Redesigning the Typeface that never existed

Uppercase and lowercase »Display«-G morphing

While working on »Neue Kramer ­Grotesk« it was very important for us to root our design rather in concep­tual aspects than in the formal con­ventions of the time of Kramer and his colleague Renner. We didn't want to bring up old fashions again. Nor did we ask ourselves »How would Kramer have designed the letters?«. Our goal was to create something con­temporary that speaks for ­it­self but still has its roots in Frankfurt design history. Therefore, through its ­existence it continues, questions and (re-)interprets certain principles from that period of time.

The mysterious sketch of so-called »Kramer Grotesk« was the starting point. We kept certain details like the pointy joins or the slightly odd character of the original upper­case alphabet while at the same time modernizing the rhythm and im­proving the readability. In contrast to »Futura« the text version e.g. offers a two-story »a« and a three-story »g«. The whole family is planned as a »purpose specific« designed ­multiple master typeface: It consists of two different styles — »Text« (optimized for ­smaller sizes) and »Display« (for poster and headline use) — both existing in five different weights. Slanted cuts will be added soon.

A »Display« headline in five different weights

As Ferdinand Kramer completely rejected every­thing ornamental and Paul Renner declared handwriting (and every glyph form that comes from handwritten type) as outdated they looked for new ways of designing and constructing. Renner explained that the »typeface of our times« has to reflect the contemporary tools and methods of production. ­During that decades the most modern technique was hot metal typesetting, which allowed a completely new, geometric and static way of designing letters. For Renner it was therefore the logical consequence that printed type lost every hint of dynamics. This gets even more obvious regarding his alternative glyph designs that are completely geometrically constructed experiments.

Consequently, we asked ourselves for the tools, materials and methods of our time. How does the design process nowadays differ from the workflow nearly 100 years ago? Computers and digitality offer new means such as OpenType, responsive typography and animation. The ­design is still reminiscent of archi­tectonic principles, but fluidity and digital »immateriality« bring back a new kind of dynamics and motion to our typeface. This character is different from the dynamics found in handwriting; it offers the possibility to follow a certain way of movements within the given statics.

An overview over the »Display«-Alternates

Similar to »Futura«, »Neue ­Kramer Grotesk Display« also owns a ­range of stylistic sets, but these new ­alter­native glyphs in contrast do not simply play with geometric con­struction in general. Instead they follow strict rules that transform and morph the letters' »natural skeleton«. Yet we don't rearrange it completely and give it an artificial anatomy like »Futura« partly did. We set the the glyph architecture in motion — the alternatives seem like a sequence of stills from an animation. Changing proportions, rotating, lengthening or shortening stems, scaling, opening and closing circles. But curves remain curves and straights remain straights.

The dynamic character is underlined by an integrated »Random«-­function that automatically exchanges the ­glyphs while typing on the computer.