The uses of typographic specimens by graphic designers have changed dramatically in the age of digital technology. Earlier generations of designers used specimens to determine which fonts and sizes to specify and order from typesetting companies, and for reference or tracing purposes when drawing layouts. A limited range of sizes were manufactured, and specimen sheets or books showed all available sizes.
Digital computers make an infinite range of sizes and style variations available, and designers can study and purchase fonts from digital type foundry Web sites. Today printed specimens are used for study and comparison purposes. The typeface specimens in this chapter were selected from outstanding type families to provide examples of the major historical classifications: Old Style, Transitional, Modern, Egyptian, and Sans Serif. More extensive specimens of Old Style and Sans Serif fonts are included, for these are the most widely used categories.
A bewildering number of typeface variations are available today, including versions originally designed for hand-, machine-, or phototype composition. Excellent newer varieties have been designed specifically for digital media. Designers need to study the subtlety of form and spacing in fonts, because their quality can vary widely.