What’s Old is New Again
Throughout history, artists and designers have developed styles and techniques that endure over time. Often developed as technological innovations that expanded the boundaries of a specific medium, some of these changes were so aesthetically pleasing that they remained popular for years after their introduction.
Even as the design world has progressed from analog to digital, designers are still finding ways to adapt old techniques to modern tools and methods. Here are a few design styles that were developed many years ago but are still an important part of any modern designer’s toolbox.
The origins of this technique can be traced back to Aztec civilization, but it gained popularity as a style throughout the Italian and German renaissance (1500s-1600s) in the hands of masters like Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer.
The combination of bold outlines and intricate shading and use of hatched lines to establish value revolutionized the way images could be produced. Line engraving flourished for the next two hundred years but eventually fell out of style with the development of cheaper and quicker methods of producing images, such as photography.
However, thanks to technology, the line engraving design style is making a comeback. The advent of new design software has eliminated the intense labor that traditional engraving demands, creating the same effect with just a few mouse clicks. By using the blend tool and different line styles in Adobe Illustrator, it is easy to fill a space with hatched lines and adjust them in real time.
What used to take days of engraving with a metal tool now takes minutes, and the modern digital tools open up new possibilities with form and color that would be impossible to achieve using traditional methods. Line engraving adds a level of depth and detail to an illustration that can dramatically elevate the look and feel, and that’s why it’s a style that has remained in use over the last five hundred years.
Display Typefaces and Decorative Lettering
Prior to the invention of the printing press, illuminated manuscripts created by religious organizations were a major source of decorative lettering. Even in the early years of printing, display type generally did not exist. Printing was used primarily for body text, although there might be unique larger letters for printing titles. Signs were created as custom hand lettering, and sign painting became its own art form, separate from traditional printing.
The advent of the poster and greater need for business and product signage spurred the arrival of new styles, both in lettering and in print. Display typefaces usually include lettering with a quality that seems hand-drawn (swoops and swashes), or lettering that incorporates shading, texture, or other aesthetic quality apart from the basic forms of the letters. Adding these details and adjusting the spacing by hand required time, talent and the ability to nail the design on the first pass because the medium (usually enamel paint) made editing difficult.
With the advent of digital typefaces and techniques, it’s possible to create an engaging design with dynamic type treatment in a fraction of the time and with complete control over color, scale, and other features. Changing brush strokes and styles can be done with a click. The range of colors, textures, and styles available today would have been inconceivable to type designers just thirty years ago.
While the tools have changed dramatically, the stylistic elements of engaging typefaces and treatments have endured and still capture the attention of modern audiences. Whether on a book cover, gig poster, or a hand painted shop sign, dynamic lettering is a design style that is even older than the medium of print itself. At Dolo Digital, our team of expert designers are constantly monitoring trends in design to keep our clients at the forefront of visual branding. Examples of our latest work in design, web design, and branding.
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