There is no distinctly American type, at least none dictated by government as the favored national face. Most other nations do not place a great emphasis on their typographic branding either. But starting in 1934, following the Nazis coming to power in Germany, Volk or the people’s type, was favored by decree. Since all forms of the traditional German Blackletter were acceptable, type foundries rushed to fill the need and magazines, most notably, Die zeitgemäße Schrift (Contemporary Lettering), celebrated the return of spiky Germanic lettering after the a flirtation with “degenerate” modernism.
Rejection of non-Germanic Roman alphabets from commercial and government printing was a recurring theme in Alfred (chief Nazi ideologue) Rosenberg’s turgid cultural propaganda from 1933 to 1935. His all-out campaign to stamp out non-German lettering was promoted through stickers with slogans admonishing citizens to only use Gothic-style letters, or Deutsche Schrift (German lettering), the designated type for the German nation (also referred to as “Schöne Deutsche Schrift,” or “beautiful German script”). Die zeitgemäße Schrift (contemporary lettering), which regularly sponsored German script competitions among schoolchildren and art students. In a 1935 editorial titled “Writing and Lettering in the Service of the New State,” the editors of Die zeitgemäße Schrift explained:
[Our] new conception of the State, which claims as its own all the phenomena of racial life, is definitely concerned with the training of the growing generation; moreover, the system of education and instruction, newly reorganized by the State, is forced to utilize all measures and possibilities which may serve to put the new ideas in to practice. . . . Among such education measures special attention to writing and lettering is included, and certain indications permit us to recognize that the interest of the State in both these important branches of instruction is increasing.
Alongside its regular diet of Fraktur, Schwabacher, Rundgotisch, and Kanzlei types, Die zeitgemäße Schrift occasionally exhibited samples of sans-serif lettering and calligraphy. The editors published a few laudatory articles on the likes of Rudolf Koch, designer of Kabel, and Peter Behrens, who Hitler admired as the father of the AEG’s new corporate identity. But the journal usually did not stray too far from the party line, promoting Fraktur as the preeminent German face.
Who was it that said type should be neutral?