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  • From Ink to Pixel and Beyond – is a research on the evolution of visual communication and the major innovations that led to the shift from ink to pixel, paper to screen and finality to opened-ended publishing.
  • Visual communication started with early cave paintings and the translation of an idea or thought into the written word. The invention of writing had a tremendous impact on human family establishing means of archiving and documenting knowledge.
  • Some of the earliest writings in Mesopotamia that “the origin of visible language evolved from the need to identify the contents of containers used to store food.”  The first forms of writings appeared in different locations and civilization at different periods of time and were developed independently. Winston says that “Supervening social necessities” bring answers to questions like “Why are many “inventions” created more or less simultaneously by technologists who had no contact with each other?” That theory is well illustrated by the sign of water for Mesopotamia, Egypt and China. Even though they share graphical similarities, there are no known common origins or proven connections with each other.
  • Jumping forward in time, the invention of the printing press and moveable type by Johan Gutenberg in the mid-15th century can also be framed in Winston’s theory of “Supervening social necessities”. With the diffusion of the technology, we see the emerging of the first typefaces that will become today’s classics. The evolution of typeface design goes hand in hand with the evolution of the technology, as many printers / typeface designers were developing their own typeface designs and set of characters, trying to improve aesthetics and readability.
  • According to Christensen’s theory of “Disruptive Innovation “, a “low-end innovation” occurs when “existing products are “too good” and hence overpriced relative to the value existing customers can use.” The printing press can be characterized as a “low-end innovation” as it permitted the democratization of the book and lowered its price value.Slowly replacing handwritten manuscripts, printed books and Gutenberg’s press opened the way to many socio-economic and political changes.
  • The introduction of the personal computer, desktop publishing software and the Internet triggered the shift from ink to pixel, and more importantly from paper to screen.The relation from reader to medium as changed and because digital display is now used as a medium of visual communication, designers had to develop fonts specifically for on screen reading, like Verdana introduced by Microsoft in 1996
  • Earl web-page design change a lot from HTML (limited possibilities in layout) to CCS (giving more flexibility), but web typography is still in a prototype stage with the limited access to 10 common web fonts. This limitation is due the “Type War” opposing browser vendors that want standardized web pages and designers and font foundries that “want to make sure their font files aren't too easy to download, especially since fonts are already often pirated.” And in the middle you find designers that want the flexibility to use just the right typefaces.This dilemma can be framed within Winston’s ‘law’ of “the suppression of the radical potential”. We are kind of in a dead end until Browser vendors, Typeface face distributors agree on a solution.
  • So the shift from ink to pixel, paper to screen and from finality to open-ended publishing has been made possible thanks to a symbiotic evolution of technology and typography. The Revolution started with the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press and became truly Digital with the combined introduction of the personal computer, portable display electronics and the internet.


  • 1. From Ink to Pixel,
    and Beyond…
  • 2. The written word…
  • 3. The invention of writing,
    the answer to a
    “supervening social necessity”?
  • 4. supervening social necessity
    “Why are many ‘inventions’ created more or less simultaneously by technologists who had no contact with each other?”
    Brian Winston
  • 5. The printed word…
  • 6. The printing press,
    a “disruptive innovation”?
  • 7. Low-end Innovation
    “occurs when existing products are ‘too good’ and hence overpriced relative to the value existing customers can use.”
    Clayton Christensen
  • 8. The typed word…
  • 9. Web Typography, a Victimof the Law of Suppression?
  • 10. How do YOU
    See the Future of
  • 11. Credits
    Presentation by KatiaFarage | katiaf@uw.edu
    CC share-and-share alike, non-commercial use
    Slide 1: “new font in progess” by vintageglasses. Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/27491954@N06/3349753448/
    Slide 2-3: “The Magura cave” by PlamenStoev . Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/plamenstoev/1183490366/
    Slide 3: A. Frutiger. (1983). “Water sign” Image scanned from Des Signes et des Hommes, Editions Delta & SPES, Lausanne.
    Slide 4: “16th century printing press…” by TamlynLeigh . Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamlynleigh/3634251567/
    Slide 5: “Book” by no typographic man. . Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kusamakura/2413733274/
    Slide 6: “Green Typography” by bluestvenus . Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/venus/1274658/
    Slide 7: “Slide | Web Typography Panel” by quasarkitten . Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/quasarkitten/3355377438/
    Slide 8: “Matrix Code” by My Melting Brain. Image retrieved on Feb 25, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/trinity-of-one/20562069/