Futura: The Typeface placed type in the context of design history

The Nazis hated Futura. They deemed the typeface as too radical – subversive even. Members of Bauhaus embraced it for its radicalism, and it came to be associated with the movement from 1919 through to 1933, when the school was forced to close and its members dispersed around the world. Futura: the Typeface examines the fascinating story of this popular type. Published this month by Laurence King, the book taps into a new movement in exploring type as an art form, re-discovering histories that tell of a time and a place, and of its intricate craft. The stylish hardback features 500 illustrations and includes essays by design writers Steven Heller, Erik Spiekermann and Christopher Burke. Crucially, Future places type in the wider context of design history.

Futura was authored by Paul Renner, a German designer who wasn’t officially part of Bauhaus yet shared the movement’s ideology. He crafted the typeface in 1927 based on geometric sans-serif forms, and it was released in the same year by the Bauer Type Foundry. Experimenting with sans-serif types was part of a larger movement at the time, yet Futura became one of the more prominent typefaces of the period. Bauhaus leader Lazlo Maholy-Nagy was a fan as was the American Paul Rand who liked its functionality noting that it was devoid of ‘doodahs and ringlets’. Later Stanley Kubrick made use of a derivative Futura Bold in his films. Most recently for their 2017 menswear label Jijibaba, designers Jasper Morrison and Jaime Hayon featured Futura in their logo. It also found its place in history books by being the first typeface to land on the moon in 1969.

‘In this fast-moving digital world, this copycat world we live in, the importance of typography is even more felt,’ says Adam Thomas, the creative director and partner at London creative agency Spinach. ‘This includes the origins of type, the small thing that make good typography so right, elements that can so easily be overlooked. While the modern day graphic designers spin themselves off their axis trying to keep up with the latest design trends and fashions, the more traditionally-focused, admirers of strong, classical design, proportion, elegance, refinement, balance, it is those who I feel stand to gain the most.’

Nargess Banks

Futura: The Typeface is written by Petra Eisele, Annette Ludwig and Isabel Naegele and published by Laurence King. It is available to purchase this month.

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