Certainly one of the more renowned font groups, this well established font family group was named for one of the most famous Parisian printing and type foundry families, the Didot family. They ran a series of highly successful print shops and foundries from the mid 1700s for over two hundred years. One of the first fonts to be classified as Didone or modern the font has appeared in everything from a publication of Voltaire to the logo of a highly successful American broadcasting company. There have been several revivals of The Linotype Didot® Font Family, particularly with the development of hot metal type and Linotype’s more recent redesign to adapt the font for digital use.
Linotype Didot History
The Didot Font Family began in Paris when Firmin Didot began work on a collection of related type fonts. At the time the Didot family owned the most influential and successful print shop and font foundry in France. In fact, they were the King’s printers with seven members of the family working in some capacity in the varied branches of the book trade. Firman Didot completed the development and began to cut the letters and cast them between 1784 and 1811. His brother Pierre used the type for his printing business including the now famous edition of Voltaire’s La Henriade which has been long considered his masterpiece. The typeface was known for its increasing stroke contrast and more condensed armature, much like John Baskerville’s fonts of the time.
The font is considered a neoclassical font with a similar style because of its increased stress high contrast typeface to a contemporary family of fonts of the time, by the Italian Giambattista Bodoni, creator of the well-known Bodoni® font family.
In more modern times, in 1966 the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) commissioned the Foundry Daylight® version of the font for their iconic “eye” logo. Although not as common a sight today as it was, the logo is still very much a part of the modern media scene.
The development of hot type and then digital type saw changes to the basic font style, due in part to a common problem with not only the Didot font family but also with the Bodoni fonts. The conversion to digital resulted in a problem called “dazzle” where the fine thin lines in the smaller point sizes would disappear. In 1991 Adrian Frutiger was one of the premier designers of the century and was working at Linotype. He was inspired by the study of the early Didot fonts in the Voltaire publication. He came up with a solution for Dazzle by adapting the fonts with the creation of a heavier weighted stroke in the smaller sizes. A similar solution was created by Jonathan Hoefler in his adaptation that he named HTF Didot ’ when he was at H&FJ. The Linotype Didot and HTF Didot are still widely used to this day in many forms of digital printing, particularly in books and magazines where an elegant old-fashion look is desired.
Today’s Linotype Didot has twelve weights that include Old Style Figures, beautifully designed graphic elements and an elegant headline version. Although there have been many reinterpretations of the original font design, the actual Didot font design remains available only in print version.
Linotype Didot Usage
Widely used in the mid and late 1700s for text publication, including the publication of Voltaire’s La Henriade in 1818.
Columbia Broadcasting System commissioned the Foundry Didot® font for the creation of its iconic “CBS Eye” logo for the three letters that stand to the side of the eye logo and had the font redesigned by Freeman (Jerry) Craw for the electronic age as a digital CBS Didot DF’ digital font in TrueType in 2009.
When Harpers Bazaar decided to redesign its look, they told Jonathan Hoefler at H&FJ they wanted a modern font with hairline serifs that would maintain them no matter what size the font was. Hoefler studied several specimens of Didot fonts from 1819 publications and designed one that would work for the digital redesign, named H&FJ Didot’.