I have always loved modern/didone typefaces such as Didot and Bodoni but after the second lecture, I became extremely drawn towards the fat face type. Absolutely attention-grabbing with its thick strokes and contrasting thin serifs was honestly just Bodoni and Didot on steroids.

Based on the lecture, the first fat face type was introduced by a prominent English type founder, Robert Thorne in 1803. As this was a time in Europe where printing technology and innovation flourished, many trades and enterprises or commerce are blooming therefore, there is a great demand for print advertising such as posters, flyers and pamphlets. Although Robert Thorne didn’t publish another book of type specimens after 1803, he continued to come out with other new bold fonts at his Fann Street Foundry up till his death in 1820.

1832 reward poster for lost horse, from the John Soulby collection, University of Reading.

Moving into the 20th century, type foundries came out with dozens of new sans serif fonts such as Gill Sans, Futura, Agency Gothic , etc. However, fat faces came out with even more new releases such as Modern Ratio from the German foundry Stempel in 1923 and Ultra Bodoni in 1928 from the American Type Founders, to name a few. This time round, fat faces weren’t just used for display types but it is also used for body copies but also very largely as a design element as well. Fat faces can scream out a design but it also preserves a certain elegance to it which made it quite a popular choice in design.

Herbert Bayer cover design using Ultra Bodoni for the 1939 issue of PM Magazine, a journal showcasing the finest examples of quality graphic art reproduction and modern design.
Paul Rand’s 1962 simple cover design exploiting size and contrast with almost nothing but Ultra Bodoni.

Personally, I feel that in modern use, fat faces are often seen predominantly in fashion, editorial and creative industries. I think it’s because of its versatility in communicating stylishness both for males and females as seen in the many logos, headers and titles in fashion magazines and luxury brands. However, despite understanding its eminent beauty and presence, fat faces are quite difficult to read when it is in a long chunk or paragraph of body copy so it is important to balance it out with a sans serif font or a much more legible serif font.






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