The Mystery of Steile Futura (Topic)

Stephen Coles's picture

Hello friends. I'm perpetually in love with Paul Renner's Steile Futura (AKA Bauer Topic or URW Topic). I'm hoping those with type book collections can help me out with more information on its history and design. Digital versions are available from a few vendors, but none divulge any more than the number of weights and a price.

Digital Versions
URW Topic at FontShop
URW Topic at URW++
Steile Futura (Neufville or Berthold?) at Bauer
Steile Futura (Berthold) at Phil's Fonts
Steile Futura at Neufville

Articles
Renner article at creativepro.com mentions a design date of 1953-55
Renner bio at Linotype mentions design date of 1952.

Reinterpretations and Followers
Tasse (Guy J. Nelson) This is the closest to a revival but strangely omits the italics which are the most interesting aspect of the original.
Solex (Zuzanna Licko)
Pakenham (Ray Larabie)
Hybrid (Simon Schmidt)

In Use
L.A. Obscura: The Architectural Photography of Julius Shulman
"The War Within" movie poster
"A Girl Named Zippy" book cover
H.N. Werkman book cover

Thanks for your help. I don't have Burke's Renner biography. Anything in there?

k.l.'s picture

First of all, Vilem Flusser's Die Schrift. Hat schreiben Zukunft? ("Writing. Is there future for writing?"), by a Goettingen publisher named "European Photography", but I cannot find an English edition at Amazon. The Shape of Things and The Freedom of the Migrant I like most. But each of his books is worth reading. Beware, he may be called postmodernist.

-- I think a good rule of thumb is this: the most informed an opinion is, the more it has to be “filtered” using context.

:)

-- Different optical sizes, or to keep things simpler, some weight variants?

With sanserifs, especially low-contrast ones, it may be worth trying a combined solution: lighter weights at the same time serve as larger optical sizes. But this requires many finely graded weights. And details matter. E.g. your e shows rounded corners. Sharp corners are easier to handle, they look the same at whatever size. But then, your roundings are so minute that they may look ok even at larger sizes. (I tended toward rounded corners earlier, less minute than yours, so if enlarged, letters looked like sausages. I decided for sharp corners instead ...) It really depends on the effect you desire, but also practical considerations -- as great as optical sizes are typographically, who uses them? or, who will ever use more than two weights of a really big family?
Whatever you do, and however faithful you'll do it -- it will be your interpretation and never a "true" Renner. So I would not bother and just try corrections and see if it would change the image of the type too much.

Charles Leonard's picture

Bill -- I will have to relocate the volume of Eine Jahresgabe Der Typographischen Gesellschaft München to see what attributions are available from the captions to the illustrations I posted. The articles in the yearbook deal primarily with remembrances of Renner and Renner's years in Munich as head of the Meisterschule für Deutschelands Buchdrucker–the author and editor, Phillipp Luidl, has served as director of the Akademie für das Grafische Gerwerbe of Munich, which is the post-war sucessor to the school that Renner headed from 1926 – 1933. As such, I suspect that he had access to records and files known to few others.

Charles Leonard's picture

On the one hand, Renner is known for Futura most of all. (1) Futura indeed seems to own much to Bauer. Then, it seems still unsolved whether the Futura uppercase were by Renner or an architect; I am not up to date and don’t know if this is settled now.

Not to toot my own horn too much–but a bit–I did address the Ferdinand Kramer v. Paul Renner question in my thesis "Paul Renner and Futura: The Effects of Culture, Technology, and Social Continuity On the Design of Type for Printing" available as a PDF at
http://etd.gsu.edu/theses/available/etd-07222005-152053/. Due the similarity of dimensional increments between drawings–and reproductions of drawings–known to be by Renner and the drawings tentatively attributed to Kramer by Hans Peter Willberg, I came to the conclusion that the drawings were more probably by Renner, although it is clearly possible that Kramer collaborated with Renner on the designs for the Frankfurt public signage project.

Renner's own extensive experience as a book designer from 1907 on suggests that while he was not personally adept at the proportional subtleties seen in the font released by Bauer in 1927, he was attuned to them. A myth persists that Renner wasn’t much of a lettering artist prior to his involvement with Bauer in the production of Futura. However, as a book designer he was responsible for the design and production of as many at 250 volumes per year between 1910 and the beginning of World War I. Many of these books sport title pages that are photo engravings of lettering executed by Renner. Further, it is helpful to remember that it was Renner that Fritz Wichert, director of the Frankfurter Kunstschule recruited in 1925 to rejuvenate that school’s program of instruction in lettering and typography.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Well, I took liberties with it to make my point. I think it works both ways. What is ugly for some is beautiful to others, and what is beautiful for some is ugly to others. I think arguing over what is ugly or beautiful is asking for trouble.

George Horton's picture

What is ugly for some is beautiful to others
But there is nonetheless a great deal of consistency in reactions, and differences of taste can usually be explained by high-level cognitive response - "beliefs" - such that genuine formal disagreement seems small or rare. The automatic popping up of the idea that beauty-is-subjective gets in the way of the development of a common and detailed vocabulary for talking about the formal features of a piece of art/craft, leaving the field open to the sociopolitical-context bores.

k.l.'s picture

Hello Mr Leonard, I am not yet through your theses, but am reading it.

As to Futura uppercase, now I remember: In an issue of "Buchhandelsgeschichte" of 1995 there was a convincing refututation of the theory that Kramer was designer of Futura uppercase letters. It gave some exact dates for evidence.

When he started with Futura, Renner could not be called type designer. Early Futura drawings are strictly geometric and are as "naively" formed as are the attempts by Herbert Bayer and others. Typography, lettering, type design are not the same. My remark was about Renner the type designer (in the twenties), not about Renner the book designer or Renner the lettering artist.

I really enjoy this thread with so many parallel discussions!

Karsten

Nick Shinn's picture

Karsten, I don't think you should deduce from Renner's strictly geometric drawings that he was typoographically naive. Remember, modernism reduced everything to the bare bones.
Choosing to ignore the rules is not the same as being unaware of them.

billtroop's picture

Charles, I agree with your assessment. There is always the wish to tear down the giant, and with Renner we get some clues to how we could do this in the wildness of some of his drawings. But to make the leap from Renner doing wild drawings to Renner not knowing anything about type is to make the wrong leap. We have to consider also the profound cultural-psychological differences between homo Americanus and homo Germanicus of that period. Speer said something to the effect that what made war production so spectacular on either side was that you had rigid Germans who were suddenly given strong imperatives to sponantaneity, while on the other side, you had spontaneous Americans who were suddenly given stringent requirements towards rigidity. The result in both cases was spectacular advances in productivity.

In his drawings I think you see Renner making this leap from rigidity to spontaneity. We have to get away from the idea that a drawing is of necessity a blueprint for manufacturing. It isn't. A drawing in type can have the same relationship to manufacturing that a drawing can to a painting, especially when we know that the draw-er is also a painter. To quote again from an as yet unpublished essay by Edit DeAk,

'Drawing is the simplest way of establishing a pictorial vocabulary because it is an instant personal declaration of what is important and what is not. Drawing is the most unalienated medium: private, it practically doesn't have an audience in mind, just the artist's expression. Because it is private it can be measured by its idiosyncrasies.'

And there you have one of many possible, valid prisms through which to view Renner's drawings. One can also view many of Gill's drawings this way. They are very far from being glyphs that the punchcutter will literally trace on the pantograph. They are not glyphs, in fact, but ideas for glyphs. And they are obviously intended as such. Now the punchcutter or pantographist or even the designer himself must somehow translate these ideas into type. But it is an imperative of creativity to have the idea for the glyph before you have the glyph itself, and that is the function of the free drawing. Can a 'z' be twice as wide as we think it can? Only one way to tell: try it.

We have also to consider that for both Gill and Renner, there may have been a very clear expectation, there may have been an excellent idiomatic understanding, of quite precisely how one of their non-literal drawings would be translated into practical type by their collaborators. That being the case, there would be no need for them to expend any more effort. All type designers want to save time and labour whenever they can. (One gets the sense that was true also for van Krimpen, though to a lesser extent, and also that he was far too prideful and insecure to admit it, except indirectly.)

enne_son's picture

"The automatic popping up of the idea that beauty-is-subjective gets in the way of the development of a common and detailed vocabulary for talking about the formal features of a piece of art/craft..."

This is why I tried to shift the discussion to the 'optical-grammatical' and 'gestural-atmospheric' plane. But the entire issue is secondary to the focus of this thread. In another thread I will try to explain my motivatios for using these terms as alternatives to 'formal' / 'functional' and 'expressive'.

And Bill, thanks so much for elaborating! By 'pretentions' I wanted to ask what kinds of (sometimes grandiose) things (like 'revolutionary') were being claimed for it.

hrant's picture

Nick, I suspect Karsten is basing his opinion on more than just an impression from a single design of Renner's. But in any case: although I agree that one can never be 100% certain here, there's a reason that type design neophytes tend to make highly geometric fonts...

Also, one might even say that Modernism is anti-type.

hhp

hrant's picture

> Gill ... obviously intended as such.

I don't think this can be taken that far. In parallel to the fruitful reliance on another person (like a punchcutter, or a pantograph operator) to "manufacture" the actual font, among some designers -including Gill, I'd say- there was/is a willful oblivion towards some aspects of the craft. It's no secret that Gill didn't do the fitting (spacing) of his fonts, leaving that supposedly menial task to the Monotype works boys; looking at some of his drawings, it seems that he didn't even incorporate overshoots to the rounds in his drawings! How much of that is faith in the skills of another, how much is plain cavalier sloppiness/laziness?

Different people are good at different things, and the smart
ones realize what NOT to expect of themselves; it can be argued
for example that Gill didn't have what it takes to space a font;
but maybe he didn't even bother finding out either way.

> it is an imperative of creativity to have the idea for the
> glyph before you have the glyph itself, and that is the
> function of the free drawing.

I would instead say that "impulsive" activities like drawing (but especially "painting" - think calligraphy and brushwork) can reveal unexpected ideas for glyphs via the process itself. In fact many designers leverage this impulsiveness, sometimes to the point of demoting introspection, but sometimes with great results. Happy accidents are as common as unhappy ones!

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

there’s a reason that type design neophytes tend to make highly geometric fonts…

It's one of several genres that don't require typographic sophistication, true.
But as has been mentioned earlier in this thread, Renner was a practised lettering artist and typographer when he started work on Futura. It's important to distinguish modernism in general from the historical modernist movement that occurred during the 1910s and '20s. Tschicold, for instance, grew up in a house where his father was a professional calligrapher/lettering artist, and he acquired those skills in his teens. Nonetheless, he abandoned the traditional nuances when he became a modernist.

Bauer went along with Renner's radical letterforms, providing them as alternate sorts. They were eventually dropped through lack of sales. The same thing happened with Futura's old style figures. The market spoke, preferring the less busy letterforms

hrant's picture

> The market spoke, preferring the less busy letterforms

More like: less sophisticated, less intelligent, less challenging.
Not to deny that that happens, but it's a good thing at least
some of us aren't listening to the peons too intently. :-/

hhp

enne_son's picture

When the 'market' speaks, how much of that is unsophisticated preference speaking and how much of that is the peons' reading-ware speaking?

hrant's picture

:->

I'd say: People don't pay for what they don't know exists.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

The market was printers buying foundry type.

dezcom's picture

and the amount of time to market was slow and long.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

> The market was printers buying foundry type.

To use for whom? To set what? Hmmm?

hhp

William Berkson's picture

>The automatic popping up of the idea that beauty-is-subjective gets in the way of the development of a common and detailed vocabulary for talking about the formal features of a piece of art/craft, leaving the field open to the sociopolitical-context bores.

Well put. Aesthetic quality also should not be identified with beauty alone, in the sense of prettiness. An illustration of both the intersubjective character of aesthetic quality and the difference between aesthetic quality and prettiness is an experience I had in China. We visited a Buddhist Temple reknowned for its vivid images of devils and hell.

It was full of these statues and pictures, and a lot were not so well done. But there were a set of stone statues of devils along a walkway--all hideous and truly frightening--that were just great. Not pretty, but aesthetic achievements. And in fact the guidebooks highlighted these as highlights of the Temple. Why have people admired these statues for hundreds of years? Well, they are good, and it's not the matter of an individual's or even a generation's opinion. The guy who did them was just a better artist than the one who did the others.

Similarly, you can have small type that is artistically better and worse, even if none of it can be as pretty as big type with slender limbs and thin waists.

k.l.'s picture

Huuhhh, I see I must be careful with my not very proper English ...
No "wish to tear down the giant" on my part -- as said, I do admire Renner's work, his writings (unmatched til today), typography, his later type designs. But sorry, not Futura.
Yes, modernism reduced everything to the bare bones and is by nature "naive". Both the Bayer type and Renner's early drawings for Futura exhibit this. Just one example: Take the "special" lowercase "a" (the hook and the circle) and "g" (the circle and the triangle). This is not reflexion of the history of these forms, or their origins (say, in writing), but brutally pressing them into "elementary" clothes. (I am aware that there are "a" forms which look a bit more like studies into history, or an "e" which is almost unical. So, there are enough "but"s left for you.)
Compare this with Rudolf Koch's Kabel (Cable) which follows the same idea of going back to the basics -- but at the same time does it in a playful and ironic way. Ends of stems are not horizontal but slightly diagonal and thus maintain the idea of directionality of type. And Kabel lowercase "g" is a stroke of genius: it is at the same time more rigid in that it is strictly geometric, and is also very "calligraphic" -- it resembles a "g" form you find in Koch's roman (Marathon) and rotunda (Wallau) types as well. In some way, with respect to Koch's other typefaces, Kabel is the real surprise. Though not a "perfect" type either.

hhp: But in any case: although I agree that one can never be 100% certain here, there’s a reason that type design neophytes tend to make highly geometric fonts… Also, one might even say that Modernism is anti-type.

Yes. :)

hhp: It’s no secret that Gill didn’t do the fitting (spacing) of his fonts, leaving that supposedly menial task to the Monotype works boys; looking at some of his drawings, it seems that he didn’t even incorporate overshoots to the rounds in his drawings! How much of that is faith in the skills of another, how much is plain cavalier sloppiness/laziness?

Very interesting, I haven't paid attention to it before! A related idea: Can earlier type designers measured by the same standards as are today's type designers? It is not the same if someone gives in an sketch and some words and someone else does the "technical stuff", or if someone does it all on his/her own -- from the first sketch to the final product.

But this is now *really* off-topic. Back to Steile Futura.

hrant's picture

> even if none of it can be as pretty as big type

It must not be as pretty.

hhp

billtroop's picture

'it seems that he didn’t even incorporate overshoots to the rounds in his drawings! How much of that is faith in the skills of another, how much is plain cavalier sloppiness/laziness?'

An good reason not to put overshoot into master drawings is that the overshoot will be proportionally different for every size.

The same with fitting: that must be different for every size, especially in mono/lino, where unit requirements will impose slightly different fitting limitations at each size.

Always keep in mind that in that era, a type designer's master drawings are explicitly part of a production process where many quite different manufacturing drawings are to be made. The designer presents an idea of what he wants to see on the page; it is up to the foundry to turn that into manufacturing practice. There are many more disconnects between the initial design and the printed page. We are so unaccustomed to our more direct way of working, that it is difficult for us to remember it wasn't always so.

'there’s a reason that type design neophytes tend to make highly geometric fonts…

It’s one of several genres that don’t require typographic sophistication, true.'

I can't let you two off with this so easily. The first thing that happens when a neophyte constructs a simple geometric sans is that the vertical strokes are the same weight as the horizontal strokes. The second thing that happens is that the neophyte is already so type blind that he can't see that the horizontal strokes have to be reduced because they are visually too heavy by a few percent. This is one of the points in type design education where you really need someone to tell you what is going on, and I have had to be that person for several neophytes, just as someone had to be that person for me.

'I’d say: People don’t pay for what they don’t know exists.'

True and characteristically astute. But the obverse isn't true: people won't necessarily buy what they do know exists, and that is especially true in type, mainly because there are so many choices out there that all type purchasers are suffering from overload and now want to simplify to the maximum extent. This has been true for several years and I don't know how we are to get out of this technology-driven lock. Until we do, there will be minute sales of non-basic items. Single-weight novelties are what sell, and that has been true for decades.

'Yes, modernism reduced everything to the bare bones and is by nature “naive”.'

Reading this, I get the nostalgic feeling that if Renner were alive today, he would be saying exactly what he was saying 60 years ago: you have too many types, you need only three. As I once quipped to a Heidelberger, 'Nur einen Renner kann uns retten!' (Only a Renner can save us. That's the type designer's spin on Heidegger's famous posthumous interview with Der Spiegel from the 1970s, entitled with his most (for him) shocking remark, 'Nur einen Gott kann uns retten' - Only a God can save us.)

So maybe we need a new movement not towards complexity but simplicity? Maybe this is the time, hurtling towards thousands of gigantic OT fonts that nobody really wants either to make or to use, to rethink where we are going? And if we can't affect where we are going, can we affect how we are going there?

hrant's picture

> the overshoot will be proportionally different for every size.

Good point (and something that I once had to explain on
this very forum to a very fameux type designer). On the other
hand, much bigger things change across optical sizes, to the
point that it's probably not worth making too-refined drawings.
Dunno, you tell me: http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/gill_drw.jpg _
Does it make sense to define the weight (like look at the exacting
vertical proportion numbers) but not incorporate the overshoots?

> that must be different for every size

Of course, but a [good] designer can still define a norm for a given size, at the very least to let on how tight/loose overall the design should be. I think Gill simply didn't bother thinking about spacing (in the realm of fonts, although certainly not lettering) at all.

> I can’t let you two off with this so easily.

?
But we weren't even agreeing! :-)

> This is one of the points in type design education where you really need someone to tell you what is going on

Not really. All you need is to keep your eyes (and your mind) open.

> there will be minute sales of non-basic items.

Minute numerically. But the buyers value the subtle stuff a lot.
Which is why you price those elements (think multiple-master fonts)
much higher. For example, simply including smallcaps in a basic font
bundle is really stupid to me.

> Renner were alive today, he would be saying exactly what he was
> saying 60 years ago: you have too many types, you need only three.

Did he not realize that none of them would be his? :-/
I don't see anybody who makes fonts meaning that.

> So maybe we need a new movement not towards complexity but simplicity?

Technologically, maybe. But stylistically, quite the
opposite. Modernism's death should be accelerated.

hhp

billtroop's picture

'Did he not realize that none of them would be his? :-/'

No, he didn't. He thought one of them would be Futura. And I don't think he was that far off in his expectations. Futura has proved to be very durable, even in the post-metal age. It was of course a great deal more useful in the metal age because we then had sizes that looked good in text. It is interesting that Futura is still so much used in medical product branding. Nothing else really carries its message of being completely trustworthy, scientifically valid, safe, modern, rational. He could not have anticipated the revival of rationalised grotesques, or of post-Syntax sanses (that humanist label is really too loaded, I don't like it). But if you want your pill to sell, you're still pretty apt to use Futura.

billtroop's picture

And isn't it strange how impersonal Futura still feels to us today, while still implying scientific validity for anything it is dressed in? It really does seem that either our visual vocabulary has been decisively influenced by this typeface or that it is a nearly perfect expression, or instrument, of a need for post-religious verity. I am more than ever convinced that Futura really is a special case in the history of type design, and that Steile Futura is in its way an antithesis.

enne_son's picture

Bill: "...and that Steile Futura is in its way an antithesis."

So what does it's presence in the Renner corpus represent? Or: Where did I(t) come from?

billtroop's picture

I would say (but this is purely speculative) that it represents Renner's ultimate effort to assert himself creatively and to prove that he could also do that in a functional manner. In type we have a convenient scale: the more individual any typeface is, the less functional it is. We are all perpetually involved in trying to bridge this chasm - it is our great struggle in type design. Is not Topic's appeal that it represents a maximum of individuality with a minimal hit (though still not negligible) hit on functionality? I should be expressing this more elegantly, but you get the point.

That this is so difficult to do is evident in the fact that there is nothing else we can really compare to Steile Futura in the history of type design. Nobody likes to be subservient: to craft, to form, to persons. Here Renner is saying, isn't he? 'Ich bin, zuletzt, Renner.'

Was Renner familiar with Nietzsche's famous words from the preface to Ecce Homo? It would seem likely, and it should be possible to ascertain. In any case, they represent the sentiment that I am suggesting Renner may (must) have felt at this particular point towards the end of his life:

'I have a duty against which my habits, even more the pride of my instincts, revolt at bottom, namely, to say: Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else!'

(author's italics)

What better summary is there of the specific conflicts which lie under the hood of the German creative spirit? Man must assert himself, even though habit and 'pride of instinct' say NO!

hrant's picture

> it is our great struggle in type design

Text type design.

> Nobody likes to be subservient

On the other hand, type design is an inherently servile craft,
and I would argue that its best practitioners are the ones who
simply enjoy serving users.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

>Man must assert himself

I'm with Hrant on this one.

If a design is good it's like a child with its own identity, and the needs to stand strong and coherent on its own. It doesn't need an interfering father so involved with his own ego that he can't let the child develop according to his or her own nature.

billtroop's picture

Well, Hrant, that is pretty much to be taken for granted, don't you think? We are not discussing servility per se; what we are doing here is interrogating how something quite out of the norm is called into being. Here, we hope to have left the servile behind. (In any case: who are the most servile designers? You might call Robert Slimbach, for example, one. Yet his work is filled with rebellions, if you actually look at it.) However, let us not diverge. We take it for granted that typography is servile, and we further assume that, by and large, the more servile the better. Yet why should this be a rule? Isn't the entire point of Steile Futura to demonstrate how, with rigour, we can attain the essential ego expressivity without which we probably would not be human, yet remain within the recognized parameters of the field? In typography, the unexceptional is the norm and the fantastic is inevitably quite short-lived. What is unusual is for the exception to have any lasting power. Here we seem to have just that case, and in its strongest form.

I would argue that it is a case of mastery over slavery. I would also argue that mastery over slavery characterizes the best movies, historically. In film you have an art form which because of the expense in production, must of necessity make money. So all kinds of narrative and formal requirements have to be satisfied before ego expression can be thought of. Renner is obviously of considerable intellectual calibre and can be assumed to be aware of all of these things. A rigorous biography that actually delved into correspondence might clarify these points, but Renner outside the world of type is unlikely to attract that depth of scholarly interest. But couldn't we argue that a similar mechanism takes place in all art and literature production? That we are essentially looking for the point where we can say - this point of time and being is mine - with this work I claim it - ?

I would also argue that the craftsman or artist who can get to this point is expected to be exceptionally talented and probably quite mature - but that is not always the case, is it?

hrant's picture

Nothing a human makes can be devoid of expression, and nothing made for a human should try to shun expression. The servility of type design doesn't preclude expression - that would be inhuman. What it does mean however is that the intent is not self-expression; that expression happens in spite of the designer - because he is human - he can't help it.

hhp

billtroop's picture

'What it does mean however is that the intent is not self-expression; that expression happens in spite of the designer - because he is human - he can’t help it.'

Sorry, Hrant, I think you're making too big a leap there. Au fond, you are making the assumption that intent can be controlled, either externally or internally, that intent is monolithic, that intent can be even be accurately and fully described. I can't accept that. I find it too . . . simplified. Moreover, you would be the first to argue that nothing is black and white, grey is everywhere, etc. etc. I appreciate that you are trying to hone in on something here, and that doing so requires some brutal simplification. The reason I don't think it flies in Renner's case is that your argument implies lack of complex (and probably clearly articulated) intentionality on Renner's part. And that is simply inconceivable in someone who is artist, craftsman, intellectual, above all German of just that incredibly rich period. Burke can be forgiven for possibly not having a clear idea what constitutes a German intellect of the Weimar, Bauhaus, Nazi and postwar periods, but he makes it abundantly clear that Renner was one, even if he can't or simply doesn't care to qualify it. And that is a creature above all of clearly articulated intentionality. Generalities will not serve here. We are talking about Renner, a complex man in a complex time. I don't think Renner can be discussed non-contextually, and the context here is dauntingly complex and open to many more or less conflicting views. I too am guilty of trying to oversimplify at this point, but I think I am always trying to keep context in view. Renner was living in times when you could turn on the radio to hear Heidegger give a lecture, or go outside to get involved in a street fight over Max Weber's latest lecture. In the midst of this inapprehensible cultural richness, you have the Nazis trying, largely successfully, and using the most brilliant propoganda techniques, attempting to impose a drastically simplified totalitarian world view that is fundamentally out of synch with the period that directly precedes it, and which could not have succeeded without Versailles, the Wall Street crash and the unbearable economic hardship that accompanies these events.

Against this unbelievably powerful current Renner stands firm, deeply isolated, but never wavering in his opposition, even when the personal risk is huge and the penalties he pays are draconian and humiliating. This is someone who by intrinsic worth, and tried in the most frightening circumstances, defines intentionality. Moreover, of all people here, you are probably best equipped through personal experience to understand such a figure. May I suggest reading Burke's book, in which you might find a lot that you would understand better than most? Sereny's Speer would then be a good way to buy a lot of context at a fairly cheap price.

Charles Leonard's picture

Exactly what do they represent? Are they some kind of drawing or trial cut? What is fascinating and instructive is to see how very different they are from the finished font.
Sorry to have been away so long, but I had to run down a copy of the 1978 Munich Typographic Society publication on Paul Renner—found a mint edition from a bookseller in Stockholm for less than $35 including shipping. The illustrations in the book are all of drawings done by Renner. So, none of the images I posted were of type. The drawings were for alternate forms and weights for Futura Schlagzeile [Headline] (Bauer, 1932). It appears to me that ideas Renner tried out circa 1932 reemerged 20 years later in the less curvilinear Steile [upright] Futura. One other thing to consider is that these drawings appear to have been done after Bauer engineered Futura oblique. The second and third images posted are referred to as “Kursiv.” Whether that was Renner's term or one applied by those who cataloged his drawings is not clear. There is of course a distinction between cursive, italic, and oblique scripts. Unfortunately, the German word “kursive” makes it difficult to discern Renner’s position relative to italic v. oblique. In other words, was this a competitor to Futura oblique or an italic to accompany the headline type then under development. What is clear is that by 1932 he had dropped his insistence that artifacts of the hand had no place in the creation of modern typefaces.

hrant's picture

Wait, so those traps were drawn for display cuts?!

> by 1932 he had dropped his insistence that artifacts of the
> hand had no place in the creation of modern typefaces.

Is that really what he [had] said?
Because there's a world of difference between implementing "artifacts" versus "paraphrasing" (as our Peter E has dubbed it). The former is done if you believe a given artifact somehow helps, irrespective of its -circumstancial- chirographic origin; the latter, if you think chirography itself somehow helps.

hhp

Charles Leonard's picture

Wait, so those traps were drawn for display cuts?!

According to caption, which is all I have to go on, the "Skizzen" [sketches] were explorations of alternate characters/weights for Futura Schlagzeile [headline]. I agree that the cuts are odd. They may indicate that in 1932 Renner was considering a new, condensed text font, but that is pure speculation. However, the arrival of Steile Futura in 1952 suggests that that was what he was considering.

Is that really what he [had] said?
Throughout Typografie als Kunst and Mechaniserte Grafik, Renner draws distinctions between form, which derives from "organic" processes, and style, which is the province of the artist. He defined the task of his time as, "… the conscious confrontation with the mechanical, the cleansing of mechanized technology of the old form-world of handicraft.” Because type formed its word images by a single application of pressure from the type, and not the ductile movement of pen over paper, anything that made reference to a process different from printing—writing—was not inherent in the "form idea" of the letter, and, if an artist was to work in a style commensurate with the mechanical era, artifacts of the hand and pen such as slope, stroke weight difference, curve thickness transitions, et al had no place in the "Schrift unserer Zeit."
Charles

Miss Tiffany's picture

Warning: This thought might be crazy.

For these display characters would have the traps been added for consideration of silkscreen printing or something like that?

dezcom's picture

Is there an English version of the Bauer site Mr. Stephen Coles listed at he top? I only see Spanish.

ChrisL

billtroop's picture

'What is clear is that by 1932 he had dropped his insistence that artifacts of the hand had no place in the creation of modern typefaces.'

I think that's the most important insight to take away from this. It makes me so uncomfortable every time someone says 'you must do it this way, because it's un-something to do it any other way', or 'this is the only valid way' or 'such-and-such is out of time, inauthentic, inartistic, invalid, unchirographic, uncalligraphic, untypographic, unmechanical, unhumanistic (whatever that dreadful word now means in type), out of order and unPC', etc. etc. etc. I don't think it matters much how or why we do what we do. What matters if it works - for someone. Maybe that someone whom it works for will be millions of readers. Or maybe that someone will be only one. It doesn't matter. Like Julia Margaret Cameron said 150 years ago when she was attacked for her fuzzy photographs, which people are obstinately still admiring, 'Who is to say which is the right focus?'

dezcom's picture

We can only trust in our own eyes to reveal what we see. If someone else describes what they see, it does not reproduce that vision for you. Designers should just produce what it is that they see as best and let the public decide later if that choice works for them.
We spend too much time putting things in neat catagories so that we can either point to catagorizations we approve of or to those we damn to hell. All of the "isms" or "istics" don't absolve the designer from his or her duty to make it work on its own. Whether it is Modernism, Humanism, Artistic or Scientific in its intelectualized pidgeon holeing doesn't amount to a gram of good. The society of self-proclaimed critics will find a reason to condem anything that does not fit their mould so just do what you will and go on to the next thing knowing you tried your best.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

> If someone else describes what they see,
> it does not reproduce that vision for you.

I agree, but there's a related paradox: some things cannot be
communicated through vision, but can only be approached
conceptually/verbally. I learned this the hard way when I
showed around my alphabet reform font - which was NOT a
font, but a nebulous set of structures. Kant sho dat.

> We spend too much time putting things in neat catagorie

That's certainly true.

hhp

dezcom's picture

"...some things cannot be
communicated through vision, but can only be approached
conceptually..."

Like the sound of one hand clapping.

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

showed around my alphabet reform font

It depends on who show show it to, and when.
All it takes is one crazy art director to say "hey, I can do something with that", and maybe someone else will pick up the ball and run with it, and it becomes a trend then an institution.
In Trissino's case, he introduced three reforms in the 16th century -- u, j, and "omega" (long o). The first two caught on 100 years later, the third never. You never know, and you really will never know if you don't publish the font, and the argument (aka propaganda, promotion) that goes along with it.

hrant's picture

> It depends on who show show it to, and when.

Well, I showed it around a lot (including at two conferences, in a book article, one-on-one, etc.) and the result was I had to spend half of my waking hours explaining what it WASN'T! So I don't mean nobody liked the idea - it's that few people GOT the idea, which is my point: it's due to a certain paradox of communication - some things can only be explained, not shown - in fact when you show them it gets worse!

hhp

kris's picture

I think that’s the most important insight to take away from this. It makes me so uncomfortable every time someone says ‘you must do it this way...of order and unPC’, etc. etc. etc. I don’t think it matters much how or why we do what we do. What matters if it works - for someone.

There was a specific "aha!" moment when I read a quip by Matthew Carter that said "if it looks right it is right." Perhaps too much of a simplification of the above idea, but this resonates with me. It has been my muse ever since.

—K

clark.kent's picture

Does anybody have this font?

oldnick's picture

I thought that Renner's lowercase letters provided a perfect complement to uppercase characters found on an old WPA poster; the result is here...

http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/dinky-rink-nf/regular/

wolfgang_homola's picture

A few photos more (distorted and out of focus, sorry ...), in addition to the drawings Charles Leonhard already posted about four years ago. The source for these pictures is a publication by the typographic society in Munich:

Paul Renner. Eine Jahresgabe der Typographischen Gesellschaft München, zusammengestellt und herausgegeben von Philipp Luidl, unter Mitarbeit von Günter Gerhard Lange, Typographische Gesellschaft München 1978

Text on p 88 (my translation):
Here you see – as an extension to 'Futura', which is based on circle and square – a variant that is based on rectangle. This developed 1932 into 'Futura Schlagzeile'.


Text on p 90:
Trial version of 'Futura Schlagzeile', proof on 9 March 1932.
The long s and the uncial-script-like shape of T were later omitted, as well as the alternative shape of A that corresponded more with the lower case a.


Text on p 92:
Drawings for the initially planned regular for 'Futura Schlagzeile'.
K, M and V have diagonals that are different from the final version.


Text on p 94:
Alternative shapes for 'Futura Schlagzeile'. Note the remarkable B. Renner, as a skilled draughtsman, avoided plain construction. The vertical strokes in B, C, P and Q are curved.


Text on p 96 (same as the picture already posted four years ago):
Concept for the italic regular for 'Futura Schlagzeile'. These shapes – although being broader and more fluid – already anticipate the characteristics of 'Steile Futura italic'.

Text on p 98 (same as the picture already posted four years ago):
The fluidity at the beginning of the stroke and in the terminals is much better (here) than in 'Steile Futura italic'. Note the shape of german s, a quality criterion for the connoisseur.

All Renner's typefaces, in chronological order (p 51)

Florian Hardwig's picture

Thanks for posting these photos, Wolfgang!

dezcom's picture

Great post, Wolfgang!

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