As with many great and popular innovations, it is hard to figure out the real roots of the most popular font ever used: Sans Serif. The name itself means purely without Serif. There are many theories as to who and where this font started. Some have even gone to claim that ancient people used it as well in some shape or form. The list of ancient people who used it might include the Romans or the Europeans during the gothic period. But it is commonly believed that the first real example of Sans Serif in the print form is in 1816 in a book that was produced by William Coslon the fourth. And, apparently, it spread like wildfire. Soon after the release of the book, like mushrooms after rain, the numerous newspapers and other books were flooded with this font.
The name itself was coined by Vincent Figgins, 20 or so years later. But, like many other things, the interest in the font soon faded. And it remained in obscurity for more than 100 years. It wasn’t until the time of the second world war that the Sans Serif revolution began again. But, again, the roots are hard to figure out. It didn’t just appear from nowhere in one place by one man, it sprang back to life in four different locations, used by 4 different revolutionaries in the field of fonts.
The first example of a popular Sans Serif font around the time of the second world war was the Akizidenz-Grotesk. This type of Sans Serif font was created in the last years of the 19th century. Looking at it, it feels quite machine-like, strong, and mechanical. If this font or the whole history of the font ahs got your interested be sure to look for some Sans serif fonts free downloads around the web.
The Morris Fuller Benton News Gothic is another popularized type of Sans Serif Font that appeared at that time; it has a thinner feel than the Akizidenz Grotesk version. This font was designed by one of the most prolific font designers Morris F Benton. He would go one to design over 250 types of typesets during his long career. His approach to all kinds of variations around one type of font gave rise to the family tree understanding and formulation of fonts.
The period just before the second world war was ripe and full of all kinds of artistic movements and forms of expression. These same powers of expression seeped into the world of fonts as well. Modernism, expressionism, and every other type of avant-garde art shaped the kinds of Sans Serif fonts that were invented during those years. These are some of the most notable examples:
The timeless Futura created by Paul Renner is surely one of the most famous and elegant in the Sans Serif family tree. Renner was a german artist, who during his career made many acquaintances in the typographer world. He was obsessed with geometric shapes and tried to reduce everything to their most basic geometric shape. The same is true for the alphabet and ca be seen in the Futura. The letters are sharp, with exact symmetrical angles. The font feels very professional as well as compact. If being on time was a font, it would surely by the Futura
On the other side of the creative sea is the Universal, created by Herbert Bayer. It took some similar inspirations like with Renner’s creation, but the letters in the universal feel much more welcoming. He has achieved that with their roundness. They feel much more friendly and usable for any occasion, totally informal. It is a typeface you can use to help your children learn to read and write.
Another significant figure in the development of the San Serif font was Rudolf Koch. Some of his many creations are Kabel, Prisma, and Zeppelin; but Kabel is probably his most famous font. Created reluctantly and in honor of the first transatlantic cable, it achieved far more fame, and recognition than its author ever hoped for. He also did the bold, big and thick black Neuland. It surely stands out as one of the boldest type os Sans Serif created in those golden years of the Sans Serif.
Photo Credit: Kyle Van Horn