The typeface Futura turns 90 next year. Just in time we were asked to contribute a text and a poster for two new publications on Paul Renner’s geometric sans serif: Futura. Die Schrift., recently issued by Hermann Schmidt publishers, and the anthology Tribute to Paul. For these tasks we united all of our favorite occupations: research, writing, typesetting, printing and photography.

More than a year ago Erik and I were approached by Isabel Naegele and Petra Eisele, professors at Mainz University of Applied Sciences, to contribute a historical text to their new publication Futura. Die Schrift., among other researchers. We decided not to write about Futura itself, but about its environment, i.e. we cast light on many of Futura’s not so well-known contemporaries such as Erbar, Kabel, Super Grotesk, Neuzeit Grotesk, Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk et al. Equipped with several images from original specimens of Erik’s private collection this became quite an overview.

Futura Schrift 02
Our research text “Futura and its environment” in the new publication “Futura. Die Schrift.”
Futura Schrift 01
“Futura. Die Schrift.” is edited by Petra Eisele, Annette Ludwig and Isabel Naegele, recently published by Hermann Schmidt.
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One of our personal favorites: Neuzeit Grotesk. We also have some in the letterpress workshop.

Our colleagues from Mainz also invited us and other design studios to contribute a poster to their anthology Tribute to Paul. Of course we wanted to create a design using some of our own resources from the letterpress workshop. Although we don’t have much Futura woodtype—in fact just Futura schmalfett (bold condensed) in 6 and 10 cicero—we have a true gem: the original Futura Schmuck in three metal type sizes. Futura Schmuck (jewelry, meaning ornaments in a typographic sense) was released in 1927 along with the first two weights of Futura, mager (light) and halbfett (medium), from the Bauer Type Foundry in Frankfurt am Main. It is a set of geometric shapes: circles, squares, triangles as well as semicircles and quadrants of a circle.

P98A Futura Schmalfett
We have some Futura schmalfett (bold condensed) in 6 and 10 cicero woodtype in the workshop. Note the horse shoe ligatures!
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A true gem: Futura Schmuck in three metal type sizes
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An early specimen of Futura Schmuck, issued by the Bauer Type Foundry

The general idea of the geometric type concept lies in the design of letterforms derived from basic shapes such as square, circle and triangle. Although Paul Renner’s Futura is a geometric typeface in appearance, it went through several optical improvements (in fact the proportions of the capital letters were designed with a glance at the Roman Capitalis). Futura Schmuck truly preserves the essence of the geometric idea and can be used to create illustrations, and letters.

Thus we used the different shapes to typeset (or rather construct) new letters in a grid—under consideration of the typographic measurement system. We made a few prints on our fully automatic Korrex Nürnberg proof press and actually got pretty good results, but they didn’t make a proper poster. Finally our very own in-house photographer Norman captured the whole scene, perfectly illuminated. This is our tribute to Mr. Renner.

P98A Futura Renner Tribute
“Futura” constructed from Futura Schmuck. Typesetting by Erik and Ferdinand, photograph by Norman.
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“Tribute to Paul” is a limited edition anthology with posters contributed by 22 design studios.
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Our tribute to Mr. Renner.