The Sans Serif Typefaces

The first 100 years in the life of the sans serif style went by without any real highlights. It seemed destined to the service of being neutral alphabets of the industrial age.

The first major fully-developed design of a sans serif was a typeface created by Edward Johnston in 1916 for the London subway. It was through this typeface that the sans serif became known as the “typeface of our times”. It was light, very legible and composed of balanced elements.

The sans serif would play a new and important role in post-World War I Germany. After a period of free form typeface designs from artists like Feininger, Klee and Itten, the sans serif typefaces were seen as a way of expressing the new artistic atmosphere and as a parallel to the modern in architecture and design. The sans serif came to represent precision and objectivity.

In this intellectual environment, criticized by some as unartistic, un-German and decadent, Jakob Erbar designed his Erbar-Grotesk (1924) and Paul Renner his Futura (1927). These typefaces can be seen as representing the second phase in the development and acceptance of the linear sans serif antiquas.

In 1928 Jan Tschichold described the theoretical concept for these typographic developments in “The New Typography”, a book which led to international acceptance of the sans serif styles. The work was meant to do away with the “low, formal standard” of the “sunken typefaces and their setting style” of the 1920s (Tschichold).

But the Nazis found nothing good in these developments. When these “artistic experts” came to power it meant the end of free artistic development in typography as well as in other fields. Historical tendencies defined the present in the 1930s. The Bauhaus was closed and the teachers and artists emigrated.

more ... The Swiss Style

A selection of Linotype Sans Serif Fonts: