Back to the Futura

by John Holbo on July 26, 2008

So, about that Obama-in-Berlin poster.

No, I’m not going to make fun of the small handful of right-wing blogs that got fake-alarmist about it, hinting that it kinda sorta looked Fascist. My question is related, however. Being a sensible and knowledgeable sort of person, as opposed to some sort of crazed wingnut, when I look at the poster I see not Fascist art but an homage to German modernist styles of the 1910’s and 20’s. Being the sort of person who futzes with fonts, I also see an example of art that would have been actually illegal under the Nazis. Quoting from German Modern, by Steven Heller and Louise Fili [amazon]:

After the Nazi’s rise to power in 1933, however, when the Dessau Bauhaus was closed (the school had moved from its original home in Weimar in 1925), it was forbidden to use modern design or sans-serif typefaces such as Futura, which Goebbels called a “Jewish invention.” Rigid, central balanced composition returned and traditional (and often illegible) Fraktur type was touted as symbolic of the glories of the nation. (17)

The Bauhaus was birthplace to New Typography, by Jan Tschichold, father of Futura. [UPDATE: No, sorry, it was Paul Renner. But the font was associated with the Bauhaus.] I’ve long been curious about how this whole ‘forbidden to use modern design or sans-serif typefaces such a Futura’ was enforced in practice. (I like the idea that maybe the Germans lost the war because of a font gap. They were all going blind, trying to read the Führer’s orders in Fraktur.) But I’ve never actually read a full discussion of this, and I’ve read inconsistent brief mentions.

Example: the wikipedia entry for Art of the Third Reich has this to say. “The poster became an important medium for propaganda during this period. Combining text and bold graphics, posters were extensively deployed both in Germany and in the areas occupied. Their typography reflected the Nazis’ preference for Fraktur over modern sans-serif typefaces, which were condemned as cultural Bolshevism (although Futura continued to be used owing to its practicality). The use of Fraktur was prevalent in advertising—which was a state monopoly—and books published during the Third Reich.”

So were they allowed to use Futura or weren’t they? Obviously they wouldn’t have been allowed to use Gotham, which is the Futura-resembling but definitely American typeface Obama uses. It doesn’t look German. But exactly how did the Nazis set about stamping out serifs? “Lost Serifs Sink Ships!” I’d be curious to read about the minor craziness that must have ensued.

The source for this section of the wikipedia article is Graphic Design: A Concise History, by Richard Hollis [amazon]. Which I’ve not seen. But I can’t imagine such a title has much room for extended discussion. It makes sense, on reflection, that advertising would be a state monopoly, because it’s such a potential source of subversion. Sticking big letters on everything. It also makes sense that you can’t oblige everyone to advertise using Fraktur. You can’t read that stuff on a moving bus or train. The wikipedia article also discusses the rather well-known fact that there was a serious schism in Nazi art promotion/censorship circles between those who that wanted to champion suitably Nazi-fied aspects of expressionism as dynamic and modern (Goebbels was one of these, until the Führer put his foot down) and the rest. So it isn’t wrong to think that some Nazi art looks like German expressionism. Although it is certainly wrong to think that all German modernism looks like Nazi art.

I found a review by Heller of Art of the Third Reich, by Peter Adam:

Disappointingly, Adam gives short shrift given to graphic design. The Nazis are often credited with the most successful national “identity,” ever designed; and its visual propaganda was among the most effective in the modern world. Adam allows that the ideals behind the other arts were manifest in applied art, but does not give the same exacting detail into creation of, say, posters and advertisements as he does the other arts. Given the totality of Nazi control, it would have been fascinating to know why Goebbels brought back German Fraktur to replace sans-serif, which he was reputed to have called a Jewish invention. Or why some years later the more legible sans-serifs do make their way back into German typefoundries replacing Fraktur as a dominant typeface.

Maybe the typeface wars of the Nazi era are unwritten history. I’ll just conclude with a few final thoughts.

The art for the cover of the Adam book is interesting because it looks – to me, anyway – like more tasteful 20’s-style expressionism/Russian constructivism than the Nazis actually produced for their war posters. I can understand why book designers would do this. It’s a way of saying: don’t worry, this isn’t actually a Nazi book. It’s a book about the Nazis. But eventually the effect of this sort of thing is to make 20’s-style expressionism look more Fascist, to our eyes.

And here are a couple of relevant images from the Heller book. First, a poster that looks sorta like the Obama poster, compositionally:

It’s from 1919.

Then, a couple of examples of how expressionism really has trouble not looking irrelevantly sinister, in light of subsequent developments. The evil Jew is going to steal our awesome magnet! No, I take it you are supposed to identify with the sinister, hook-nosed devil-motorist. I want more power!

Here’s another weird one. Our metal package fasterers are so great that you could use them to handcuff someone to a cement block and, presumably, throw him in the river to drown? (You’ll sleep easier, knowing your customers are sleeping with the fishes?) Is it supposed to be a joke? Is it just a somewhat badly designed ad, because it’s too morbid? I dunno.

These posters are from 1915 and 1919, respectively.



Doctor Memory 07.26.08 at 2:45 am

I have little of use to add here, but feel compelled to say that this post — and especially its title — made me deliriously happy.


Dave Maier 07.26.08 at 4:26 am

If you’re a fonthead, you should check out the film Helvetica. Obviously Helvetica isn’t the only sans serif font, and dates from the 50’s, but in the film several interviewees discuss its ubiquitous use in sleek corporate logos (where I imagine Fraktur wouldn’t work so well). Nice post title, btw.


Down and Out Of Sài Gòn 07.26.08 at 4:33 am

I’m not very familiar with art of the period, but I remember coming across Wikipedia’s Antiqua-Fraktur Dispute. I’m fascinated how the disputants treated Fraktur as a separate script to Latin; these day, we’d treat it as just a specific family of fonts.

Bismarck was a true Fraktur freak:

Otto von Bismarck was a keen supporter of German typefaces. He refused gifted German books in Antiqua typefaces and returned them to sender with the statement ‘Deutsche Bücher in lateinischen Buchstaben lese ich nicht!’ (I don’t read German books in Latin script!).

Hitler was not:

Your alleged gothic internalisation does not fit well in this age of steel and iron, glass and concrete, of womanly beauty and manly strength, of head raised high and intention defiant… In a hundred years, our language will be the European language. The nations of the east, the north and the west will, to communicate with us, learn our language. The prerequisite for this: The script called Gothic is replaced by the script we have called Latin so far…

Fraktur was banned in 1941 – presumably because it was easier to handle occupied territories without using the script.

As for the red-garbed man above, isn’t he meant to be a Catholic Cardinal? “No one expects the new Bosch Magnet!”


richard 07.26.08 at 4:38 am

the Nazis weren’t shy about suing modernist touches in architecture, they were just very, very focused in how they used them: romantic back-to-the-land joy and strength holiday structures were a scaled up kind of folksy Austrian pasticcio, while industrial spaces were high modernist grain elevator-inspired (not quite Jewish) tours de force. I imagine typography might have would up with a similar instrumentalist employment: modernist where industrially necessary, Fraktur on the ideological documents. Sadly I don’t know of a single scholarly work that pays attention to the sort of commercial/industrial ephemera that Spielberg covered so brilliantly in the Indiana Jones films.


richard 07.26.08 at 4:40 am

that should be “using modernist touches”


John Holbo 07.26.08 at 5:31 am

I was going to title it “Barack to the Futura” but that seemed a bit too frilly for my modernist theme.


d 07.26.08 at 5:59 am

But exactly how did the Nazis set about stamping out serifs? “Lost Serifs Sink Ships!” I’d be curious to read about the minor craziness that must have ensued.

I believe it all started with Baron von Times Roman’s regular habit of ending his orations to the Reichstag with “Serifs Delenda Est!” And when it was revealed that Marinus van der Lubbe had used a smoldering pile of Futura and Akzidenz Grotesk to start his infamous fire, it was all over. How the Blitzkreig would have dealt with Optima Prime is left as an exercise for the reader.

I was going to title it “Barack to the Futura” but that seemed a bit too frilly for my modernist theme.

No Goudy, no glory.


jj 07.26.08 at 6:09 am

Perhaps even more interesting than the differences in typeface are the common characteristics: namely, the rules of capitalization. Each sentence is headed by a capitalized word, and followed by a linear sequence of lower-case letters, punctuated by capitalized words which represent proper names, titles and, of course, the central concept of identity (I). Headings and sub-headings are capitalized, and often are entirely capitalized.

In other words, our cognitive universe is determined by the limits of the language we employ to describe the social constructs of our environment.


David Moles 07.26.08 at 6:40 am

It can’t have been all sans-serif faces Goebbels was against, or we lose that lovely story about the Nazi origins of the Star Wars logo. Maybe pre-WWI “Egyptian” and “Grotesk” were cool, but not Bauhaus and Deco decadence?


John Holbo 07.26.08 at 6:45 am

Hey, good point, David. I forgot about that. It connects up with the Helvetica point Dave makes. I haven’t seen the Helvetica movie. (I’ll bet the book was better.)


John Holbo 07.26.08 at 6:50 am

“set about stamping out serifs”

Alas, I miswrote that. Should be ‘stamping out sans serifs’. Or something.


David Moles 07.26.08 at 6:55 am

I see also in the Antiqua-Fraktur dispute Wikipedia article that:

“The Fraktur typefaces reached a particularly strong use during the time of Nazism. After it had been initially publicised as being the only true German script, it was banned in a Schrifterlass (edict on script) as alleged Schwabacher Judenlettern (‘Schwabacher Jewish script’).”

Damn Nazis, no consistency…

I wonder how many Schrifterlassen there were? And could you write a history of the internal struggles of the Nazi leadership through graphic design edicts, or is this just Goebbels changing his mind?


David Moles 07.26.08 at 6:56 am

Stamping in serifs? I’m sure Albert Speer had plans for San Serriffe after the war…


peter 07.26.08 at 8:54 am

Even today, Germany has an official Government font, decided upon after full public consultation and deliberation, an compulsory for all internal documents written by Government departments and agencies. Is there any other Government, I wonder, with an official font?


John Holbo 07.26.08 at 9:13 am

I just read the Fraktur-Antiqua wikilink. That’s fascinating! Peter, what’s Germany’s official government typeface today? (Anything but Comic Sans. Don’t let it be Comic Sans! Zapf Dingbats would also be inconvenient for communications.)


bad Jim 07.26.08 at 9:17 am

I remember reading that Fraktur was banned after the war by the occupation authorities… eh, I found my father’s copy of the Urfaust, printed in the U.S. in 1938. No vindication there.

Many companies have official fonts. It would be odd if only Germany did. The rest are likely to be victims of Microsoft and default (groan) to New Times Roman.


abb1 07.26.08 at 12:18 pm

Aren’t all these German styles pretty much an offshoot of the Russian avant-garde of the same period? I suspect major metamorphoses – from futurism to constructivism to decline and fall into (the local version of) socrealism followed the same pattern.


Barry 07.26.08 at 12:19 pm

It’s simple – when looking at the statements of right-wingers always remember that Freudian projection is a major factor. Remember how often was the right accused Clinton of ‘black helicopter’ stuff that they eagerly accepted under Bush.

In this case, after the cults of personality that the right had for Reagan and Bush II, and the ‘anti-cult’ against Clinton, they’re going to accuse any supporter of Obama of being a cultist.

Think Karl Rove.


Wilson 07.26.08 at 12:19 pm

Is there any other Government, I wonder, with an official font?

I do recall that the US Department of Homeland Security went through a rebranding in June 2003 that involved making a modified form of Joanna its official typeface. Not sure how mandatory its use is, though, apart from letterhead and marketing.

The US State Department, though, made Times New Roman 14 its required typeface for all official documents.

So I guess in the land of the free, individual departments get to set their own rules. It’s font federalism.


Wilson 07.26.08 at 12:31 pm

However, profile shots of aspiring leaders are clearly fascist. Ask the McCain campaign.


novakant 07.26.08 at 12:32 pm

what’s Germany’s official government typeface today?

The two fonts used are Neue Demos and Neue Praxis. They are based on original designs from the 70s by Gerard_Unger that have been revised to be used as part of the corporate redesign in 2002.


soru 07.26.08 at 12:55 pm

Probably the best known example of clean, simple and bold graphic design associated with the Nazis is the swastika.

The wiki entry once again is pretty interesting:

“I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika.”

Judging by the place of Nazis in popular culture, I’ve got a feeling that, in a few hundred years time, they will be the only thing remembered from the 20C. That means that, in time, every distinctive feature of the 20C will be read as ‘Nazi’, just as the whole of past centuries gets called ‘Enlightment’ or ‘Crusades’.


ogmb 07.26.08 at 12:58 pm

OMG!!! Obama iz WROSE then HILTER!!1!!! He not only tries to resurrect the Habsburg Empire but also restore our former colonial overlords into their former glory! When they called Obama the rock star candidate, we should have listened to the secret messages!!!1!1!!!


bdbd 07.26.08 at 1:45 pm

Thank goodness the Nazis kept all the serifs — they could have been used for comic book bullets!


Matt McIrvin 07.26.08 at 1:48 pm

Argh. So did the Nazis mandate Fraktur, or ban Fraktur, or do one first and then the other, and in which order? I can’t figure out any of this.


bdbd 07.26.08 at 1:51 pm

Plus the impact of the Nazi choice (to insist on serifs) on mathematics, because after all, the foundation of math, or at least arithmetic, is the plus sign, ” + ” , and what is a ” + ” but a san serif swastika?

That’s all! (John H this is actually a fascinating and useful post, and I’m sharing it with others. I just couldn’t resist the jokes)


sk 07.26.08 at 2:45 pm

“No, I’m not going to make fun of the small handful of right-wing blogs that got fake-alarmist about it, hinting that it kinda sorta looked Fascist.”

Instead, you’re going to take the high road, and write an elaborate post as to why actually kinda sorta looks anti-Fascist.




novakant 07.26.08 at 3:00 pm

I can’t figure out any of this.

To cut a long story short: Fraktur is hundreds of years old and existed parallel with Antiqa for a long time. The Nazis didn’t like and banned it Fraktur in 1941. Yet, Fraktur is often falsely associated with Nazism, probably because it is being seen as “German” and possibly because it’s mixed up with SS runes. Fraktur was being used in print occasionally for a couple of years after the war, but has totally vanished now, except for headlines and such in some newspapers.


Nur al-Cubicle 07.26.08 at 3:54 pm

I shot the serif…but I didn’t shoot no chancery!


bianca steele 07.26.08 at 3:57 pm

John, I’m not disagreeing with you, but do you think you could distinguish art that was banned by the Nazis from art that was embraced by them, by visual characteristics alone? I’m not as familiar with graphic arts as with painting, but the line seems fuzzy to me. Similarly, the question what politics should be primarily associated with Art Deco isn’t totally clear. (Though IIRC it seemed to be the academic consensus in some fields — more than ten years ago — that Art Deco was emphatically an anti-traditional and thus a left-wing movement. So it isn’t surprising that fascists disliked Art Deco styles.)


John Holbo 07.26.08 at 4:30 pm

“John, I’m not disagreeing with you, but do you think you could distinguish art that was banned by the Nazis from art that was embraced by them, by visual characteristics alone?”

Well, if I could be sure that the first quote was right about san serif fonts being banned I could. But, as it turns out, matters are a bit more complicated.


otto 07.26.08 at 4:53 pm

Does anyone know where I might be able to buy one of these Obama/Berlin posters?


abb1 07.26.08 at 4:55 pm

Art Deco is is not left, it’s a decadent style; any intense political movement would reject it.


Bloix 07.26.08 at 5:27 pm

There seems to be a confusion between Fraktur and serif. Hitler disapproved of Fraktur; he preferred serif type; and he hated sans-serif type.

Typefaces evolved as imitations of medieval handwritten scripts. Fraktur and serif were based on different scripts; sans-serif is an effort move type away from handwriting entirely.

Fraktur is a form of “blackletter” typeface. These are based on a style of late-medieval calligraphy which utilized a broad pen-nib. Its thick sections are very thick and its thin lines are very thin, it has many flourishes or “curliques,” and it is cursive (that is, it uses curves in place of some of the straight lines in letters like H and W). Imperial Germany favored favored Fraktur, and it was associated with German aggression during the First World War period. Hitler disapproved of it. He preferred serif type.

Serif is the usual sort of type that books and newspapers are printed in. It originated as an imitation of a medieval script that was written with a much thinner pen-nib. Its lines vary only slightly in thickness, there are no flourishes, and the letters have ‘serifs’- little ornamental details at the ends of lines, which are stylized imitations of the marks left when a writer using a quill or a nibbed pen lifts the pen and then places it back on the paper. Serifs are the most common typefaces used today. This blog is written in a serif typeface.

Obama’s poster is written in a sans-serif typeface. Sans-serif eliminates the little details, divorcing print from its origin in penmanship entirely and concentrating only on the aspects of the forms that distinguish one letter from the next. It’s designed to look “clean,” almost machine-made. It’s rarely used for text and is common in signs, labels and posters. The Nazis banned sans-serif type.

Of the two typefaces that Novakant tells us are acceptable for official German government use today, Neue Demos is a serif typeface and Neue Praxis is sans-serif.


bianca steele 07.26.08 at 6:10 pm

Art Deco is not left

I should have written Art Nouveau.


abb1 07.26.08 at 6:44 pm

Gaudí stuff? It seems even more elitist/apolitical.


Robin Kinross 07.26.08 at 6:58 pm

The German history is all a lot more complicated and harder to explain, and links to Wiki and Amazon won’t really get you there. Take some time and read about the history of the German debates over letterforms in books by Christopher Burke (Paul Renner, and Active literature) or in the book Blackletter by Peter Bain and Paul Shaw.
But the Obama campaign’s use of the all-American sanserif Gotham is indeed interesting. I would say it has nothing to do with German and Italian cultural politics in the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps the first thing to notice – on the evidence of this poster – is that the Obama campaign has latched on to graphic design, and may be using a conscious, consistent graphic style in a way that hasn’t ever been done before in US politics. And then the graphic style they’re deploying is: lean, cool, considered. That style even seems to extent to the man’s own body and his clothing. The use of the typeface Gotham is part of all that. The fact that this typeface was designed and is published by a couple of very smart youngish Americans helps to add something to the choice. It’s all-American and progressive. Forget about the New Typography and the Bauhaus.


James Wimberley 07.26.08 at 7:19 pm

What font do readers suggest for John McCain? A tattoo font?


bianca steele 07.26.08 at 8:06 pm

Were Young Vienna and the Secessionists not left? Does the left you imagine prefer classicism and bourgeois respectability?


abb1 07.26.08 at 8:50 pm

I don’t think I would necessarily characterize any of it as ‘left’. All of modernism is anti-traditional, but some styles, like futurism, are more revolutionary (left or right, doesn’t matter) and some I perceive as very middle-class (Dali, for example). A lot of it is, of course, purely conceptual; it may be revolutionary, but not in any political sense.


bianca steele 07.26.08 at 9:07 pm

I would certainly not characterize any “new” or “rebellious” movement automatically as “left.” And Eliot and Pound, as Modernist as you can get, were very critical of the rebellion of their immediate predecessors. But generally, I think, the line between favoring and opposing the avant-garde in art has been pretty close to the similar line for the “revolutionary vanguard” in politics (in the West for the past 150 years or so). An exception would be — speaking roughly — those beholden to Stalin in the non-communist West, who insisted on the morality and political efficacity of any acceptable art.


abb1 07.26.08 at 9:28 pm

I mean, if you define ‘right’ as ‘conservative’, then I agree, but fascism, for example, is a revolutionary movement too, requires radical, shocking expression as well.


bianca steele 07.26.08 at 9:51 pm

Fascism, at least early on, may be called “revolutionary” and “shocking,” if you limit the discussion to early fascism before it gained power, or maybe also to Italian fascism. Those aspects were rejected by the National Socialists, though (followed by Mussolini).

Also, why could a right-wing movement with conservative goals not make free use of the more appealing properties of the left?


Jared 07.26.08 at 11:49 pm

From Jeremy Aynsley, Graphic Design in Germany 1890-1945:

“Arguments which had once been applied by Functionalists to reform design in favor of Roman typefaces and asymmetric setting were now [in 1933] mobilized by traditionalists suggesting that, in fact, Fraktur letterforms were more economical because of their condensed structure and easier to read because of their expressiveness.” p. 184

He makes no mention of an outright ban on Futura, but says that a shift towards traditional typefaces was the result of a gleichschaltung in the profession. “In the early years of the Reich there was a rash of new blackletter type designs for foundries. There are many signs, however, that it was a matter of what suited the occasion more than a systematically applied and strictly adhered-to policy.” p. 189

It should also be noted that Fraktur can be more or less traditional or “serif-y.” See this great poster for a more modern example.


novakant 07.27.08 at 1:55 am

do you think you could distinguish art that was banned by the Nazis from art that was embraced by them, by visual characteristics alone?

As far as art is concerned it’s actually not so difficult, since the Nazis put up a big show called “Entartete Kunst” (degenerate art) which assembled a bunch of artwork that they disapproved of. Also, the prevalent style of Nazi art is rather easily categorized. When it comes to graphic design and architecture, things are a bit more muddled, because the Nazis took some elements of modernism and used them for their own purposes to great effect.

Generally, I think the “left/right” divide is not so useful when discussing these matters, because both the Nazis and the SU had similarly strict and narrow views on what constitutes art. There were left-wing and right-wing and fascist modernist artists, alright, but the dividing line between totalitarianism and free artistic expression seems ultimately more relevant to me.


John Holbo 07.27.08 at 2:43 am

Thanks for the good information and reading recommendations, Jared and Robin. As to fonts for McCain – or, rather, an analysis of the fonts he is using:


bad Jim 07.27.08 at 3:32 am

A book I no longer have claimed that the serifs on Roman capital letters originated in stonecutting as an attractive way to dress the end of a chiseled line, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen stone inscriptions of that sort. I can’t recall seeing any classical Greek artifacts with serif letter forms.

The Nazi’s “Entartete Kunst” show was a big hit, setting records for attendance, and they cunningly sold off most of the works. The Tate Modern had a very nice selection on display when I last visited.


Bloix 07.27.08 at 6:27 am

Bad Jim – our print alphabet is virtually two separate alphabets – in many cases the relationship between the capitals and the lower case letters is arbitrary (A – a, D – d, E – e, G -g) and in others the relationship is distant (B -b, F -f, L – l, M -m). This is because our caps come (as you say) from Roman stonecut letters, which indeed did use serifs to dress up the end of a chiseled line – because the stonecutter’s alphabet was an imitiation of a pen-and-ink script! So the serifs on our upper-case letters went from pen and ink to stone to print. As for lower-case letters, the Romans had none. They came to printing through the Carolingian script, a medieval script widely used across Europe. Those serifs went directly from pen to print.

Jared- that’s a fascinating poster. It’s advertising the Volksempfanger, an inexpensive radio set that the Nazis distributed so that everyone could listen to propaganda programs, and, being an ad for a radio (the height of modern technology) the poster is self-consciously modern. It dates to 1936 – the Nazis decided to disallow Fraktur in 1941. There can’t be many other examples of a sans-serif blackletter script, which is to my eye both beautiful and very peculiar.

Robin – without disagreeing with you at all on the modern look of the poster, I would say that it owes a lot to constructivism. The way the photo is integrated with the text through the use of color; the angled text, positioned to imply that Obama is saying the words, and the image of him from below, the way an audience views a speaker on a podium – the poster communicates urgency and immediacy, as if simply by seeing it you are already at the rally. It reminds me a little bit of the work of El Lissitsky, who made the great poster Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge.


Bloix 07.27.08 at 6:29 am

well, that cross-out crept in on its own- I had nothing to do with it.


abb1 07.27.08 at 7:33 am

Bianca, a conservative revolution will have avant-garde. I googled “iranian revolution” and “art” and the first link has this:

But of course soon after things settle down, neither conservatives, nor nationalists, nor socialists, nor capitalists want any agitation, they want peace and quiet, stability. So, demand for the avant-garde drops; till the next upheaval.


bad Jim 07.27.08 at 8:36 am

Bloix: thanks and no argument. Never having worked in stone myself I was never entirely convinced that routine embellishment could reliably conceal mistakes. When I try that sort of thing myself I generally make things worse.


abb1 07.27.08 at 10:32 am

Damn spam filter.

Bianca, a conservative revolution will have avant-garde. I googled “iranian revolution” and “art” and the first link has this:

But soon after things settle down, neither conservatives, nor nationalists, nor soci@1ists, nor capitalists want any agitation, they want peace and quiet, stability. So, the demand for the avant-garde drops; good bye, till the next upheaval.


PersonFromPorlock 07.27.08 at 11:27 am

I’d suggest that if there is a parallel between the current Democratic party and the Nazis it lies in the adulation given “the Leader” and not in graphic arts styles. It may be that some observers are unconsciously reading from the former into the latter.


mollymooly 07.27.08 at 4:26 pm

For more on typography as a means of cultural stereotyping, see Goscinny, R. and A. Uderzo, passim.


Nell 07.28.08 at 12:47 am

There can’t be many other examples of a sans-serif blackletter script, which is to my eye both beautiful and very peculiar.

And yet when I looked at that poster the typeface seemed very familiar, evocative, and characteristic. I spent a year-plus in Bavaria in the mid-1950s as a little child, and I feel certain that this font or ones like it were used for the titles of many of the German children’s books I had (published in the 1930s, for the most part). Am now inspired to go dig them up. I’m almost certain that the Struwellise and Struwelpeter books had that font on the cover.


Helen 07.28.08 at 5:09 am

I saw this hysterical sounding link on a rightwing blog: Will the media report concert before Obama’s Berlin speech? Oh dear god, what on earth happened that was so shameful the Librul Media are … hushing it up?…

Apparently, some rock musicians, and some reggae!!!!! musicians… performed.

That’s it.

I’m still a little bemused.


Keir 07.28.08 at 5:21 am

. It’s all-American and progressive. Forget about the New Typography and the Bauhaus.

Um, the fact it’s Bauhaus is why it’s progressive — and it isn’t all-american, it’s classical European Modernist. It really is El Lissitzky/van Doesburg/Rodchenko all the way.

Trust me, the people who designed that poster know damn fine exactly who they’re quoting and what they meant, and that’s why they used those models. Obama is using European Modernism the way politicians used to use Roman Antiquity.


PersonFromPorlock 07.28.08 at 1:29 pm

Helen 07.28.08 at 5:09 am:

I think the thrust of that article was that the crowd size reflected the band’s popularity, not Obama’s. Probably not true, but don’t make more of it than it was.


astrongmaybe 07.28.08 at 4:17 pm

This archive of Weimar election posters gives a good selection of 20s political typography/iconography:
It’s not possible to link to individual posters, but 1932 has at least two interesting examples of something like sans serif Fraktur, mentioned above.


a very public sociologist 07.29.08 at 7:00 pm

It doesn’t look fascist – didn’t all parties back in the 30s use similar imagery?


Christopher Fahey 07.30.08 at 5:03 pm

In fact, Fraktur was banned by the Nazis in the “Bormann Decree” because of the fact that it was based on Hebrew Script.

So, to the Nazis, Fraktur is too Jewish, but sans-serif fonts are also too Jewish. Hell, writing itself is pretty darn Jewish. Maybe the Nazis were on a path towards banning all writing, period. Seems plausible.

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