The Origin of the Monogram

Learn the origin of the monogram, an element of typographic design that has never stopped evolving

The word ‘monogram’ comes from the Greek word for ‘one letter’, although normally, at least in the present day, it signifies two or more intertwined characters that provide the emblem of a brand or institution.

Today monograms form part of our day-to-day life and it is common to see them as part of a commercial logotype. But where exactly did they come from?

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The origin of the monogram: the family business

According to the Colombian designer, letterist and illustrator Simón Londoño Sierra (@simonlond), monograms first appeared between the years 1700 and 1800.

After the Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurs of the age began to feel the need to differentiate their businesses from those of their competitors and search for a way to represent their businesses graphically.

As the majority were family businesses, they opted to utilize the family initials to highlight the distinction between their brand and that of their neighbors.

The combination of the letters, and the way in which these letters combined–union, subtraction, overlapping, similarly–and provided decoration, came to be used as a symbol by both families and businesses.

Over time, the expertise of the artists who created these monograms became increasingly refined, and they began to seek out new ways of uniting the letters.

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The inspiration to create monograms has always been extremely diverse: from their Celtic origins, through cuneiform writing in the Bronze Age, passing through prehistoric paintings and geometry along the way. Today’s monograms continue to use these ancient influences, which keep updating themselves according to the needs and trends of the period.

But the monogram doesn’t only represent a word or a piece of text, but also part of typographic construction; indeed, it is often used as a pretext to generate a symbol that represents a brand, either the form or the textual.

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You can learn to create your own monograms in the course Digital lettering for a visual identity, in which Simón Londoño teaches you to create the logotype of a brand, filled with personality, through your own letters.

English version by @garethplatt49.

You may also be interested in:

- What Is Color Theory?
- Learn How to Analyze Color Palettes Using a Book From 1902.
- 5 Ways to Find New Ideas.


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