A Neo-Grotesque Heritage

Acumin is a new voice in a rich typographic tradition of sans serifs — a heritage over a century in the making. By John D. Berry.

Although Acumin is based squarely on the neo-grotesque tradition, which has been one of the dominant styles in typography for more than a century, it is an original design, a fresh approach to the tradition; it is not a variation or an interpretation, nor is it a reply to any existing neo-grotesque typeface. It’s Robert Slimbach’s own take on the neo-grotesque category. Acumin brings a subtle humanity to the architectural and modular form of the neo-grotesque.

Accidentally grotesque

Like their kin the slab serifs, sans serifs became popular in the explosion of advertising in the early 19th century. Many of the early sans-serif type designs were quite heavy, which reflected their intended use in eye-catching headlines. But over the course of the century, type foundries developed a host of lighter weights and more text-friendly forms.

The one that everyone remembers is Akzidenz Grotesk, which was released by the Berthold foundry in Germany in 1898. (“Akzidenz” isn’t about accidents but about everyday tasks. Akzidenz­arbeit is “job-work,” such as the ordinary small print jobs that are the bread and butter of any small print shop.) Akzidenz Grotesk was actually a compilation of several existing sans-serif typefaces, reworked and marketed as a single family. With its horizontal and vertical strokes of almost the same thickness and its regularized capital letters with few variations of width, Akzidenz Grotesk stood out starkly on the page — especially when that page also included the highly-decorated types that were popular in the same era. Many other 19th-century German type foundries released similar workhorse sans serifs, as did their American contemporaries.

Sans serifs came into their own as potential text typefaces in the 20th century, under the influence of modernist design movements. The desire to be up to the minute and to reflect a modern industrial aesthetic led to the development of many new styles of sans-serif type, including geometric and eventually humanist sans. The grotesque style itself was revived, updated, and reworked many times, most notably in the two dueling sans serifs of the late 1950s: Helvetica and Univers. These mark the point at which we can start calling a typeface neo-grotesque.

Helvetica is an interpretation; Univers is a rethinking. Helvetica shares the simple, monoline regularity of Akzidenz Grotesk, but with a larger x-height and rigorously horizontal or vertical stroke ends. Although the Helvetica family is more rational than many of its haphazard predecessors, it has none of the systematic harmony that Adrian Frutiger gave to Univers when he developed that family for Deberny & Peignot.

Frutiger took the clunkiness out of the grotesque, gave it a well-woven texture that managed both to look smooth and read well, and organized the widths and weights of the Univers family into a single body with a numeric naming system that reflected their carefully modulated variations. The letterforms of Univers appear more refined, controlled, and deliberate than those of either Helvetica or the earlier Akzidenz Grotesk.

It was Helvetica, though, that captured the imagination of so many graphic designers and led it to be canonized as the epitome of modern, generic, unfussy typography. Helvetica was ubiquitous in the small typesetting shops of the 1960s and 1970s, in much the same way that those earlier grotesques had dominated the “job-work” coming out of turn-of-the-century print shops (and in much the same way that Arial dominates the everyday business documents of today).

Of course, this hasn’t stopped type designers from reworking the old grotesque – sometimes harking back to the perceived roots of the style, other times starting from scratch and re-envisioning it for the future.

Out of the Grotto

It’s easy to get confused by the terms used to describe sans-serif typefaces. What’s the difference between “Gothic” and “Grotesque”? And why do we use either of these words to describe something as stripped-down and undecorated as a sans serif letter?

The use of both of these as typographic terms comes from the 19th century, although both words are much older than that.

“Grotesque” was a term of art dating from Renaissance Italy, when an accidental excavation in Rome uncovered the halls of the emperor Nero’s ancient, unfinished Golden House. The ruins were by then so deeply buried beneath 1500 years of accumulated dirt and rubble that they seemed like underground caverns, or grottos. The walls of the uncovered rooms, corridors, and baths were highly decorated, in a style that was then unknown to the scholars of classical Rome but that had appealed to Nero: swirling vines and curlicues, fantastic figures both human and supernatural, and floral ornaments arranged in symmetrical, architecturally inspired surface patterns. The builders and decorators of 16th century Italy adopted these patterns and called them grottesche. By the 18th century, the light playfulness that initially characterized this style had developed into a heavier, darker form and became infested with exaggeration and distortion – closer to the meaning of “grotesque” that we usually think of today, with its implied sense of the malformed or monstrous.

Whether because the early sans-serif types were considered “monstrous” or because they echoed the stark lines of the ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian art that long predated Nero’s eccentric palace, the London type founder William Thorowgood, one of the early creators of sans-serif types, called his 1832 design Grotesque. (Other names were being bandied about for the new letterforms, both sans serif and slab serif, that were then proliferating in an explosion of advertising and job printing.) The name stuck, and it spread. As “Grotesk,” it became especially popular in Germany, where lowercase sans serifs were already being enthusiastically developed.

In the United States, which also adopted sans serif as a popular style, it was called “gothic,” perhaps for the same reasons that “grotesque” became popular in Britain. Most American sans serifs from the 19th century have “Gothic” in their names, and it’s not uncommon to read footnotes in typographic history stating that “gothic” is the preferred American term for “sans serif” – despite the fact that it doesn’t reflect contemporary usage, and today conjures up an image almost the opposite of what we think of as sans serif.

No one would describe a Gothic cathedral as sans serif in style or spirit. One possible congruence might be the form that many of the early sans-serif display types took: tall, narrow, dark, and blocky, which could have suggested towering Gothic cathedrals. Although medieval Gothic churches were soaring and airy inside compared to their Romanesque predecessors, it’s worth noting that the buildings of the Gothic revival in the 19th century — at the very time that sans-serif type was being invented — were in a much more ponderous style.


So what characterizes a grotesque typeface? What distinguishes it from a geometric sans or a humanist sans?

Besides having no serifs, grotesque typefaces usually have a blocky appearance, and the letters have squarely cut ends (whether cut obliquely or at 90°). The forms are closed rather than open; even when the counters are large, at the lighter weights, the apertures remain very small.

At lighter weights, grotesques appear to be monoline, but this doesn’t distinguish them from geometric sans or even from many slab-serif faces. At heavier weights, however, grotesques may show a strong contrast between the dominant thick strokes and the much thinner strokes or angles that are necessary at the joins. Although this subtle refinement lightens the effect of the merging strokes, it also allows the thick strokes to be even thicker; the effect is to give them a heavy, almost brutal appearance.

Grotesque typefaces are often somewhat condensed, and most of the capital letters are equal or near-equal in width, which is very different from the proportions of traditional Roman capitals.

There is usually a spur on the capital G; lowercase a and g may be either single-story or double-story. Grotesques generally feature lining figures, the same height as the caps. Commonly (though not always), the italic is a slanted roman.

A neo-grotesque takes these iconic characteristics and plays with them, either intensifying them or modifying them in some way. The idea behind most neo-grotesques is to make the form somehow more versatile, more up-to-date, while maintaining the functional appearance that makes grotesques so popular for everyday typesetting.

The focus — just as in the 19th century — is still on plain “job-work.”


Реферат на тему:




  • 1Использование
  • 2Фильм
  • Примечания


Гельве́тика (англ.  Helvetica) — семейство шрифтов класса нео-гротеск, относящийся к стилю шрифты без засечек.

Шрифт был создан на основе Akzidenz-Grotesk (1896) и Schelter-Grotesk (1880) в швейцарской компании Haas’sche Schriftgiesserei в 1957 году и первоначально назывался Neue Haas Grotesk. В 1960 году название шрифта пришлось изменить по указанию головной компании Stempel AG. Первоначальное предложенное название было Helvetia — Гельвеция, устаревшее латинское название Швейцарии, однако в итоге было принято Helvetica, что в переводе с латинского означает «швейцарская».

Сейчас шрифт принадлежит Linotype.

1983 — Компанией Linotype выпущен основанный на ранней Гельветике шрифт Нойе Гельветика (Neue Helvetica).

2001 — Компания Linotype выпускает Helvetica World — Гельветику с увеличенным количеством символов: в шрифт включены символы различных нелатинских алфавитов, а также псевдографические и математические символы. В общей сложности каждое начертание Helvetica World содержит 1866 разных глифов (символов).[1]

1. Использование

Helvetica является одним из наиболее широко используемых шрифтов без засечек. Существуют версии для следующих алфавитов: латинский, кириллица, еврейский, греческий, японский, корейский, хинди, урду, вьетнамский и кхмерский.

1.1. В логотипах

Гельветика широко используется в логотипах различных компаний. В частности, гельветикой набраны логотипы и торговые марки: 3M, AGFA, AT&T, BASF, Bayer, Blaupunkt, BMW, Energizer, GM, Husqvarna, Intel, Jeep, Lufthansa, Microsoft, Motorola, Nestle, Olympus, Panasonic, Placebo, Stimorol, Samsung, Sanyo, Texaco, Toyota, Zanussi.[2]

2. Фильм

В 2007 году был выпущен полнометражный документальный фильм «Helvetica», в честь пятидесятилетия гарнитуры.


  1. Max Miedinger, Font Designer of Helvetica — www.linotype.com/en/522/maxmiedinger.html  (англ.).
  2. Илья Рудерман Совершенные шрифты — www.sostav.ru/columns/dutch/2005/19/.

Brandon Grotesque






(63 votes, average: 3.63 out of 5)

Добавить комментарий

Закрыть меню