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2001: A Space Odyssey End Titles Type

Okay, I know, it's Kubrick, which means it's futura. *BUT* the M doesn't look anything like a Futura M I'm familiar with...

So, IS it Futura? A futura variant? A specific foundry's version?


I'm at TypeCon, so I don't have my type specimen books with me, but I think this is Gill Sans with alternate characters that were designed to make it look more like Futura. A number of metal sans types had alternates like that.

That's definitely possible as I've heard people say that the main titles were Gil Sans (and the M certainly looks like a Gil Sans M). The R is what made me think it couldn't be Gil Sans however.

So I guess my next question is: does a digital version exist?

I'm trying to build some titles for a 2001 thing I'm working on and matching the typeface is going to be somewhat key, after all those Kubrick nerds can be NASTY!

The M and W are quite different, the latter of which looks custom because of the wide stance and slightly lower mid-apex (I've never referred to that part of anatomy so I don't know it's technical name!). So I'm not sure, but it does look a custom modification of Futura.

I agree with Scott. The W seems custom, and the M looks borrowed from Gill (the tops of the stems are flat, unlike the N, which I think shows it may be from a different typeface). The round G, the R and the N are all Futura, to me.

- Mike Yanega

Well then I guess I've got a cut-and-paste job on my hands...


Well, that went poorly...

I don't think so. Seems pretty close to me, except maybe the W.

- Mike Yanega

Gill with Futura-esque alternates seems like it could be right. Re: Kubrick nerds, I seemed to remember some related discussion over at alt.movies.kubrick and just found it again; basically people there are either saying it's some version of Futura (with a rogue M), or some version of Gill (with other changes). I think the latter is probably more likely.
Some links for reference:
2001 typography
2001: Original Font?

BTW, note that the sequence title for «The Dawn of Man» apparently uses an entirely different typeface. :-)

In the pre-digital age (and 2001 was pre-digital by some 15 years), movie titles had to be photographed from a hard-copy original. To use type for this was needlessly difficult, as it would have required having a printer set up your titles in metal type (the largest sizes they had) and printing a one-off reproduction proof to be photographed. It was much easier to hire an artist to handletter titles, and most movie titles were handlettered until the 1960s.
By the late 1960s, Photolettering was around, and might have been used for the 2001 titles. Changing fonts in the middle of a word would have been a pain in the a55, but nevertheless possible, and it's the sort of fussy detail I could easily imagine Kubrick insisting on.

Personally I think he's on to something - I always liked MOST of futura but found those pointy bits on the A, N, M, etc. to be distracting. I like this customized version quite a lot to be honest.

I just wish there was a digital version so I dont have to cut/paste each letter manually to get what I'm after.

Could it be a slight modified version of ITC Johnston? I think it looks closer to the image than gill sans, but still some tweaking, especially the R, and the K looks inconsistant from any font standards. the stroke width is odd on the bottom leg. Just my two cents



The typeface certainly has the "feel" of Gill Sans, in a lighter version, even if the shapes of some specific letters indicate otherwise.

So I would look at the various sans-serif typefaces that were in use in Britain at the time.

Apparently, though, what happened was that the titles were done in the U.S., and thus, Gill Sans wasn't handy... and for a typeface with a similar feel to that (or maybe to Futura) it looks like they used Intertype's Vogue. At least, Am Sans, said to resemble Vogue, looks like these titles.

Didn't a lot of fonts back then ship with alternates to emulate the look of other popular faces?

Am Sans is certainly close, but those tricky letters like the M still stand out as being not quite right...

"DIN Schriften Neuzeit Grotesk Light" came close but still not quite close enough:

Vogue is quite similar to Neutraface which might also work but again it's that gosh-darned M (which I could potentially just steal from Gil but it would probably look like I did just that)

I was going to say the typeface is still in use...


but the R is wrong. Oh, and so is the E.

Well I think the Beebs (BBC) have been using Gill Sans (or a slightly modified version of it) for many years now, which would be why its close but no cigar.

I'm starting to think Underground Pro might be a decent match?

The more I look at this, the more I think this is just Futura with some custom Gill Sans-like characters (A, N, M, V, W). The custom letters don't quite match Gill Sans, but the others are exact matches for Futura. There is a slight unevenness in the spacing that suggests to me that it was film setting (or maybe process lettering), and not metal type. The presence of custom letters also points to this.

If this was the case, you're not likely to find an exact match (or even a close match) in an existing digital font. Although you could try combining Futura and Gill Sans, assuming you could match the size and weights.

Frode Frank is right. This is Futura. Period. The complete font came with four different versions of M. One was the classic splayed m, two had the central V glyph come down to the baseline (one with a point at the bottom, the other flat), and the fourth was the M shown on this post. All the other characters in the titles are standard Futura.

You're right about the existence of the alternate versions of M, but the specimens I'm finding (e.g., in the book "Paul Renner: The Art of Typography") don't look very much like the ones in the end titles of the movie. For example, there's a straight-sided Futura M that's similar to the one in question, but the joins at the top and middle are pointed, not clipped off. Have you got a specimen you can show here?

Sorry to bring this back into the fray but I'm finally having some time to work on this project again and would LOVE to nail down an answer...

It looks like I'm unlikely to find a digital match for this, which is a shame, and since Kubrick fans are notoriously detail oriented, if it's not spot on they'll notice right away.

So again, I think I'm looking at a cut and paste job. There are worse fates in life...

While the true answer may forever remain a mystery, I'm now happy to announce that I have been sent a digital version built from the end title slates.