Futura typeface by Paul Renner

With his typeface Futura, Paul Renner’s reputation began to grow at the end of the 1920s; he went on to become one the best-known type designers of his time. As a leading member of the Deutscher-Werkbund (a German association of architects, artists, designers, and industrialist) and head of Meisterschule für Deutschlands Buchdrucker (Trade School for Book Printers of Germany) in Munich, he was at the centre of a new media and advertising industry – a position that he also used to criticise the propagandist strategies of the National Socialists.

“We must urgently do away with this obsequious habit and instil a true democracy.”

In 1925, Paul Renner wrote in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch almanac “We Germans have unfortunately insisted on gracing every noun with a capital letter since the end of the 17th century. We must urgently do away with this obsequious habit and instil a true democracy. We should, therefore, limit the use of capitals to the beginning of sentences and proper nouns, as we used to do in the past and as is the custom everywhere else in the world.” Despite many supporters, German orthography did not change.

In 1928 Jan Tschichold postulated that a group of people would be required to develop the typeface of the future successfully. “The essence of the New Typography is clarity,” wrote Tschichold, which contrasted starkly with the old typography, which held its emphasis on beauty rather than clarity. Not just a view between Sans Serif and Serif type – ornament was dispensed with as it was viewed as childish and naïve – giving in to a primitive instinct to decorate. It is difficult to reduce design to the few elements needed to communicate a message than to embellish and distort or hide any weak design. With Futura, Renner had reduced type and used design to create distinctive style making it a commercially successful product.

“The essence of the New Typography is clarity.”

As Renner developed the Futura typeface he freed the lower-case letters from any reminders of handwriting, such as starting and ending strokes, and adjusts the dynamic of the type’s direction by reducing the stroke to a minimum. A special characteristic of Futura is the long ascenders of the lower-case b, d, f, h, k, and l, which overshoot the cap height and which initially drew much criticism.

A Journey Around The World

With this book, authors Petra Eisele, Annette Ludwig and Isabel Naegele explore Futura around the world, in cities such as Frankfurt, Hanover, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Paris and New York. The modernists used Futura liberally defining a style and a period of time. In 519 pages, this book explores a typeface, which defines 30 years of modern communications and is a book to sit proudly on your shelves as an important tome to graphic communication.

Designer: Future typeface: Paul Renner
Year: 1920s
Book: Futura: The Typeface by Laurence King Publishing
Price: £45


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.