Following the initial submission for the practical assignment it was recommended that I further investigate geometric-based typefaces within my historical precedent.
It was disappointing that I had neglected to include the following examples in my initial investigations as they remain highly relevant, both Josef Albers’ ‘Stencil’ and Herbert Bayer’s ‘universal’ developed from within the Bauhaus, are fantastic examples of geometric-based typefaces. At a time when designers were beginning to push The New Typography, forming a basis of design suitable for the increasing economic pace of the modern world these represent the primary attempts to reduce typefaces to their essential components, removing any extraneous details and ornamentation. As Jan Tschichold, in his initial publication regarding The New Typography explains, this ornamentation is unnecessary and instead for the modernist era quickly legible and simple sans serif fonts were required.1
Josef Albers ‘Stencil’. 1925-1926.
Albers, J., 1925. Stencil Letterforms. [electronic print] Available at: <http://xxdesign.kesor.net/movement/img/bauhaus_013.jpg> [Accessed 18th December 2011].
Within his translated essay “Albers Discussion of the Stencil Font” Albers explains how the expanding industrial world requires fast legible text for a fast moving lifestyle.2 The elegant script previously utilised was no longer appropriate for the required economy of reading, resulting in Albers developing the ‘Stencil’ typeface.
The intention of the typeface was to fill the available gap, to provide a typeface which were increasingly legible at distance. Therefore predominantly suitable for posters and billboards.3
It is made up exclusively of geometric shapes, the square, the triangle which corresponds to half the square cut diagonally and the quarter-circle, whose radius is that of the side of the square.4 This modular typeface echoes the principles of The New Typography and sought to provide legibility by reduction.
Albers sought to remove any extraneous elements of the letters, allowing them to be easily read at distance and at speed, suiting the corresponding fast-paced lifestyle.
Comparisons can be easily drawn between the work of Albers and my own initial investigations into modular typeface design, especially the construction of letters utilising only the square, triangle and circle combinations of equal size. Unlike Albers however, I restricted myself further, allowing only two of the three shapes to be utilised for each letter form.
Herbert Bayer ‘universal’. 1925.
Bayer, H., 1925. Universal Alphabet. [electronic print] Available at: <http://wharferj.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/bayer_6.jpg> [Accessed 18th December 2011].
Herbert Bayer’s ‘universal’ type, created at the same time as Josef Albers’ ‘Stencil’, 1925, within the Bauhaus school.
Universal, conforming strictly to the principles of The New Typography features letterforms reduced to their bare essentials. Bayer removed capitals letters and serifs.5 He strove to revolutionise typography.6 Within his essay ‘On Typography’ he maintains that typeface is only the beginning of the revolution, however he aimed to lead the way with ‘universal’.
Within Universal Bayer removed the need for upper and lower cases, resulting in the one character set, each letter form from only straight lines and circles. Bayer argued that as the spoken word does not require two cases, why should the written one. Unlike Albers’ ‘stencil’, ‘universal’ does not conform to be modular.
Both Albers and Bayer, by limiting their typefaces in their geometric form and composition strove to create suitable typefaces for the modernist era. With their fundamental and unique letterforms combining both effective theory and research, they engaged and experimented with the possibilities of a The New Typography in an interesting manner, experimentation which remains relevant today.
anon. n.d. Thinking with Type. [online] Available at: <http://papress.com/thinkingwithtype/teachers/type_lecture/history_bayer.htm> [Accessed 18th December 2011].
1. Tschichold, J., 2006. The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers. Translated from German by Ruari McLean. London: University of California Press.
2. Albers, J., n.d. Albers Discussion of the Stencil Font. Translated from German by David Blocher. [online] Available at: <http://art.yale.edu/Art468a> [Accessed 18th December 2011].
3. Albers, J., n.d. Albers Discussion of the Stencil Font. Translated from German by David Blocher. [online] Available at: <http://art.yale.edu/Art468a> [Accessed 18th December 2011].
4. Albers, J., n.d. Albers Discussion of the Stencil Font. Translated from German by David Blocher. [online] Available at: <http://art.yale.edu/Art468a> [Accessed 18th December 2011].
5. Bayer, H., 1967. On Typography. In: Bayer, H., 1967. Herbert Bayer: Painter Designer Architect. New York: Reinhold. p.75.
6. Bayer, H., 1967. On Typography. In: Bayer, H., 1967. Herbert Bayer: Painter Designer Architect. New York: Reinhold. p.75.