Paul Renner and Futura

Paul Renner is a German-born typeface designer most well known for creating the typeface Futura. Renner was suspicious of abstract art and disliked many forms of modern culture such as jazz, cinema and dancing; which is interesting since many of us designers like to align ourselves with modern culture and high art. Although he was suspicious of abstract art, he admired the functionalist strain in modern and is often seen as a bridge between the traditional and the modern. He was a prominent member of the German Work Federation and authored two texts: “Typography as Art” and “The Art of Typography.”

Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface that Renner designed between 1924 and 1926. It was derived from simple geometric forms and is based on strokes of near-even weight which are low in contrast. It is still one of the most widely used typefaces of the 21st century as is has an appearance of efficiency and forwardness. It avoids the decorative and eliminates the non-essential. Futura was commercially released in 1927.

It is fascinating that a typeface created in the 1920s could still be so relevant and widely used today. I was rather excited when I was assigned this typeface for our in-class project as it is one of my favorites. Many of my classmates enjoy it as well (learned by a meeting ice-breaker question of “If you could be any typeface, what would you be?”)  In fact, it sparked a large debate on social networks when the home goods store IKEA changed their typeface from a customized version of Futura to Verdana as seen in this article.

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