"Pre-War Modern" Sans

Hey all,

I'm working on a refresh of a publication I've recently taken over, and the program needs some serious taste adjustments. The book is focused on some very specific music genres and I really feel a modern style sans fits the bill, to replace the current Gill Sans, but before I bite the bullet on finally purchasing one of my two "A-listers", I thought I'd see if I was missing a key player.

Verlag from H&FJ and Relay from FB both seem like the head of the pack here. The term is a lift from Hoefler's descrip of Verlag, and I find it to be quite right. I definitely value the breadth of options they provide (three and four widths, respectively, each in five weights plus italics) and find that essential for the task at hand.

Does anyone have any other ideas? I'd love to hear them and explore.

Thanks much!



Contrary to the puffery in H&FJ's romance copy on Verlag, sans serifs would be used in heads and subheads and, in some instances, classified ad copy in Western newsrooms of the day. Body copy was almost always set in a serif face.

Indeed, thanks for that. I didn't mean that the entire ad copy was "quite right," merely that the descriptive "Pre-War Modern" was. In any case, I'm not looking for the historical accuracy in use, so much as the style. Verlag and Relay both have this flare and glamour that I find particularly well suited for the task at hand, and they're both extremely well appointed, legible, and versatile.

Anyhoo...other thoughts?

tx much


Mark Simonson's Proxima Nova has the same roots, has a WHOLE LOT more options, and is less expensive than either of your other choices...


Very nice recommendation, though as a point of fact, Verlag is cheaper (not per weight/font but as an entire family). It's funny, I remember the first time I saw Proxima Nova was in an interview he gave (probably to myfonts?) and I always liked it.

And then there were three... Thanks much for that!

You might want to take a look at my new 718. There is also Tangent as well

James, I wrote to you but I'm not sure if it went off into the ether or in fact was deposited into an inbox you access. LOVE 718. Beautiful work...

(and then there were 4)

Verlag is my favorite of the bunch. Coincidentally, it came out around the same time as Relay and Neutraface and I wrote about this at the time.

James, so glad to see another option in this genre. Looking forward to seeing more of 718.


What a great read. I also have a fondness for Verlag (so it's nice to get a vote of confidence in that one), though I've never actually used it, hence my opening up the question and looking for other ways in (before I drop anywhere from $500 to a grand, I want to make sure I've covered my bases). My only reservation with Verlag, and for that matter, Relay, has been that I think they may now be a bit exposed now, particularly Verlag. Which in and of itself doesn't make them bad choices, but you know, Art Director and all, we like to feel we've made some unique breakthrough or whatever. True voice, ego-puffery, blah, blah, blah.

I once worked for a publication with a slightly customized cut of Relay and I grew to *love* it. It's flexibility always astounded me, and well, I suppose that was the first time I came to understand the value of something like a superfamily. Funny, though, the retail version always hits my eye a little abruptly now. We had one of the more angular forms customized to round off and it always read better after that. The lack of said character now makes me pause before clicking the "add to cart" button. Neutraface is one of my all-time favorites, but having worked with it briefly on a project years ago, it has idiosyncrasies that I find distracting, particularly in text settings, much as I love it. And while I think the italic is beautiful, I don't find it particularly legible for the reader in the smallest settings.

So now I find myself ready to pull a trigger and wondering if there's still a lot of territory to cover that I missed. Though, apparently, there is not. James' 718 is very attractive, and I'm quite taken with it. I, too, look forward to seeing more of it.

I've seen a lot of Neutraface and Relay but very little Verlag. I don't think you're in danger of overexposure unless your competition is using it.

Are you aware of Neutraface No. 2?

Both very nice, thanks.

Frode, both Neutraface families are quite dramatic. I find them both striking and beautiful and I love the flexibility in their many drawings, but I do still find the exaggerated X-heights in Neutraface particularly difficult to read out of running copy, even with the adjusted text-face heights. It just doesn't hold in running copy next to Relay or Verlag...which is kind of too bad, because I like a lot of the personality in the face.

Brandon Grotesque is a lovely face; also find its price attractive, even if it's not the most flexible in terms of widths. Many choices...

I have also just discovered that Jim Parkinson's got a lovely family in this category called Richmond. Hadn't arrived on the radar, so I thought I'd add it to the thread. Also putting it on my preliminary (and now extensive!) list...

The pre-war sans that I used in the forties was the Metro series from Linotype as well as the Vogue series from Intertype.
Other than that Nobel and Erbar were popular in Europe.

I second the Richmond recommendation. Not in OpenType yet, but very well drawn and completely usable.

I'll add a bit to the mix and let you all know that I am working on a commercial release of VF Sans that should be ready next month. It will include my normal extended character set, small caps and such. I'll be offering more weights than the original, and the VF Sans Condensed will be included, but I'm not sure about italics. The custom version I did for Vanity Fair had simple obliques. I think geometric sans probably can get by with obliques. But being a display system, maybe they're not needed at all.

This is great news, James. I've been longing to see that one uncaged for years.