German lettering design

Some wonderful German lettering.

The first image here shows the lettering produced by the workshop of Sepp Jacob in Germany. The work he produced was very sculptural and direct and a wonderful blend of good strong lettering and an understanding of materials. This piece reminds me of the German font Neuland which was designed by Rudolf Koch.

Neuland is based on the handwriting of Rudolf Koch (as are all of his typefaces). Its simplicity and unusual shapes derive from the difficult and demanding art of punchcutting. In fact, it may be the only typeface designed by actually cutting the punches; Koch made no preliminary drawings, it is almost as though the punches themselves were sculpted, and these were then used in casting the type itself. Neuland was designed in 1923 and it became enormously popular as an advertising typeface. It is a sans serif, all-capital design with angular features, obliqued strokes and a slight concavity to some of the vertical strokes. Used with restraint, it can lend power and persuasion to display work, as it did when forming the basis for titles appearing in the film Jurassic Park.

Optima is another wonderful example of German lettering design. It was designed by Hermann Zapf, Contemporary German calligrapher, teacher, book designer and one of the 20th century’s most significant type designers. In the mid 1930’s Zapf studied the writing manuals of Rudolf Koch and Edward Johnston and taught himself. Zapf has designed some of the 20th century’s most important fonts, including Palatino and Optima, and some of my other favourites such as Michaelangelo, Sistina, and the wonderfully calligraphic Zapfino.

5 Replies to “German lettering design”

    1. Wolpe’s Albertus, to my eyes, is one of those fonts that looks great until you analyse individual letters. It looks great on signage in London streets etc. I think the D is particularly mean and narrow compared with the G and the left to right diagonals on A, M, N, W, V, K, X, Y, R, etc look light compared to their opposites! Overall I really like its feel. It’s not as logical as Neuland, but since various dinosaur uses it’s hard to see Neuland properly!! I have designed my own heavy sans-serif font for carving. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for that, I like the look of it very much, but so far have backed away from using it! I’d love to see your heavy sans font if that’s ok are there pictures on the blog?


  2. All type punches were made by had until Linn Boyd Benton (1844-1932) invented a matrix cutting machine in the 1880s. Rudolf Koch cut the initial size for his Neuland, and Jessen-Schrift types, and his son Paul cut the initial punches for several of his other faces. Victor Karl Hammer (1882-1967) also cut the punches for his own types after Paul Koch cut his Samson type. Punch cutting by hand was also used for the type faces used by the Kelmscott Press in England, and many others.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: