Dubious Typeface For Sale

Signal is a German script typeface, designed in 1931 by Walter Wege for H. Berthold AG in Berlin. It was inspired by brush script created in the late 1920s and rooted in the sachplakat aesthetic of the time. In 1932, a bolder Block-Signal and lighter Script-Signal were introduced. In a somewhat customized form, it served as the masthead for the Nazi magazine Signal, an illustrated photo journal and Wehrmacht propaganda organ published in multiple languages, aimed at neutral and occupied countries. Perhaps it is just the name “Signal” that is too close for comfort, but the typeface has outlived the magazine.

signal magazineSignal covered combat conditions of the German troops and their allies. It was not governed by the propaganda ministry and so it was somewhat independent of the Nazi bureaucracy. Nonetheless, it promoted a unified Europe ruled by the New Order (e.g. Nazi government).

signalAlthough different in various nuanced ways from the Signal magazine logo, the typeface, which was (and still is) sold in the United States has a Germanic, indeed Prussian, aesthetic quality. This sales brochure issued by Continental Typefounders Association, Inc., in New York, from the 1940s ignores its tainted origin while emphasizing how “easy it is to use” and “how you will quickly get the ‘feel’ of this face and discover many original uses for it.”

signal 1 signal 2 signal 3 signal 4 signal 5 signal 6For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility, one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.

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  1. I think the only thing that the typeface Signal and the magazine Signal have in common is their name. Every single letter is different. Furthermore, the typeface has joins which the magazine masthead does not. To taint this typeface with the Nazi brush is unfair to the typeface and its designer. If designers want to avoid the typeface Signal today they should do so on aesthetic or functional grounds and not on spurious political ones.