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Paul Renner

PAUL RENNER F U T UR UR A Futura Medium Futura Medium Italic Futura Condensed Medium Futura Condensed ExtraBold

Where did it begin? When observing the development of typography, it is clear to see the evolution that has taken place over the years. Whenever a typeface is developed, the designer hopes to create an improved bridge for communication to the rest of the world. Paul Renner sought to do that with the introduction of Futura.

GOTHIC OR ROMAN? Ultimately, Futura came from the question “Gothic or Roman?” Paul Renner chose to take this question a step further and introduce a completely new typeface that could be called an evolution of the two previously mentioned types. Based on Renner’s solution to the “Gothic or Roman” question, it is clear that Renner thought there were definite improvements that could be made to the available type in Germany.



BLACKLETTER Although I can understand the importance and value of Roman and Gothic types, I agree with Renner that progression needed to be established. With the Gothic typefaces, the type reflected the handwritten manuscripts found earlier in history. While it has a very stylized appearance, this does not make sense when coming off a mechanical press during this time period. Why would you go through the effort of reproducing a handwritten appearance through the use of machine? Of course it makes it easier for a mass production, but is the mass production of such a typeface necessary when there are plenty of others with a better readability? There were also functional issues in regards to the old type. Reading a lengthy amount of text in a Gothic typeface would eventually tire the eyes and make it difficult to read for long periods of time. Another issue with Gothic typefaces is the fact that it gives the appearance of antiquity. Technologies were evolving, yet Germany was stuck with a typeface that gave the impression that they were clinging to the past.

Blackletter in use

Blackletter can be used in situations like this where the type is used for it’s shapes rather than the readability.

ROMAN Roman typefaces were certainly an improvement in comparison to the antiqued Gothic, but it still held leftover ideals from the past. Although the Roman typefaces were not as decorative, they still reflected manuscript handwriting in various ways. The stems on letter such as “a� still held a slight curvature that can be found in typical handwriting. While it may be stylistically pleasing, Renner concluded that it does not make sense to have such details with mechanical printing. This is one area that I disagree with Renner on. While I can understand his point of view, I feel that a slight replication of handwriting is essential to the readability of text. There is a certain fluidity obtained when reading text that resembles our own handwriting. The characters of the word seem to blend together rather than existing individually as found with typefaces such as Futura.

Roman in use This is an example of a paragraph set in Garamond, a Roman typeface. Evidently, this typeface is significantly easier to read than the aforementioned blackletter. roman loses its the decorative appearance of blackletter, but you can still see remnants of the manuscript influenced hadwriting in the design of the type.

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZÀÅÉÎÕØ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzàåéîõ&12345 67890($£.,!?) Futura

Breaking down Futura After observing the two old typefaces and their positive and negative aspects, it becomes easier to dissect the physical properties of more modern type and what the intentions of the designers are. The physical qualities of Futura make it possible to understand Renner’s ideals in communication through typography. Futura is composed of geometrical shapes and holds a strong symmetrical form. Clearly, Renner thought that the future font of Germany should be reflected through mathematical accuracy. This desire for perfection can bring up the question of what exactly is an evolutionary step towards the future. Is it really a font that holds no serifs, fluctuating line weights, or remnants of manuscript handwriting? It is difficult to decide what actually constitutes a “font of the future”, but I feel that geometrical bases are a fantastic foundation for such an approach. With the major changes in the industrialization of various countries, it is not surprising that even typefaces would follow in the footpath of the revolution. If machinery could rely on mathematical applications in order to function, then perhaps it would work for typography.

While it may work in many cases, there are some instances where geometrical bases may not work as well as intended. For example, Renner’s use of circles as a base give characters such as “C, G, and O” an incredibly wide appearance. Just as Gothic text could become exhausting on the eyes, I noticed that Futura could also give the same effect due to the wide set characters. Due to this possible complication, it seems that Renner’s hope that Futura would become the replacement of Roman and Gothic typefaces is actually not as feasible as originally planned. Although it holds a more “futuristic” appearance, it proves difficult to read for extended periods of time.

Futura in use Aside from trying to create a font that easily relatable to futuristic qualities, Renner also attempted to marry capital and minuscule characters in an atypical fashion. He assigned similar qualities to both sets of characters in order to create a clearer unity between the two. I believe that Renner’s choice to do this reflects his goal to streamline his typeface and pull away from the manuscript feel. By utilizing geometric shapes for the both the capital and minuscule characters, Renner is able to achieve a look that reflects the technological advancements of the time. This is an interesting concept that of course has its positives and negatives. Although this method helps create an unification between the capital and minuscule, it also increases the length of words and, again, makes it more difficult to read. When it comes to the use of geometrical shapes, I believe that perhaps they should be slightly altered in order to create a more universal application of the typeface. I would not be making this suggestion if Renner weren’t aiming to have his type used in the production of books. Otherwise I would say that the application of geometrical typefaces fit well into Futura if its on intention was objects requiring small amounts of text. To summarize, an evolution of type has taken place in the production of Futura. Renner thought that his compilation of geometrical characters would provide an adequate solution to the question of “Roman or Gothic”. While I agree with a great deal of Renner’s views, I still find issues with some of his ideologies. Ultimately, though, Renner sought to push his country forward in a time of technological advancement. While he may not have created a full proof solution, Renner still managed to change the values of typefaces and introduce a refreshing viewpoint.

Pásala bien.

A book by Krissy Mayhew Fly House Productions

Futura Type Book  

Type book for a multimedia class.

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