In pretty much every survey the 1970s comes up trumps at the top of the worst design lists. The decade which time forgot we are assured. This is broadly true and the numerous photographs of living rooms from the period, not to mention bathrooms, which pop up to support these surveys are testament to this.
As I have written before though, not everything bad is totally bad, just as everything is rarely completely perfect. There are some heights of design from the 70s which still stand up well today. Storm Thorgerson’s work for Pink Floyd for example, McLaren and Westwood’s punk designs (awful retrospective not withstanding), and the Art Nouveau renaissance.
Prior to the forward looking modernist movement in the early 1900s Art Nouveau had been a full art and design movement including interior design, architecture, commercial art, painting and type. The type of the Art Nouveau movement is delicate, crafted and decorative. In keeping with the art and design themes of the time there was a natural organic feel which entwined with illustrations and images. The typeface used, to this day, for the Paris Metro is a good example of Art Nouveau type.
In the early 70s there was a revival in all things Art Nouveau, the design and art styles, jewellery, and type. With new phototypesetting techniques full fonts of decorative Art Nouveau typefaces were developed for commercial use. The new technology allowed for the finer lines and artistic curves to be maintained at a larger variety of sizes and provided an attractive alternative to 60s modern typesetting.
The revisiting of Art Nouveau type continued throughout the 70s even as other areas of the revival dropped away. Ed Benguiat, a celebrated font designer created an eponymous font which followed the decorative themes of the movement in 1978. This font, Benguiat, still evokes the feeling of the 1970s today.
The font which really reflects the 70s revival of Art Nouveau though, is Arnold Böcklin. The typeface was originally designed by the Schriftgiesserei Otto Weisert foundry in 1904 at the height of Art Nouveau in honour of the late Nouveau artist of the same name. It then returned to prominence at part of the revival becoming one of the most used fonts. It was so widely used that it become one of the first digitised fonts when computer type began to emerge, although bizarrely called Arabic in some packages!
My first memory of Arnold Böcklin is as the logo design face for White Dwarf magazine, the Games Workshop role playing magazine of the early 80s where it added a touch of fantasy while also, somewhat unfortunately, making the covers look immediately dated. Like Benguiat a simple glimpse gives a feeling of the 1970s and organic, naturalistic design work.
The lower case letters are proportionally large, with curved and bulbous serifs, and additional swirls and flounces on both capitals and lower case characters. There is something playful and childlike about the letter forms, especially in the numbers which reflect childhood ABC and 123 books.
Arnold Böcklin is a useful font to have around if you are looking to reflect the early 1900s, the 1970s or basic, happy children’s books, and possibly even to indicate some areas relating to a stereotypical French past.