What Makes a Typeface Futurist?

Italian typefaces are like most other countries’ typefaces—there are some classics, like Bodoni, various workhorses, like Egiziano, and lots of custom faces used for packages and posters. But among the most emblematic (or at least the most common) is a type aesthetic that some type-specimen books of the 1920s and ’30s labeled Fascist, Futurist, or Futuristic. What defines a typeface as Futurist is the mass and dynamic direction of the letters, an aerodynamic quality that is well expressed in this book jacket designed in 1933 by Zoran (it somewhat mimics Fortunato Depero’s style) that I found the other day. Because of the variegated styles on the single page, the rectilinear hand-drawn nature of the faces, and decorative material, the overall impression is raucous with a lively Mediterranean spirit.

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For more on typography, check out Steven Heller’s Texts on Type, which contains more than 50 important writings about the history, aesthetics, and practice on type design. And if you don’t have one already, be sure to order a copy of Alex W. White’s Thinking in Type: The Practical Philosophy of Typography.

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