When it comes to fonts, you probably know most of them are descendants of older typefaces designers have adapted for use in today’s digital world. Understanding where each of these fonts, like Didot, initially originated and how they have evolved over the years can help you choose which type of font you want for your designs.
Most fonts have their origins in typefaces created hundreds of years ago. Today, these types, first created for use with printing presses, are the inspiration for modern digital typefaces designers can use with a variety of software. The modernized typefaces also include symbols and letters used more commonly today.
Each typeface has a specific stroke style, height and weight. Not to mention other unique elements that make it stand apart. Didot is no exception to this rule. Let’s take a look at Didot’s specifics.
Didot comes from a group of typefaces with the same name. During the latter part of the 18th century into the early part of the 19th century, there was a famous French family named Didot. Firmin Didot created most of the original Didot typefaces between 1784 and 1811 by cutting out the letters and developing the type.
At the same time, Firmin’s brother Pierre used the types they created in printing, such as the copy he printed of La Henriad by Voltaire, which is a beautiful study in the Didot font. The Didots were known for high-contrast typefaces with increased stress. The designs of the Didot alphabets reflect the style of another designer during the same period — Giambattista Bodoni.
The family was one of the very first to offer a printing press in Greece at the time, and typefaces similar to the Didot style are still popular there today.
Today’s Didot Fonts
The shift from a typeface to a digital font is always an interesting one. While the typeface will retain many of its original elements, some elements need to change due to the very nature of digital typeface. Each designer seems to have their own interpretation of how best to adapt a font to digital type, as well.
For example, what symbols are missing that were not in use in the 18th century? Perhaps a dollar symbol needs to be added to the collection of letters for the font. In addition, a digital typeface has to be able to scale to different font sizes, and thus some adjustments must be made out of necessity to keep the text readable at different sizes.
On top of having to create new symbols, the letters K and W were missing from French orthography at the time, as were italic letters. Adrian Frutiger created the Linotype Didot in 1991 for the Linotype Design Studio, giving Firmin Didot credit for the origins of the design. The Linotype Didot features 12 weights, old-style figures and graphic ornaments.
Jonathan Hoefler drew another successful recreation of the typeface for H&FJ. It is a tiny bit different than Frutiger’s adaptation. He adjusts for the hairline serifs that will occur in the smallest font sizes. He also gives them a heavier-weight stroke so they will show up in those smallest fonts. This prevents it from fading into the background. There are only minor variations separating the two versions. However, these subtle differences may make one more desirable for a particular project than the other.
What Does the Font Imply?
The Didot typeface is classified as a neoclassical typeface. It is thought to have been inspired by the Age of Enlightenment. The font has an almost formal look that speaks of tradition and yesteryear. It works fabulously in headings because of its unique structure and strokes. It lends an elegant feel to any design. Because some of the strokes are heavier and others quite light and thin, it is important to see how the font looks in different sizes before choosing to use it for your project.
Some of the characteristics of the Didot font’s structure include straight serifs, teardrop terminals on capital letters and high contrast.
Common Uses for Didot
Today, Didot seems to have found its home in lifestyle and fashion publications, television shows and posters. For example, Style Network used the typeface in part of its logo. CBS also created a version of the typeface to appear next to its eye logo. The font is a go-to in the larger headlines for magazines and posters, as well. The font also has a comfortable home in fashion branding, as seen in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and the work of designer Louis Vuitton.
How You Should Use Didot
Didot is a serif font and pairs well with Proxima Nova, Archer, Georgia, Helvetica, Brandon Grotesque, Verlag and Montserrat. Since the serif is hairline-thin, the font works best as a headline.
However, while Didot works well in headlines, you also have to consider the overall tone of the design. Didot gives a formal, classical look. If you are creating a poster for an evening gala for a local nonprofit fundraiser, this font is the perfect choice. On the other hand, Didot would likely be too formal for a poster inviting neighborhood kids to a picnic and family event in the park.
Didot works well if you are creating a headline or logo for a fashion website or social media ad. It also works well with most lifestyle topics, such as home and garden.
Didot is an excellent font to add to your overall design arsenal. It lends a feel of yesteryear to your overall look, but still looks fresh and modern because of its neoclassical design elements. Choosing the perfect font is never an easy task, but understanding the ins and outs of the font and how other designers have used it can help you figure out if the typeface is right for your project.
Check out the other fonts in the Font Series!Buffer