Saturday, 17 January 2009


Currently working on creating a 4pp magazine spread, based on a typeface randomly assigned to me. This typeface is 'Erbar', by Jakob Erbar. We have to write between 200 and 400 words on this typeface, and then set it out across the four pages. Black and white, typographic work only.
Here is what I have written, pretty heavily based on my references, but totally reworked, and with quite a few of my own ideas and thoughts.

""My aim", wrote Jakob Erbar, "was to design a printing type which would be free of all individual characteristics, possess thoroughly legible letterforms, and be a purely typographic creation."

Jakob Erbar was born in 1878. After training as a type compositor in Dusseldorf, and studying type under Fritz Helmut Ehmcke and Anna Simons, he spent most of his life working and teaching in Cologne.

The typefaces he designed were Feder Grotesk (1910), Koloss (1923) and Candida (1936), but his most notable creation was his eponymous typeface Erbar, and it's variants (Lucina, Lumina, Lux and Phosphor), which he created between 1922 and 1930.
It was based on the most basic geometric elements - line, the circle and the arc. Other designers took these ideas on, such as Rudolf Koch with his 'Kabel', and probably most well known, Paul Renner's Futura, but Erbar was the first on the field with these ideas.

The typeface is no longer available in digital versions, as it has been superseded by Renner's Futura, however, this typeface should not be overlooked, as it is a beautiful Sans Serif. With many letters based around the circle form, the whole alphabet has a harmony and unity - it is clear to see the same curves and lines being used in as many letters as possible. Yet despite his claim of trying to create a printing type 'Free of all individual characteristics', the tail of both upper and lower case 'Y's is distinctly unusual, following the pattern of the 'Z', and the cross strokes of both the lower case 'f' and 't' cut off at 45 degree angles.

Interestingly, he designed two Erbars, both with different X-heights, and, as previously mentioned, took the family further with it's variants, Lucina - a set of white on black capitals, Lux - a version with contrasting outlines, and Phosphor - an inline version of the bold Erbar weight. None of these are available in digital formats, but may still be found in metal type in some letterpress workshops.

Erbar is an underrated and underused type, despite Futura's quality, Erbar represents an exciting period of German type design and innovation, and deserves more recognition."

'An A-Z of Type Designers' by Neil MacMillan
'Letters of Credit' by Walter Tracy
'The Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography' by Ruari McLean

Above is an example of Erbar.

1 comment:

jenny. said...

Yay, you found some info!! Woohoo.