Didot is a typeface, which is a family of fonts, which is contradictory to what most people assume which is that typefaces and fonts are the same thing. The term is not interchangeable. Typefaces fall under two categories serif and sans serif.
The history of The Didot font
The Didot family, is named after… the Didot family, funnily enough. A family of French printers and publishers from the 1700’s, and the typographic units were developed by Francois-Ambroise Didot and the typeface was developed by Firmin Didot. The Didot company is no longer, though, as it was incorporated into the CPI printing group.
Francois-Ambroise Didot (1730-1804) inherited the business from his father (Francois, obviously) and became printer to the clergy in 1778. It was he that invented a new printing press, improved type founding and in 1780 adapted the point system for width, his point became the prevailing unit of measurement throughout Europe.
Francois Didot was the man behind the business’ conception. He started it before passing it through the family for many years to come, and it was his grandson that we can thank for the Didot typefaces.
How did one of the most expensive fonts came to be?
Firmin Didot (1760-1836) is the man behind the modern classification of typeface and many of today’s fonts are based on his original typefaces. It is characterized by a high contrast between thin and thick strokes, flat and un-bracketed serifs and consistently horizontal stress. It is also frequently used in logos as well as marketing strategies.
His brother Pierre owned the company by then and he was the creative driving force behind a lot of their work.
Didot typeface has remained one of the most talked-about subjects among designers
In a survey completed by writer and typographer Sarah Hyndman lighter weight serif fonts were perceived as being of a higher quality as they appear more expensive and Didot came out on top of them all. Some people found that results surprising, but why should they when the likes of CBS, The Style Network, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar (and many other fashion magazines) still rely on Didot. Which is a true testament to the work of the Didot family considering their first typeface appeared in 1781.
Whether that is something that unconsciously filters into someone’s brain and sticks with them or that is the reason these brands chose that font, we do not know. However, a lot of “cheap” brands try to use elegant fonts in an attempt to look more of a luxury product than they are. That tends to drive the true luxury brands to experiment with their fonts to capture something special.
Didot is more than likely to be with us for many more years to come, considering its staying power so far as well as the luxury brands that use it in their logos, marketing and magazines.