The font that escaped the Nazis and landed on the moon

The font that escaped the Nazis and landed on the moon

You know Futura. With those knife sharp Vs and
wide circle Os, it cornered the market on that retro-future-cool
thing. Futura defined Barbara Kruger’s art and
helped streetwear company Supreme rip her off…I mean, create a loving homage
to her work. It’s such a Wes Anderson cliche that complaining
that it’s a cliche is a cliche. It’s on wedding invitations from those friends
of yours who put Urban Outfitters on their wedding registry. But Futura overcame a lot to get this far. Like Nazis. (Yes, those Nazis.) Paul Renner designed Futura, and he came to
it from book design, where it was key to communicate
clearly. It was the 1920s and the Bauhaus school of
design was becoming popular. Think cool looking chairs that are really
uncomfortable. Renner wasn’t part of that school, but like
Bauhaus designers, he wanted function and beauty. At the time, when people thought of German
typography, they thought of fraktur style typography, and Renner thought it didn’t work. He said fraktur was like lederhosen. Outdated and quaint. So after a couple of years of development,
Futura went on the market in 1927. It was sold as “the typeface of our time.” This thing was modern. Some early designs were even crazier, with
extremely geometric figures, like this g, or this a. That look was in the air with other typefaces,
like Johnston and Akzidenz Grotesk, but Renner thought Futura was unique. He called it an “eminently German typeface”
and the type foundry, Bauer, sold it as the type
of the future. It gained broad international distribution,
showing up on charts or being overlaid on pictures. It became a symbol of the future – and for
the Nazis, that was the problem. That fraktur – the Gothic style Renner rejected
— became the Nazi look in the 1930s. And the Nazis starting scrubbing out modern
fonts in favor of ornate styles. At the same time, Renner became an outcast
after he wrote a famous anti-Nazi essay. He was arrested and briefly in exile from
Germany. Sans-serif type was cast out too. But Nazis were inconsistent. Renner returned to Germany, and Nazis occasionally
even used Futura. Look at these pages from a Nazi design manual. Aside from the Fraktur and little Nazi paper
cut out dolls, which were uniform guides, there are a couple of charts in Futura. In 1941, the Nazis reversed course. Out of the blue, they decided their beloved
Fraktur was a “Jewish” style, so they banned it. They’d really come around to Renner’s
idea, that the German typeface of the future had to be more readable. But by that time, Futura was established as
an international typeface. That might be what saved it. During World War II, a lot of different, modern-looking
sans-serif fonts were kicking around NASA’s predecessor, NACA, and the rest of the American
military. At the time, people chose fonts based on the
availability of physical pieces of type. Futura was…around, and it was clear and
modern . That made it an obvious choice for a very important job. When NASA needed a plaque for Apollo 11, they
chose one font; they pulled from a typeface the would become
beloved by Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson alike. They used the uniquely German design that
through a talented and idealistic creator, traveled beyond the Nazis, beyond the 1940s,
beyond Germany, and beyond this planet, too. “We’ll read the plaque that’s on the
front landing gear of this L.M. Here men from the planet Earth first set foot
upon the moon. July 1969.” They chose Futura. There are a lot of reasons that Futura has
that extremely modern, international feel. One of those reasons, though, is really German. A lot of people credit Volkswagen with bringing
Futura to a new generation and also into the mainstream.

100 thoughts on “The font that escaped the Nazis and landed on the moon

  1. What is the font at 3:12? Or at least, what is an equivalent that I can find today, as the one at 3:12 looks crudely printed?

  2. So.. My school uses kindles with the Futura font.. Now I know why people describe school as hell or prison.

  3. Supreme is the absolute worst. The instant I see that logo I immediately know that person has zero taste, personality, or class.

  4. …so now I know where the type-font for Futurama, comes from.

    Also, that was a nice homage to Wes Anderson.

  5. It actually is a very “not very” unique font and not that versatile at all… there are much better fonts for different situations.

  6. And nowadays, there are still people who believe in "cultural bolshevism" and censor things they percieve as too modern, as to "protect" their "heritage and traditions".

  7. The front futura never escaped Nazi's. Does anyone have any idea how many Nazi's were employed by NASA when we landed on the moon? Werner von Braun?

    Renner* – a new interpretation of the Futura with its own character. Unlike Futura the letters A, M, V, W are pointy in all weights, and there are alternative shapes for a few letters such as the "a".

  9. That's absolutely incorrect Vox, the Nazis didn't abandon Fraktura due to "Jewishness" this was the case with Schwabacher. they abandoned Fraktura and decided to go for Antiqua or Latin letter scripting (Futura included) because the belief at the time assumed German would become an international language and would need to be communicated to foreigners. And Nazis were not affront to progressive policies, in fact they abandoned a lot of traditions.

  10. It’s also the font used for those Captain America Civil War title cards. A movie that greatly contributed to make the MCU feel connected and not empty but unique.

  11. Something the video forgot to say. The reason Futura was such an innovative and modern typeface at the time is because its letters are just like the Roman capitals based on the basic geometric shapes like the circle, square and triangle. That explains the unconventional letters at 1:29. It broke with tradition and became the first truly modern typeface. Typefaces before it had their origin in handwriting and calligraphy.

  12. Germany seem to love san serif fonts. They have Helvetica printed on all their public spaces, signs public transportation, including on thier Lufthansa aircraft

  13. Good vid. But….Baking music & SFX louder than host talking = bad editing choices.

  14. I like how Vox is so full of blind hatred that they've come to embody the worst bits of the Nazis. A bit like how hebrews are so overbearingly aware of their victim hood that they're on a crusade of genocide. LOL irony.

  15. I wonder what Font can escape the Americans and Trumpets. Is this satire or do you want to tell me a font has political self-consciousness!

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