Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (2023)

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (1)

In the manner of portraits of great designers, we continue our series on the typefaces that have marked the world of graphic design. Here is Typorama #06, about Futura!

The year 1927 saw the birth of some of the great figures of this world. Among these illustrious names, we can mention Simone Veil, Juliette Gréco or Albert Uderzo. Typography was not left out because in 1927 Paul Renner gave birth to one of the most famous fonts in history: Futura.

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (2)

1920 A Space Odyssey

In the 1920s, the German typographer Paul Renner wanted to modernize typography by moving away from the heritage of calligraphy. He banished the serif and introduced simplicity in his refined typefaces by using geometric figures. The Futura, designed between 1924 and 1927, is therefore innovative for its time, because it is imbued with the modernist ideals of the Bauhaus, even though its creator was not a member.

This boldness was quickly rewarded as it was a resounding success from the moment it was released. Three years later, France discovered the Futura, thanks to the Deberny & Peignot foundry, which decided to distribute it under the name Europe.

Maximilien Vox, artistic advisor of the famous Peignot foundry, is interested in the new European typefaces "of our time": the Gill in Great Britain, the Kabel and the famous Futura in Germany. The Peignot foundry bought the Futura but renamed it Europe.

(Video) Stephen Coles "Fonts In Use" at the San Francisco Public Library

Typographic abstraction

The development of this linear font required more than two years. The first version was based on strictly geometrical shapes. One could indeed find in each character isosceles triangles, squares or even perfect circles (see photo below). Its geometrical radicality took precedence over its legibility and it was thus reworked by taking into account optical phenomena, to arrive at its final version of 1927. However, the typefaces of this first version can be found in the Architype Renner, a font distributed by the British foundry Foundry.

Typographic confrontation at the top of the Third Reich

In the mid-1920s, the prevailing conservative and nationalist discourse attacked the new artistic currents. The criticism of abstract art and modernism is the subject of a chapter in Mein Kampf. The Nazis denounced these styles as "cultural Bolshevism".

In 1926, Paul Renner became the director of the Munich printing school.
After seeing a colleague molested by Nazi sympathizers for praising modern art, Paul Renner published "Kulturbolschewismus" ("Cultural Bolshevism ?"), an essay resolutely opposed to the nazi aesthetic. The answer will not be long in coming, his apartment and office will be searched. Then he will be briefly incarcerated and removed from his position as director.

Before leaving his position, Renner will arrange for his friend and team member, George Trump, to take over the director's position in order to avoid an unpredictable appointment by the Nazis. In passing, we can note another famous member of his team: Jan Tschichold.

In the midst of the fury, the Nazis imposed their conception of typography. From then on, everything had to be written in German Gothic (Fraktur), the typeface used to print Mein Kampf. This typeface refers to a folkloric vision of Germanness, imbued with a history that would be millennia old.

It is in the city of Hanover that this typographic conflict takes the most visible form. The designer Kurt Schwitters was in charge of rethinking the city's visual identity as part of a major modernization program. He imposed the Futura in all the communication as in the examples of posters and leaflets below.

(Video) Technische Rahmenbedingungen des Schriftdesigns

After the Nazis came to power, the city had to revise its entire identity and replace the Futura with Gothic characters. A rare archive of the city's stationery was found before (1930) and after this Nazi makeover (1934). Everyone will judge the regression in legibility.In 1943, the municipality returned to a more legible antique typeface, without reusing the Futura.

In 1941, Adolf Hitler abruptly changed his mind and finally banned the Gothic typography, which was declared a "Jewish typography".

This change was much more pragmatic than ideological. The use of Gothic typography in the occupied countries made Nazi propaganda illegible. It was necessary to face the evidence and find a scapegoat to justify this reversal.

Paul Renner's work was then promoted by the authorities and many Nazi communications began to use Futura. A paradoxical situation for this resolutely anti-Nazi creator.

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (13)

However, after the war, the clean lines and versatility of the Futura typeface quickly put aside its totalitarian past to shape the identity of many diverse brands.

A classic above all

Although he was the apostle of modernity, and contrary to what one might have imagined, Paul Renner never called for a radical break with the past. His knowledge of the history of the discipline led him to regularly refer to antiquity. His work on capitals is directly inspired by the Roman capitals of the time of Emperor Trajan; simplicity and magnificence being the key words to remember.

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (14)

This link with Roman capitals, the writing of "power", is not neutral. The geometry of Roman lapidary inscriptions is there to fix the messages in time. It is a static writing, contrary to the handwritten tradition, which could be described as dynamic and which leads to the invention of lower case letters.

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (15)

The observation of the lower case letters will also make it possible to go against the received idea that Futura would be the archetype of the geometrical lineal. In this specialist debate which opposes the supporters of a humanist typographic tradition to the apostles of the simplification of writing by geometry, Paul Renner answers by proposing a new solution. On the one hand, the design of the lower case letters is "geometrized", erasing the imprint of the hand gesture (the humanist tradition), but on the other hand, he creates multiple alternative characters, taking up this idea of a moving and changing writing where one would find these slight variations of the writing of the same letter, as in handwriting.

In the end, Futura invents a certain political vision of "at the same time". A very rigorous and powerful institutional character in the capitals and a certain form of play, of diversity, of humanity with these variants in the miniscule.

Somewhere, Paul Renner suggests a reunification of the Latin and Carolingian typographic traditions, in a form of alliance between Caesar and Charlemagne. One could almost detect the beginnings of a European reunification before its time.

Through this analysis, which we got from our former professor of typography Hervé Aracil, we better understand the subversive character of Paul Renner's work.

The typography of logos that last

More than a font, Futura becomes a graphic element allowing graphic designers to create images that combine clarity and composition. Countless brands have also opted for Futura typography in their logo such as Dolce & Gabbana, FedEx, Red Bull, Volkswagen, Absolut Vodka, Gillette, Swissair or Nike.

The only common point between the conviviality conveyed by the logo of Domino's Pizza (before 2012) and that of the luxurious house Louis Vuitton is surely the Futura...

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (16)

There are many advertisements using the Futura. It begins just after the war with the Volkswagen company and continues until today with, for example, the posters and credits of Wes Anderson's films.

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (17)

Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (18)Typorama #06 : Futura by Paul Renner (19)

In France, it is the graphic designer Étienne Robial who played with this font for the famous visual identity of Canal+.

It is no coincidence that the artist Barbara Kruger also chose the Futura in 1987 for her work "I shop therefore I am", which criticizes the consumerist society in which we live.

Futura star system

Futura was also approached by the biggest names in cinema. Wes Anderson made it one of his typographic trademarks that can be found in The Tenenbaum Family, Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox. Stanley Kubrick even sent it into orbit with his film "2001, A Space Odyssey". And as usual, we also find her on the plaque placed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, then on the poster of the frightening "Alien" by Ridley Scott and "Gravity" by Alfonso Cuarón.

Finally, we could mention "Iron Sky", a dubious movie about Nazis plotting their return to earth from the dark side of the moon. But I checked, no trace of the Futura in this one.

The Futura is 92 years old this year and doesn't seem to have aged a bit!


What does Futura font represent? ›

Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by Paul Renner and released in 1927. It was designed as a contribution on the New Frankfurt-project. It is based on geometric shapes, especially the circle, similar in spirit to the Bauhaus design style of the period.

What is mean by Futura? ›

futura f (plural futuras) inheritance.

Is Futura a readable font? ›

But Futura isn't meant for readability. Not that Futura is unreadable – you can definitely read it in small sizes, or even put it in paragraphs – but it's too artistically charged to appear in something like a book; you can't easily ignore and look past it.

Is Futura good for reading? ›

Futura. Even though it was originally released in 1927, Futura is named for its timeless style that makes it look almost futuristic, regardless of when it's used. With clean, thin character strokes and a geometric design, Futura is not only easy to read, but can be used in both casual and formal contexts.

Why is Futura important? ›

The design of Futura helped usher in a new Modern age and was emblematic of the era. Futura's design is based entirely on simple geometric forms — triangles, squares and near-circles.

Why is Futura so good? ›

Futura's anatomy employs low-contrast strokes, meaning that the width of the strokes is nearly uniform throughout the form of each letter. This is another reason that Futura looks great in body text — it remains legible even as the font size shrinks.

Where is Futura used? ›

Futura was heavily marketed by Bauer and its American branch, “die schrift unserer zeit” (which is German for “the typeface of our time”) and “the typeface of today and tomorrow” in English. It has maintained its popularity and is used in famous logos such as Volkswagen, Supreme, IKEA and Party City.

What is the most readable font size? ›

Choose a font that's at least 16 pixels, or 12 points. If many of your users are older adults, consider using an even larger font size—19 pixels or 14 points. A small font size is more difficult to read, especially for users with limited literacy skills and older adults.

Which font is easiest to read from far? ›

Helvetica. Along with Georgia, Helvetica is considered to be one of the most easy to read fonts according to The Next Web. This is a sans-serif font and one of the world's most popular typefaces—a modern classic.

Does IKEA use Futura? ›

The face of tradition, left, and the face of change: Ikea's catalogs. Ikea's abandoned font, Futura, on the other hand, has a long and distinguished heritage.

What brands use Futura font? ›

Futura is very common for branding: Nike and Cisco, Dolce Gabbana and Gillette, Omega and PayPal, posters for dozens of movies including “Gravity”, “Interstellar”, “American Beauty”.

Is Futura Google font? ›

Nunito — A Google Font Close to Futura

Designed by Paul Renner, Futura has an ancient form and is the full-fledged prototype of the 20th century Geometric Sans Serif. Nunito is a Google font similar to Futura.

Which font is best for eyes? ›

Arial. As my TVI once explained, Arial is one of the best fonts for vision impairment because every letter is simple and looks different from the other letters, and it also looks fantastic in bold type.

Is reading bigger font better for eyes? ›

The larger font size is easier to read and produces far less eye strain.

How do you identify Futura? ›

The most common characteristics of Futura include it's low crossbar, pointed apex, ascenders that rise above the ascender line, mono-weight strokes, crossbars that have an extended width, circular counter-space, center of the letters that extend to the baseline, and terminals that cut-off.

Does Nike use Futura? ›

Nike has nearly completed its transition to Trade Gothic as the primary typeface for the brand. There are still some areas of the site using Futura Extra Bold Condensed, but mostly it's Trade Gothic Bold Condensed being used everywhere.

What does Futura pair with? ›

Futura is a sans-serif font. It goes well with Playfair Display, Proxima Nova, Sohne Buch, Lato, Helvetica, Open Sans, Trade Gothic, Book Antiqua, Lamplighter Script and Lyon Text.

Is Futura good for body copy? ›

The reason why using Futura or Century Gothic for body text is not a good choice is because the letters “a” and “o” have a very similar circular shape. The tail of the letter “a” in Futura and Century Gothic is so subtle that it is hard to distinguish it from the letter “o”.

Is Futura real? ›

Leonard Hilton McGurr (born November 17, 1955), known as Futura, and formerly known as Futura 2000, is an American graffiti artist.
Futura (graffiti artist)
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How much is Futura? ›

FoundryURW Type Foundry
Fontspring Debut2018
StyleSans Serif
2 more rows

Is Futura free to use? ›

Futura is a crisp geometric sans-serif typeface that's great for headlines. Like many great fonts it isn't free, but there are some great free Web font alternatives to Futura that just might work for your next Web design. Amazingly, Futura was created way back in 1927 by a fellow named Paul Renner.

What font do most professionals use? ›

The most common font used is black Times New Roman at 12 points in size. Other serif fonts, those that have tails, that work well include Cambria, Georgia, Garamond, Book Antiqua, and Didot. Sans serif fonts, those without tails, that work well include Calibri, Helvetica, Verdana, Trebuchet MS and Lato.

What is the cleanest font? ›

Arial, Times New Roman, Courier, and Helvetica are all clean typefaces with clear designs. Still, that doesn't make them the designs for your projects. Typography design has come a long way.

What is the most popular font ever? ›


Helvetica remains the world's most popular font. It's best known for signage and when designing business forms, like invoices or receipts.

What font color is best? ›

According to various studies, dark text on light backgrounds tends to be most readable. Go for this approach if you're looking for clear and crisp presentation, particularly for web design. White backgrounds: Simple and classic, black text on a white background provides the highest readability ratio.

What is the smallest font that is readable? ›

The smallest font you should use on promotional or printed items is 6pt. Any smaller and you'll need a magnifying glass to read the words!

What font do most books use? ›

The most widely used typefaces for book body text include Baskerville, Bembo, Garamond, Janson, Palatino, and Times Roman (although this more of a newspaper font). Sans serif fonts may be difficult to read for an entire book.

What font does Apple use? ›

SF Pro. This neutral, flexible, sans-serif typeface is the system font for iOS, iPad OS, macOS and tvOS. SF Pro features nine weights, variable optical sizes for optimal legibility, four widths, and includes a rounded variant. SF Pro supports over 150 languages across Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts.

Why do brands use Futura? ›

Futura has a look and feel of creativity, differentiation, and uniqueness in an otherwise Helvetica-dominated world. So as you move ahead in your journey to be noticed either as an individual or a brand, consider the large impact you can have by something so simple as changing your font.

Is Futura a grotesque? ›

Although Futura's designer wasn't directly associated with Bauhaus, he shared the ideology that a modern typeface should express modern models. In doing so he rejected most previous sans serif designs that are now known as grotesques.

Is Futura a Bauhaus font? ›

As Bauhaus100 reminds us of the importance of design in all things visual, Futura, the iconic font is more relevant than ever. Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by Paul Renner and released in 1927.

Is Futura a modern font? ›

Futura® Now, the definitive version of the family that defined modern typography, contains 102 styles. Its contemporary alignment of names and weights offers an improved user experience. And it's also available as a Variable font—delivering limitless styles in a tidy digital footprint.

What makes Futura unique? ›

The Futura typeface is highly geometric — meaning that its elements are based on simple geometric shapes like circles, triangles, and rectangles. In other words, it features clean and precise proportions, rather than imitating organic script or handwriting. Futura is also an extremely symmetrical typeface.

What is Futura best used for? ›

Futura can be used as a display and paragraph font and is seen in many notable and historic projects. The commemorative plaque left on the Moon in July 1969 is set in Futura. Stanley Kubrick said Futura was his favorite typeface of all time and used it for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Is Nike logo a Futura? ›

The Futura logo – which was was created by the graphic design student Carolyn Davidson and sold to Phil Knight and Bill Bowman for just $35 – was a 90s icon in the replica game between 94 & 98 and whilst for the last couple of decades it has been lent to Nike Sportswear products, the Swoosh have brought it back to a ...

What does Futura look like? ›

The most common characteristics of Futura include it's low crossbar, pointed apex, ascenders that rise above the ascender line, mono-weight strokes, crossbars that have an extended width, circular counter-space, center of the letters that extend to the baseline, and terminals that cut-off.

Can I use Futura in a logo? ›

Yes, provided you have a proper license for that font.

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