Type Nerds, eat your heart out over “The History of Typography”

Ben Barrett-Forrest's “The History of Typography”

This is a little overdue but if you haven’t seen Ben Barrett-Forrest’s “The History of Typography” video, you must. I came across this video a few months ago and promptly proposed to him via Twitter out of nerdy adoration. (He said yes!)

The Canadian designer and self-proclaimed type nerd, decided the world was lacking in good typography videos. Over 140 hours, 291 paper letters and 2,454 photographs later, he’d filled the void. Barrett-Forrest used traditional stop-motion techniques to illustrate how printed type came to be and how it has evolved since its start. The video gives background to italics, serifs and various categories of sans. The video felt like a condensed version of Simon Garfield’s Just My Type to me and will make for a great tool in beginning typography and design classes.

When he made the video, Barrett-Forrest expected to only gain a few thousand views and entertain his designer friends but the video went viral quickly. The animation broke half a million views a few weeks ago and has been shared by thousands of people, sites and companies, like The Atlantic, Fast Company, The Economist, and The Huffington Post. It was displayed on a 30-foot-wide screen in Perth, Australia, used in graphic design classes in Florida, featured in a literary festival in New Zealand. Vimeo named it a Staff Pick and the YouTube booth featured it at Google I/O 2013.

Barrett-Forrest said type is important to him because “it is the lens through which we see every single piece of written information.” He said he reads a lot of typography books like Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton and The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst, which Barrett-Forrest called a must be read by all type nerds.

While Barrett-Forrest has been designing typefaces since he was a kid but has never taken the time to digitize any of them. He works for a Yukon-based company called Aasman Brand Communications and freelances additionally under his company Forrest Media. His favorite typeface, at the moment, is Verlag by Hoefler and Frere-Jones, a geometric sans with a retro flair, but he’s always been a fan of the timeless Bodoni, which is featured in his animation.