Futura: Comments at Typomancy
The piece starts out as follows: Futura is one of those typefaces so taken for granted that it perpetually rides on the knife-edge of backlash. Like Helvetica and Univers, its a versatile sans serif typeface that comes in a variety of widths and weights and comprises a more or less freestanding system for graphic designers who are (still) wedded to the grid. Its also a strongly geometrical, warm typeface, and is one Ive used constantly since long before I knew anything about type. Im not sure that many people pay for Futura anymore. I used it at first because it came with Adobes ATM (I thinkIm almost certain that however I got it originally was legit). Its so ubiquitous that its really easy to take for granted. But there is more than one version of Futura, and not all Futuras are created alike. Futura was created by Paul Renner at the dawn of modernism in typography, and the original version was very different from the version we see today. It had a number of alternates for many of the lowercase characters, some of which were radical, geometrically strange departures from traditional letterforms. The lowercase a and g, which can be found in Robert Bringhurst's "Elements of Typographic Style", make this most plain. From what little Ive been able to glean on the subject from the Web, Bauer quietly dropped the alternate forms when they first issued the typeface, fearing their strangeness would harm sales. Then it gives various options for picking a Futura:
- Adobe's version: There have been many versions of Futura over the years, both as licensed implementations and as knockoffs. The one I think most designers are familiar with is the original Adobe version, which has been ubiquitous for years now. However, for those who are interested in getting the best versions of the typefaces, there are alternatives.
- Architype Renner (The Foundry): For those who want the boldly modernist version of Futura as Paul Renner originally envisioned it, The Foundry has made available a regular and bold version of the typeface in two of its Architype volumes, under the names Architype Renner and Architype Renner Bold. The Foundry is allergic to forthrightly disclosing the prices of their typefaces, it seems, so youll have to contact them directly if you want to license their fonts.
- Neufville's Futura: For those who want the most elegant version of the modern Futura, Neufville Digital in Spain has the complete range of Futuras, complete with small capitals and the old-style figures that were dropped from the original metal issue of the type. Elegance doesn't come cheap, though, and purchasing the complete family will probably set you back around a grand. The Adobe versions, by contrast, will cost you around $500, but they won't look as nice in print, and you won't be able to get the small caps, old-style figures, or Futura Shadow, Futura Script, Futura Black, or Futura Display. About those last two Futura Black and Futura Display are oddball fonts. Neither of them share much of the feel of the rest of the family, with the Black being more of a heavy stencil / Art Deco font, and the Display feeling like what the Germans called a Schaftstiefelgrotesk (jackboot blackletter) like Tannenberg, Gotharda or Honda more than anything else.
- Avenir: Also of note is Adrian Frutiger's rework of Futura in the form of Avenir. It splits the difference between Futura and Frutigers own conception of geometric sans serif. I personally don't think its as pretty as Futura. A few years ago, Linotype sort of flipped out and issued the bloated Avenir Next, a 97-weight monstrosity that attempts to match the systematic variety of Univers and Helvetica with the humanist / geometric feel of Futura. I sort of get the impression that Linotype wants to corner the market on sans serif type. Anyway, Avenir Next will set you back another grand, and you can only buy it as a bundled collection. It does include pretty much every typographical feature known to humanity, though.
Futura: Comments at Typomancy
Choice of fonts ⦿
Art deco typefaces ⦿