Futura’s Paul Renner Tackles Color

Paul Renner (1878–1956) is best known as the designer of the paradigmatic modern typeface Futura, literally deemed in its marketing materials as “The Typeface of the Future.” Renner’s life and work was significantly reviewed and chronicled by the English design historian Christopher Burke in Paul Renner: The Art of Typography, a must-read for anyone interested in the significance of type and politics. Verlag Hermann-Schmidt is planning a major book devoted to Futura to coincide with the symposium Translations 05: FUTURA – Tribute to a Typeface (Nov. 4 at the University of Applied Sciences, Mainz, Germany).

Before and after the Nazis relieved Renner of his teaching posts he was a master of technical precision. In addition to his rather complex books on typography and printing, his 1946 slim yet dense volume Color, Order and Harmony: A Color Theory for Artists and Craftsmen (published in Germany in 1947, and later by Studio Vista / Reinhold in 1964) was translated by the type expert Alexander Nesbitt.

I can only imagine the complexity of the German edition, but as Nesbitt notes in his foreword (below): “The text is, on the whole, straightforward and understandable; it should be a most salutary antidote to much of the material on color that has been put forth in the past few years …” But what I find fascinating is the Futura heavy text, which without paragraph indents and wide columns makes for a relatively daunting read.

 

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