Interview with Prof. Werner Schneider
Capture the essence of nature
Prof. Schneider; how long have you been working as a typographer and why did you take up this career?
My family owns a collection of centuries-old manuscripts and these always fascinated me, even as a child. You could say that the love of letter-making is something I acquired in my cradle and so in 1954 I decided to study the subject under Prof. Poppl at the Wiesbaden School of Arts and Crafts. I created my first type design in 1962 for Letraset for use in photosetting.
How do you go about designing? Do you let ideas simply come to you or do you take a more systematic approach?
I work to a definite plan in all of my individual design concepts. The planning aspect can be differently weighted depending on the nature of the project. For example, there will often be a difference in my approach if I am working on a commission, where the customer has specific requirements and expectations, and if I am trying to create a type design on the basis of experimental manipulation of fonts.
What is most important to you in your work?
It is almost always my endeavour to create an organic design vocabulary because if it is to delight the eye, a form should not be artificial. Nature abhors rigid horizontals and verticals. The two sides of the human face are not mirror images of each other. If you work to a strictly mechanical agenda, you will not be able to produce forms that are appropriate to the uniqueness of human beings. When designing type, I am trying to capture the essence of nature. My main objective is to produce font designs “by eye”, as it were, unless I am working on purely technical assignments, such as logotypes or product brochures.
What were the challenges you encountered when designing Satero
®, a font with two families?
In the case of both families, the major challenge was to use an identical form vocabulary while giving the serif and sans serif variants distinctive characteristics, and ensuring that they provide the same text colour effect irrespective of weight.
Do you have a favourite typeface?
I have a particular fondness for Capitalis Monumentalis: this archetypal alphabet that is the basis of written culture in the West embodies the elementary rules that I, as a type designer, consider to be essential. The near perfection of designs created in the distant past means that they continue to fascinate even after 2000 years.
What inspires you while working?
My own creative enthusiasm for artistic form. This is pure and simply my very lifeblood and what helps keep me going.
Who do you particularly admire?
My teachers: Friedrich Poppl
, Hermann Zapf
, Adrian Frutiger
and – last but by no means least – Günter Gerhard Lange
We are everyday confronted with typographical “errors”, such as the incorrect use of inverted commas on signs and in menus. What errors do you find particularly annoying?
What exasperates me most is the use of the German double s symbol “ß” in a text consisting solely of upper case letters.
Prof. Schneider, many thanks for giving us this interview.
Prof. Werner Schneider
Born 1935 in Marburg, Germany.
1954 bis 58: Majored in typography under Prof. Friedrich Poppl.
Chair of Communication Design, at the Wiesbaden School of Arts and Crafts.
Holder of numerous international awards.
Foremost typeface designs: Schneider-Antiqua® BQ