Designers are always fiddling with making the Roman alphabet easier to navigate. Herbert Bayer’s Universal Alphabet and Bradbury Thompson’s Alphabet 26 (a monoalphabet) are just a few examples. Also in that arena you’ll find a lesser-known attempt by the master of graphic simplicity, Lucian Bernhard. In 1963 he developed “a practical design for a spelling system which will expedite the teaching of reading” in English, the language that he had difficulty adapting to.
The Bernhard approach, wrote Printing Magazine, “represents only a start toward a logical solution.” Bernhard was terribly serious about his “Bernhard Fonotyp” method, especially for immigrants to the U.S. He also took it to witty extremes. This is his way to show that the vagaries of the English language for the immigrant reader is “akin the Chinese, in that our words must be memorized to be pronounced, for their spelling is not guide at all.”
Below are some samples of Bernhard’s system, which predictably (since we in the U.S. cannot even master the metric system) did not go far.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →