Codex: The Journal of Typography

codex photo

Codex was a limited-run print magazine about typography. Although the publication was highly praised by many people in the field, it is no longer creating new content. The journal was both a resource for typography students and enthusiasts and a celebration of the art of the printed word. Because of the nature of its topic, the magazine itself was incredibly well-designed and a lot of thought was put into the fonts used and the way words were spaced out on the page.


The Short-Lived History of Codex

John Boardley was already well-established in the typography community by the time he got the idea to create Codex. He’s been interested in letters since he was first learning about them in school and wondered “why the teacher asked [him] to draw the letter a as an o with a tail, when, in my books, the a’s had an extra bit at the top.” He took his passion to the Internet by creating the blog I Love Typography in 2007. Four years later, he decided to expand to a printed magazine. Codex’s first issue was met with critical acclaim and was followed by a second in 2012. The third and final issue came out in 2013.

What is Typography?

Typography is the art of typed language. Its goal is to make the written word both easy to read and attractive to the eye. When introduced to this topic, most people think about fonts, such as Helvetica and Times New Roman. But there’s more to it than that. Beyond the style of individual letters, typographers need to consider things like kerning (how different pairs of letters are spaced out), leading (the distance between lines of text), and point size.

Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces

Matthew Carter

Principles of the Craft

The three main tenets of typography are legibility, readability, and aesthetics. Those first two may seem like synonyms, but in the world of printing there is a subtle difference between them. Legibility has to do with how easily individual letters, numbers, and other characters can be distinguished from one another. For example, you don’t want to have any trouble telling apart an “n” from an “h” or a “3” from an “8.” Readability, on the other hand, refers to how easily the text can be read as a whole. Each individual letter may be perfectly clear, but if the words are poorly spaced it can still cause an issue for the reader. Aesthetic is all about laying elements out in an appealing way and not using too many different typefaces or font sizes on a single page.

morgan shandro

Fonts in Popular Culture

Since typography has become more popular (and more intertwined with computers) certain fonts have worked their way into the zeitgeist. Some, like Helvetica, are known for being particularly good. There are plenty of jokes online about Helvetica enthusiasts, painting them as pretentious hipsters who won’t even look at something if it’s not written in the font. On the other end of the scale are fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus, which are generally detested by type aficionados. This bias has been brought into pop culture through memes, video games, and even a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Ryan Gosling plays a man who’s obsessively upset with the film Avatar for using Papyrus in its logo.

The Future of Typography

Making words readable and beautiful is a skill used in making everything from physical books to websites to graphic t-shirts. And since digital technology has made designing new typefaces faster and cheaper than ever before, typography is now open to anyone with a computer and an interest. Codex may be gone, but there are plenty of other forums where you can learn about the aesthetics of the printed word. With so many new people entering the field every year, innovation is inevitable.