PLUMED HATS MODERN I o> u ABOUT five years ago display typo graphy was at the beginning of a very decided change. The change was made be cause other and greater changes were taking place. It was not so much a question of put ting Hamlet in modern dress, as it was of ringing up the curtain on a Noel Coward comedy suitably costumed. The word "stark" was beginning to creep into current use. German architects had brought to frui tion an idea of "constructivism" which they originally had from a Briton. German type founders had seen the sans-serif letter de signed by Johnston for the Underground, and had developed a new type style around it: typographers were beginning to realize that their customers did not want pretty ormolu decorations on their motor-cars, and that therefore an advertisement about a car could get on without the decoration suitable to a Lord Mayor's coach. Starkness became fashionable. Women's dresses were brief cylinders of cloth, as "constructivist" in the frank display of leg as Mr. Emberton's Olympia building was in the display of steel girders. All this is history: but what is inter esting to the typographer, and to the printer who must make investments in type for at least a year ahead, is the fact that the prevailing "starkness" was not reflected in a widespread vogue for sans-serif until it had been universally adopted for some time in feminine costume. At the present moment a change has come over feminine costume, more radical than any since the war. Men who had almost forgotten how ostrich plumes were pre pared for the market are hastily refreshing their memories. Men who had almost for gotten the sound of rustling silk are refresh ing their ears. Ladies in frills and furbelows are wondering whether aluminium furni ture is not a bit out of date. The fashion in typography remains "stark", but it is due for a change. CC <"N •O fN oo u ~o O u _Q cd O rd s X CD O The most interesting development of the year is made rather pathetic because it re presents a theory carried through with true German consistency just a little too late in the general scheme of things. The sans-serif letter had certain points of comparative illegibility (the word "Illegibility" is in it self an illustration of one of them. A seriffed I would look less like an 1). But normal serifs would not look "stark". Therefore we have a revival of ihe so-called Egyptian, a letter of unmodified thickness, which means the serif is, or appears to be, as thick as the main stroke. This type is sent forth from Germany with an in genious, but of course meaning less, comparison with the shape of a structural steel girder. The real advantage of Egyptian is the advantage of any other novelty, its unusualness, coupled with an almost fool-proof printing surface and, in small amounts of copy, very definite legibility. It is wearisome in the mass, like any other loo-obvious thing. The Bauer foundry, with its Beton in various well-adjusted weights, cleverly sur mounts the difficulty of three slab serifs at the base of a lower case m, etc., by making only one of the serifs extend both right and left of the stroke. The effect is annoying in large sizes, but definitely helpful below 14 point. Memphis from the Stempel Type- foundry has a very bad lower case a, and a semi-calligraphic f which is really a sans- serif letter. The light version reads well. The new Ludwig and Mayer Welt-Antiqua, known here as Luxor, is the most readable of all the new foundry Egyptians for the same reason that Gill Sans is the most read able sans-serif; because it is the nearest to normal roman in the shape of the letters. Ludlow Karnak also shows a calligraphic a and fails where most Egyptians fail, in try ing to make sense of the lower case y, but the effect en masse is effective. bjo KJ -Q tn CO CU CU H uo 10

Commercial Art / Art and Industry en | 1932 | | page 16