Typeface Tuesday – Nazi Typography

Generally, as a rule, among graphic designers it is believed that Germany has been home to some of the best design ideas and best graphic movements. Of course like much of German history there is a terrible blip during the Nazi regime.

Before the rise of the National Socialists the country had been a hotbed of modernist design. Exploring new, clean sans serif type, using asymmetric layouts and replacing illustration with photography. Modern architecture was prevalent and influences came from Holland and Russia. And none of this sat well with the new fascist government.

Classical architecture and art was encouraged, especially buildings reflecting the ancient Roman Empire and art to present the alleged perfection of the aryan race. Graphic designers fled the country and design work was hauled back to a previous age.

Typeface Tuesday Frankenstein

Especially in type. The government positively encouraged the use of Gothic looking traditional typefaces like Fraktur. This face, and many others like it in similar styles, we’re said to synchronise with the German language, and raised the cultural level of the German people. The typefaces themselves were based on old hand drawn calligraphic lettering and harkened back to a fictional past of imagined glories. Hilter used such Gothic fonts for Mein Kampf and soon all print work was designed using the same letter styles.

As the Nazis rose to power all designers had to register with the culture ministry and be ‘advised’ on what they could and couldn’t do, including what fonts they should use.

I have used a Gothic font called Frankenstein to illustrate this article and the name gives you a clue as to how else these kind of typefaces are used. To reflect gothic horror, often rolled out in support of old Hammer films and other such design work. The old world hand letter style for the letter shapes reflect a bygone age and give a very ‘Germanic’ feel to the lettering, which seems unfair as it was only for such a small window seen as ‘raising the levels of the German people’ and most German type is clean and modern and more likely to reflect the Bauhaus.

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