Gülden Sylt

Sylt im Winter

Gefühlter Früh­ling auf Sylt, mitten im Winter.



Rudolf Koch war einer der bedeutendsten deutschen Schriftkünstler des frühen zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts. Er schuf als Mitarbeiter der Gebrüder Klingspor Gießerei Offenbach viele noch heute bekannte Schriften, darunter die Wilhelm-Klingspor-Schrift, Kabel und Neuland.

Die vor­lie­gende Schrift­probe aus den frühen 1950er Jahren zeigt die 1923 erschie­nene Ver­sal­schrift Neu­land. Sie ist wohl die bekann­teste Schrift mit expres­sio­nis­ti­schen Zügen und erin­nert stark an den Holz­schnitt — die Buch­sta­ben­formen wirken grob und unre­gel­mäßig. Tat­säch­lich hat Koch die Stempel, ohne vor­he­rige Zeich­nung, in einem Schrift­grad selbst geschnitten. Die anderen Grade der Blei­satz­schrift unter­scheiden sich in Details.*

Dem Expres­sio­nismus lag die Idee des unmit­tel­baren, sub­jek­tiven künst­le­ri­schen Aus­drucks zugrunde. Daher standen expres­sio­nis­ti­sche Schriften eigent­lich im krassen Gegen­satz zu mecha­nisch repro­du­zier­baren Satz­schriften für die indus­tri­elle Ver­viel­fäl­ti­gung. Mit­hilfe heu­tiger Tech­niken wäre die Neu­land mög­li­cher­weise mit einer Viel­zahl alter­na­tiver Zei­chen­formen für alle Buch­staben erschienen. Dank OpenType-Technik hätte man den expres­sio­nis­ti­schen Aus­druck durchaus gut simu­lieren können. In einem lesens­werten Artikel schreibt Flo­rian Hardwig über die formal ver­wandte Schrift Irr­licht, die sich der Mög­lich­keiten der OpenType-Technik auf raf­fi­nierte Weise bedient. Die digi­tale Neu­land ist erhält­lich bei MyFonts.com.


* Quelle: Irrlicht, Florian Hardwig, MyFonts.de



Schon wieder ist ein Jahr vor­über, das neue erst ein paar Stunden jung. Ich wün­sche allen Lese­rinnen und Lesern viel Erfolg und Glück für 2016!


Mondfinsternis 53.587075° 9.943024°


Italy, stencils and social media type hype — an interview with Fred Smeijers

Fred Smei­jers hands out advice how to improve letter shapes

During the ISIA Type Design Week 2015 I had the pleasure of talking to Fred Smeijers about this workshop, what students can learn by using stencils and about type design in general.

Hello Fred, my first question is: how do you like Italy?

I like Italy very much. What do I like about Italy? Of course it has a lot to do with the Renais­sance, but in general there is also very good food and the sce­nery is abso­lu­tely stun­ning. So we have food, sce­nery, and his­tory, and all of these aspects are well pre­sented in Italy. , so to say. That’s why I like Italy so much. Ano­ther factor is the wea­ther — most of the time it is much better than in the north of Europe. Yes, my family and I like Italy quite a lot.

You are a guest tutor at the ISIA Urbino Type Design Week for the second time after last year. What do you like best about this venue?

First of all, it is the town of Urbino itself, which qua­li­fies for all the nice things I just have men­tioned. It is a lovely, very com­pact and fasci­na­ting Renais­sance town. And secondly, there are some Ita­lian fri­ends con­nected to the school here, either directly as staff, or as former stu­dents.

The first time was an expe­ri­ment for me, because I used a method that I also apply in my classes in Leipzig. But here in Urbino I have to squeeze it all into one week, and it worked. When I did it for the first time in 2014, ever­y­body was rather pleased with it, so they asked me if I could do it again.

The focus is, of course, on giving begin­ners a sense of what it means to design typefaces and to pro­vide an under­stan­ding of how this works. The course aims to explain how let­ters are con­structed and to teach the basics of digi­ti­zing letter shapes and how to make words with them. In prin­ciple we aim to pro­vide the stu­dents with enough know­ledge, so that they are able to expand their know­ledge inde­pendently after­wards. They are of course free to use the internet as a source for fur­ther refe­rences.

What is the reason for using stencils in the type design process?

The sten­cils we make in the course are not let­ters but parts of let­ters. And these parts are based on the pen strokes we use in wri­ting. It’s going back to the prin­ci­ples of wri­ting, only not with pens but with sten­cils. So we use sten­cils to con­struct let­ters. We don’t use sten­cils to make stencil let­ters, we simply use them as buil­ding blocks. This is pos­sible because the sten­cils are made of trans­pa­rent cel­lo­phane. This mate­rial can be easily turned around and flipped; you can simply build a number of let­ters from a few ele­ments.

The sten­cil­ling itself can be done very quickly, without making a big mess. For most stu­dents, the pro­cess is very exciting and plea­sant because it’s ana­logue. It’s far more hands-on than working with a com­puter screen, and totally dif­fe­rent from crea­ting a few out­lines in Illus­trator and prin­ting them out with the help of a laser printer. For most stu­dents it is a com­ple­tely new expe­ri­ence.

I use the ana­logue method of wri­ting and crea­ting let­ters with the help of sten­cilled ele­ments, in order to create enough awa­reness of how let­ters are con­structed. Only after a cer­tain level of know­ledge has been gained do we move on into digi­ta­li­zing, or working with com­pu­ters.

Does the stencil technique play a role in the design process of your own typefaces?

Very occa­sio­nally I apply the same method as my stu­dents here. I play around with a few small ele­ments and then might end up with a word image that can be expanded. In the end, a few sten­cilled words might turn into a font, but usually it’s just some­thing to play around with. When I make out­lines of it, it’s pro­bably a dis­play typeface. At the moment, I’m plan­ning to release a stencil typeface again. But other sources of inspi­ra­tion are also very important. It’s defi­ni­tely not only sten­cils, for me, it’s more a method which I deve­loped in early 2002 spe­ci­fi­cally for edu­ca­tional pur­poses.

It is a kind of playing field?

Yes, a play­ground, defi­ni­tely. Some­times I just make sten­cils for fun or to put me into a better mood.

Well that’s perfectly OK!


Sten­cils drawn and cut on squared paper by Fred Smei­jers

One question concerning the Dutch type design: What is the characteristic feature of Dutch type design compared to German type design?

Right now this is quite dif­fi­cult to explain. It was a bit easier two decades ago. Today, we live in a cli­mate where there is a lot of exch­ange in know-how, while tech­nical know-how and sup­port have moved on signi­fi­cantly as well. Con­fe­rences and dedi­cated courses, the advance of social media and com­mu­ni­ca­tion by email have made a huge cont­ri­bu­tion in this respect. Thus, know­ledge and new methods are easily spread around. On the one hand, this is okay because nobody is left behind, but on the other hand it makes things more uni­form. It’s like put­ting ‘McDo­nalds’ all over the globe.

One thing that has more or less disap­peared in a pro­cess that has been going on for maybe two cen­tu­ries is the national pecu­li­a­rity of type design. There are some traces left, I guess, but not much.

Two decades ago, the most striking dif­fe­rence was pro­bably that — com­pared to Ger­many — the Nether­lands had a lot more young desi­gners. They were not just younger in years, but also in heart and soul! These young Dutch desi­gners were far more rebel­lious than their German coun­ter­parts (if there were any?). The Dutch style rebels took the things they liked and which they regarded as important very seriously. This resulted in rather wild but still signi­fi­cant wri­tings on the wall, like, for example, Beo­wulf. But a type design like Qua­draat can be con­sidered as revo­lu­tio­nary in the field of more serious text faces, and the same app­lies to Scala and Thesis, which changed the per­cep­tion con­cerning the size a typeface family world­wide. And this seeped through to people like Under­ware for example.

It seems to me that this new and radical approach was never taken in Ger­many. The Ger­mans tended to be more tra­di­tional, rather serious and tried to make prac­tical, ser­vice­able typefaces. Nobody was allowed to step out­side the per­cep­tion of what the German type design disci­pline con­sidered as normal.

Anyway, since com­mu­ni­ca­tions are now global and fast, the type design men­ta­lity and its output seem to have become more or less identical ever­yw­here.

How important is the manual process?

I think it’s very important. If you have sket­ches drawn by hand, you have ano­ther rela­ti­onship with them com­pared to any sket­ches made in some digital way. My fee­ling is that drawing with pencil and paper is ano­ther way of thin­king, unlike drawing with the help of digital out­lines, but that’s my opi­nion. I know some very good type desi­gners who simply do not know what to do with a real pencil, but still manage to design proper typefaces. There isn’t really a law. Never­the­less I think that in general, it app­lies to most people. The majo­rity are better at being crea­tive — if I may call it this way — on paper and then, from these bits and pieces, trying to trans­port them into the digital world to see whe­ther the idea works and if it’s worthw­hile to develop it fur­ther.

Sten­ci­ling is a fast and exciting way of achie­ving word images (work by Fred Smei­jers)

Of course it’s also a matter of skill and pre­ci­sion. You have to be able to draw or to mate­ria­lize on paper what you are loo­king for or what you are inte­rested in. Ano­ther aspect is expe­ri­ence; you have to be able to make the right deci­sions in a medium whose pre­ci­sion boun­da­ries are rather blurred. Those lacking this expe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence tend to escape into pre­ci­sion. They need, right away, all the pre­ci­sion that soft­ware offers, other­wise they don’t feel safe. I’m afraid to say that this approach is a bit dan­ge­rous because, alt­hough you’re making pre­cise but very small steps, you might end up with dif­fe­rences that are simply not big or worthw­hile enough.

Is it perhaps a problem that — when you have a look at the contemporary type design scene — a lot of fonts are quite similar to each other?

Yes, of course, the pro­blem nowa­days is that there’s too much of ever­y­thing. There are some clear trends and ever­y­body is cont­ri­bu­ting his or her share to these trends, so the dif­fe­rences are get­ting smaller and smaller and smaller, until a stage has been reached where there is hardly any dif­fe­rence at all, so why bother? We are more or less at this stage, I think. Why should I be inte­rested in the next slab serif? There are so many of them around already. It seems as if you enter into an area where the desi­gner of that new slab serif is just a person who simply liked to have the expe­ri­ence of making a slab serif him­self and is having a good time doing so (at least I would hope so). But to claim that this is a new design or even to imply that it is worth your atten­tion is, of course, a bit much. You might even state that con­tem­porary type design serves pri­ma­rily as a social media con­tent gene­rator rather than a real design disci­pline. Let’s put it very bluntly: it seems that we find our­selves wri­ting about new typefaces, rather than using them.

That may be right, yes.

That’s a bit of a strange balance, of course.

Okay then — here’s the last question: What goal do you try to reach with your own type foundry? Which fonts do you distribute? Is there a concept behind it?

Our­Type was simply a plat­form to release new typefaces that came from me, or old faces that had not yet been released. That’s what we did. Some people came along and — so I believe — did some inte­res­ting things, so we released those as well. In the begin­ning, we had a big suc­cess with our web­site, and Our­Type was not the first inde­pen­dent foundry, there were many others. We were cer­tainly not the first who sold typefaces via a web­site, but we were among the pioneers who showed the way. We pro­bably inspired a lot of other people with enthu­siasm to do the same thing. We were kind of proof that it could be done. That’s what Our­Type did, and it set, I think, a level of qua­lity, which is now more or less con­sidered the norm.

Fred, thank you very much for the interview.


About Fred Smeijers
Fred Smeijers is a Dutch type designer, educator, researcher, and writer. One of the most versatile contemporary type designers, Smeijers has a whole range of distinctive typefaces to his credit. Among his retail typefaces are: FF Quadraat; TEFF Renard; DTL Nobel; Arnhem, Fresco, Sansa, Custodia, Ludwig, Puncho, and Bery series — all published by OurType, the label he co-founded in 2002. His custom type designs include typefaces for Philips Electronics, Tom-Tom, and Canon-Europe. Smeijers is the winner of Gerrit Noordzij Prize for outstanding contribution to type design, and author of Counterpunch (Hyphen Press, 1996, 2011) and Type Now (Hyphen Press, 2003). Smeijers is professor of type design at the HGB in Leipzig and research fellow at Plantin Museum in Antwerp.


More Information:
Counterpunch, Type Now published by Hyphen Press


Thanks to Veronika Binoeder for lectorship


Urbino, Italien

Rückblick auf die ISIA Urbino Type Design Week 2015

Im Juli nahm ich an der ISIA Urbino Type Design Week teil. Der Intensiv-Workshop wird seit 2011 vom »Istituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche« angeboten und stand, wie letztes Jahr, unter der Leitung des Type Designers, Forschers und Lehrers Fred Smeijers. Im ersten Teil berichte ich über meine Erfahrungen als Teilnehmer. Der zweite Teil ist ein Interview mit Fred Smeijers über sein Lehrkonzept und Schriftgestaltung.

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2 Kommentare


Unsere tägliche Illusion gib uns heute

»Diese Bilder lügen« lautet der Titel des sehr empfehlenswerten Dossiers in der aktuellen ZEIT. Ein Blick hinter die Kulissen der Medienbranche zeigt, wie heute Bilder inszeniert und bearbeitet werden, warum dies geschieht und wie sehr ethische Grenzen in der Frage nach Echtheit verschwimmen.

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Mein Wahrzeichen Hamburgs

Seit ich das erste mal in Hamburg war, liebe ich dieses Bauwerk. Wie ein Raumschiff schwebt es elegant und majestetisch über den Dächern der Stadt. Schon aus der Ferne prägt es die Stadtsilhouette und gibt mir Orientierung. Was wäre Hamburg ohne seinen Telemichel?


Die Balance des Weißraums

Eine der wichtigsten Aufgaben in der Typografie ist das bewusste Balancieren von Weißraum. Über die Buchstabenabstände, Wortzwischenräume und den Zeilenabstand steuert man den Grauwert, abhängig von der Schriftgröße.

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