of the Neoclassic Typefaces, tutor: Albert Corbeto