The histories of your favorite typefaces, from Futura to Gill Sans to Times New Roman, have been conveniently collected in one elegant iOS app, called Typendium, released this week. It includes short essays and illustrations explaining everything from why Palatino is the world’s most pirated typeface (an imitation has been given to every Microsoft Office user in the world) to why Gill Sans is considered controversial (Eric Gill himself was something of a monster in his personal life).
British game maker and sound designer William Robinson and artist Robyn Nevison started work on Typendium in 2013 as a way to learn how to make an app. “I had recently taken an interest in typography thanks to the great Gary Hustwit documentary ‘Helvetica,’ so I thought what could be better than learning about two things at once?” Robinson writes in an email. “Most of the literature on the subject is about the practical uses of type and it can be quite tough reading. I wanted to offer someone intrigued by the subject an interesting overview of some of the world’s best typefaces.”
Nearly a year and a half later, the app is complete, with histories of Baskerville and Futura available for free. Robinson found Baskerville’s story one of the most inspiring: John Baskerville, the typeface’s creator, was “a complete amateur,” he says. “John Baskerville just had a love of print and lettering and let nothing stop his need for perfectionism. In doing so he revolutionized the printing process, printed some of the most astounding books of his day, and became despised by the professional printers of England.” Typendium offers the histories of Times New Roman, Gill Sans, and Palatino for 99 cents. That fee will also unlock new typeface histories as they’re added.
Typendium is portable, and discreet–so next time you’re at a pretentious design party and need to show off your typography knowledge, you can just read up on Futura real quick while pretending to text someone.