If you've been paying any attention at all to the layout of this blog (okay, that's about two of you, including me), you've hopefully noted that the typography has just changed. And if you are at all passionate about fonts (typefaces to the uninitiated) as I am, and if you appreciate rigor and minimalism (again as I do) then you are doubtless a member of the cult of FUTURA, the greatest of all Modern typefaces.
In the world of fonts, you have two main divisions: serif and san serif. Serifs are the fine, arching end elements that give traditional fonts much of their character.
The great serif fonts are named after their creators, Garamond (think traditional and bookish), Bodoni (think of any fashion rag or anything in them) and Caslon (think of adverts for any staggeringly expensive upscale English traditional whatever, though M. Caslon was French).
Then there are the san serifs, modern typefaces lacking such calligraphic embellishments, and standing head-and-shoulders above all other san serif fonts is FUTURA, the Zeus on the Mons Olympus of the font universe. (No, the name is not all-caps, but it simply looks so beautiful when presented so.)
FUTURA was created by the German typographer Paul Renner, inspired by the pure geometries of Bauhaus design. The original font, released by the Bauer Type Foundry in 1927, was supplemented by Renner in 1930, 1932 and again in 1933. The infamous Extra Bold, Madison Avenue's mainstay for a half-century and counting, was designed by Edwin Shaar and released in 1952.
FUTURA's cult status is due to the incisive clarity of Renner's design, based upon the simplicity of archetypal geometrical forms: the circle, square and triangle. Renner took extraordinary care in crafting each letter, and though the design seemingly is based on pure geometrical forms, even the capital "O" is slightly ovoid. Likewise, the stroke-weight is nearly uniformly even, and this when combined with the nearly pure geometry gives FUTURA its distinctive rigor, but again Renner took particular care to vary the thickness slightly from element to element to please the eye.
Finally, the lowercase letters have almost exaggeratedly tall ascenders, rising even above the line of the capitals, which makes them the most idiosyncratic element of FUTURA's design. Their uniqueness is redoubled by the nearly pure circularity of the c, d, e, g, o and p, an a priori design element which determined the unusual character of the lowercase letters, and which makes lowercase FUTURA text appear to be at least 2 points smaller than other fonts.
Here is a short video appreciation of FUTURA, well worth 2 minutes of your time:
FUTURA has from the outset, and today still maintains, an enormous success and a near-ubiquitous usage in all graphic media. After nearly a century, it remains among the most highly coveted fonts and is distributed on the web under license by Adobe's typekit.
As well it should, as it is pure genius.