Hipster Typefaces of the 20s and 30s

Modern was austere. Modernistic was joyful and riotous. Once the style was introduced to the world in Paris at the Exposition internationale des arts et Decoratifs Industrieles modernes in 1925, this ornamental sensibility quickly became the vogue for all the applied arts throughout the industrialized and commercialized world. Between the world wars, design entrepreneurs understood that given the ebbs and flows in European and American consumption, brought about by the financial rollercoaster in world markets, high style was needed to position the goods. Styling was touted by marketing and advertising experts as a tool of allure that encouraged sales in everything consumable.

Art Deco, as it was also known, started as an affluent style that trickled down to the bourgeoisie. A hybrid of various orthodox Modernist traits, it skirted their respective ideological overlays. Cubist, Futurist, Constructivist, DeStijl, even Bauhaus elements were absorbed by moderne, including rectilinear geometries and sans-serif typefaces combined with stark ornamental patterns such as sunrays, lightning bolts, motion lines and other symbols of Machine Age progress.

These are some of the “extraordinary” typefaces that helped define the Modernistic era in a specimen sheet from 1930.

(More about type styles here and here and here and here.)

And don’t miss the Absolutely Fabulous parody of Downton Abbey here.


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