Typographic Poster Series – 003 Bodoni

It’s time for the third instalment of the Typographic Poster series. Which, of course, means it’s time to show a bit of love for yet another classic typeface.

This edition is dedicated to the admirable, Italian typeface – Bodini. The Bodoni typeface was originally designed at the end of the 18th Century by Giambattista Bodoni, an Italian engraver, publisher, printer and typographer. He possessed the excellent technical ability and was able to achieve great refinement with his type, producing very thin “Hairlines”, standing in sharp contrast to the thicker lines constituting the main stems of the characters.

Typographic Poster Series – 003 Bodoni

Bodoni is one of the most frequently revived typefaces out there, having seen over two centuries of use and for good reason. There are few fonts that communicate “upmarket” quite as well and lends itself to many luxury brands even now. It’s gone through a long chain over evolutions to get to where it is today, so let’s go back to where it all began.

The origins of Bodoni

Bodoni is a family of fonts in the truest sense in that every iteration has borne the name of their originator, Giambattista Bodoni, an Italian typographer who produced the earliest examples of Bodoni in the late-1700s. Influenced by the type Baskerville, work of English typographer, John Baskerville, early Bodoni is one of the most striking examples of transitional fonts.

A baroque European style, its sharp contrast between thick and thin lines has made it a prime example of the Didone style since, but that effect proved hard for earlier printmakers to replicate, with Bodoni pushing the limits of the printing technology at the time which was replacing calligraphy. Since the rise of automated font development, however, Bodoni’s at-the-time groundbreaking work has seen countless revivals. The first and most important was in 1909 when the Bodoni family was reintroduced to a modernist world with a more legible twist by Morris Fuller Benton of American Type Founders.

The Italian style

Even though it has evolved from its initial incarnations, Bodoni has a distinctly older look for a font that could be classified as ‘modern’. It’s a clear and simple type, and a textbook example of “Roman” typeface, with hairline serifs and the trademark contrast of thicker and thinner strokes creating a style that can be immediately recognized as “Italian” to the modern eye.

There’s a broad family of styles that contribute a different look to the Bodoni family, with styles like Bauer Bodoni being better suited for fine printing, while FF Bodoni and Bodoni XT emphasizing the more elegant flourishes to create a more stylized look, closer to its transitional form than the modern style. These stylized versions have become a staple of the fashion world, in particular, with brands such as Calvin Klein and Elizabeth Arden showing appreciation for one of the original masters of typeface production. In other industries, it’s used often to suggest an air of sophistication and prestige, as shown in its use by Hilton Hotels and the wordmarks of well-respected colleges like Brandeis.

How it’s used today

The Bodoni family covers a broad range of typefaces that make it suitable for a variety of looks. The later versions, adapted to a more modern style, make for legible, respectable text, often used in the digital world to for website content that aims for an air of class. Other more stylized forms are used often for brand names and titles in fashion or lifestyle publications for its pleasant aesthetics. The latter kind is better used in larger font sizes, because smaller ones create a “dazzle”, a difficult distinguishing fully between contrasting strokes that can harm readability.

Beyond a beautiful, elegant font, the Bodoni family takes us right back to the birth of modern typefaces and is still proudly used by designers centuries later.

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