Born in 1740, Giambattista Bodoni was an Italian printer who designed several modern typefaces, one of which bears his name and is in common use today. Bodoni was the most successful early proponent of what is referred to as the Modern typeface, distinguished by a strong contrast between the thin and thick strokes, and vertical, rather than oblique, shading. In his time holding the title ‘designer to the kings and king of designers’, Bodoni did away with old-style letters and introduced a new clear simple type. The roman letter he cut in 1798 is usually what we mean by a Bodoni.
Bodoni at first employed old-style typefaces with much decorative detail. He was gradually won over to the typographical theories of a French printer, Pierre Didot and by 1787 was printing pages almost devoid of decoration and containing modern typefaces of his own design. Of the many books that he produced during this period, the best known is his Manuale Tipografico, translated to “Inventory of Types” a folio collection of 291 roman and italic typefaces.
Around 1800, Giambattista Bodoni developed a completely new kind of type which refrained from decorative and calligraphy styles and was conceived solely on the criteria of symmetry and proportionality. In this way, the classical font “Bodoni” emerged, a masterpiece of typography, which would be used untold times by other typesetters. His type was characterised by a severe simplicity. In his influential Manuale Tipografico he laid down the four principles of type design “from which all beauty would seem to proceed”, which were: regularity, cleanness, good taste, and charm.
Besides being the logotype for high end fashion labels, Bodoni is also used in fashion magazine spreads, magazine covers and posters, due to its pleasant aesthetics when set in bigger sizes.
The Bodoni romans and italics have been extensively copied and have become an essential part of today’s typographic equipment, setting the stage in marking the end of calligraphy and the start of refined, cultured and structured printing. Indeed, Giambattista Bodoni meant for his typefaces to be seen as well as read, and his efforts were meant to be appreciated as works of art alongside being communicative. Perhaps the indicator of success would be the fact that during the age of metal type every serious foundry had its own adaptation of Bodoni. Today, there is a wide range of Bodoni adaptations, each with its own distinctive flavour.