Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Futura and the Dordt College architectural sign of 1955

Pictured above is the original Dordt College architectural sign of 1955, which is composed using the Futura typeface. It’s perhaps the classiest exterior sign on campus. The 8 inch high metal letters are 1.875 inches deep and are mounted to 4 inch thick limestone blocks with .5 inch stand-offs, which can create pronounced drop shadows. The generous letter spacing seems to mitigate the encroachment of the geometrically circular “O” into the space of the other letters.

Futura is a sans serif face that adheres to the tenet of being assembled from geometric shapes and the characteristically consistent stroke width suggests automation. Futura was developed with 1920s Bauhaus influences and is the quintessentially twentieth century modern (universal) typeface with classical proportions that helps to convey the concept of form ever follows function. It was one of the commercially popular sans serif type styles of the mid-twentieth century.

Regarding “universal” Futura during the Bauhaus era, Ellen Lupton (crediting Richard Southall and Christopher Burke) puts it this way:

While any graphic designer of the period would have required skills in hand lettering, only a few embarked on the more challenging task of creating a complete, industrially produced typeface. One who did so was Paul Renner, who began work on Futura in Munich in 1924. Although early versions of his alphabet included experimental characters with extreme geometric forms, the final typeface — released in 1927, after three years of ongoing development — is more conservative. The circular “O” of Futura links it to the cruder, more programmatic experiments of the Bauhaus.[1]
  1. Lupton, Ellen. “Herbert Bayer: Designs for ‘Universal’ Lettering. 1925 and 1927.” Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity. Ed. Barry Bergdoll and Leah Dickerman. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2009. 200-03. Print.

1 comment:

  1. That was always my favorite sign on campus! It is more interesting to me now that I am working in the sign industry. Futura is becoming my go-to modern font. It works well in many applications, including the low-res digital screens that are becoming common at malls and auto dealerships.


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