Expressionism, reinterpreted

popovich's picture


Nice to be back here again.
Even though I'm looking for a definitive solution, the theoretical foundation of it is also important to me.

There is a coffee bar opening up soon with a name "e spre ssionist" (written together – I just want to avoid search enging indexing here). Obviously, it plays with words espresso and expressionism which should translate into "the art of coffee". The concept is – the best coffee in town. Though I don't have anything to do with actually selecting coffee and grinders and machines, the identity for the enterprise should reflect the wordplay and make it stand out from the crowd of regular coffee bars.

I was doing some research on expressionism and it seems that this art movement didn't influence so much typography as other disciplines, like art (foremost) and architecture. At the same period of time typography was going in a quite different direction – Jan Tschichold's dogmatic views, Paul Renner's Futura, Johnston/Gill Sans, Neuzeit S, etc. The "machine age" in full color, so to say.
So I was thinking of combining these two aesthetics – a sign in expressionism style and a typeface in a more straightforward manner –to play with pictures as the word itself suggests.

And I am lost in type. It seems, I am stuck in a loop. Initially I've started from geometric sans (Futura, Gotham), moving to a more condensed typefaces (FF Good), to "defaults" (Akzidenz). Then I went through a phase of "modern machinery age", looking through monospaced type (Lineto's Excellent and some Gestalten Type) and finally arriving at stencil type (AG Book and custom stenciled Archer). Obviously, I am lost.
The design has its constrains: the word should sit in lower case, as the icon hints on the lc "e".

Any ideas?


Nick Shinn's picture

George Grosz, Coffee House, 1915.


Today most people understand Expressionism as being of the abstract kind, i.e. Jackson Pollock.
And any slapdash application of paint is Art.
So your e-daub is on the money.


František Štorm's work has a lot of expressionist qualities.

And then there is Frutiger:

… type design, in its restraint, should be only felt but not perceived by the reader …

Té Rowan's picture

Heh. Your 'e' sure gives an expression of a mug of joe.

Hmm... How'bout a hypermodern sans? Ralf Hoffmeister's superficial comes to my mind.

popovich's picture

thanks for the tip. I was actually looking at Storm's Serapion, however I am not sure it matches this e-daub :) well enough. I somehow see the type in contrast to the icon. It would also be nice to be able to use such a font as a headline face for menus, etc.

Thanks for the tip. It seems to be a free font?

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't think you can count on the big e to do all the heavy lifting.
Perhaps a humanist sans would have sufficient contrast, but still be expressive enough to carry the theme.
e.g. Shinntype's Sensibility.

eliason's picture

Storm is a great suggestion. Maybe Alcoholica?

Edit: sorry, I should say, if you go back to looking for expressionist type.

Té Rowan's picture

As far as I can tell, it is, at least for personal use. Can't remember about commercial use.

popovich's picture

Do you think Typecuts' Wedding Sans is too much of a contrast to the artful e-icon?

Nick Shinn's picture

It's completely off strategy, being rigidly constrained by its intellectual premise, rather than expressionist.
As I said, your main typeface should carry the theme of expressionism, as it will be far more visible than the symbol.
I get the impression you really want to do something clean and modern with the typography, and rationalize that in some way, no matter how off territory that would be.
But WTF, why not use the default art gallery font, posh Helvetica—Akzidenz Grotesk.

popovich's picture

Frankly, yes, I am inclined to use clean typography for this thing, though "clean & modern" has a broad definition. :)
The icon will not be used as much anyway, you are right here. Actually, I am thinking of taking the brush stroke and using it for other small applications, doing other graphics in this style.

However, I do not see a humanist sans or expressionist face pulling out the job here. I don't know why, I can't reason that. A perfect find would be a family, with slabs and sans and serifs or stencils (Stag by Commercial Type / Jigsaw by Typotheque / Primetype's Manual maybe?) to use them interchangeably for headlines, menus, promotions, etc. Search for Bauholzdesign to see what the bar will look like inside – and to mix this picture with a playful typeface?

As I said in my first post, the biggest reasoning for me is to support the wordplay with image-play: expressionism and machine age, both happening almost at the same historic period. I might be wrong. I might be trying to justify myself. Trully, I am a bit out of breath... (but I am still listening carefully)

Nick Shinn's picture

Contemporary German Expressionism?
Grotext and Tiptoe seem to go well with Bauholz "hand made" aesthetic.

Another recent rough-hewn sans: Carter Sans
Classic: Lydian

popovich's picture

The free HVD Rowdy looks quite authentic on its own, don't you think?
But it doesn't fit well with the icon – and redrawing the icon is not an option.

So I went back to Storm Type again and am now pretty sure it will be Splendid Sans for headlines + Wallbaum Grotesk for running copy. Splendid Serif is a good option to have, too (have bought both of them).

Nick Shinn's picture

Excellent choices!

poms's picture

Great overall concept!
Though i would go for a "more straight forward energy" in the typefaces, say Stag Sans, eventually with Stag Sans Dotted for adds/menu card as a bonus.
I think your "caffeine e" needs a more cleaned-up, but still very dynamic typeface to get balance and contrast. The Sans you now use, is more like "too much caffeine", instead of a nice shot of tasteful and strong cafe solo (which i see in Stag Sans). Just my 2 cents.

flooce's picture

when looking at the "e" to my mind comes enzia and Chennai

popovich's picture

Here is an update, if you wonder, on the final result. Because of too many coincidences, angst of doing "things" wrong, poor client management on my side (if it is your wife, it is always poor, I guess), et cetera – we had to drop the daub and go with something entirely different. However, we stayed with the typeface choices and here is what we have today.

Luma Vine's picture

Nice work! I was very fond of the coffee cup painted e, but this is very nice too. Great to see how the logo is applied and supported throughout the whole brand scheme. Good stuff!

Syndicate content Syndicate content