Blackletter

clare.holmes's picture

I know blackletter gets talked about all the time on here, and i'm sorry to bring it up again but i've just been doing some Steven Heller research on his writings on the swastika and blackletter ('Swastika chic' 'designing hate' and 'Hitler's children: Nazi iconography in contemporary design') and i'd like to know if anyone knows of any resources; books or online that provide an opposing view.

I'm also looking into the possibility of blackletter becoming fashionable due to a decorative revival, if anyone knows of any resources or has any opinions then i'd love to hear them.

Thankyou.

paul d hunt's picture

to attest to the fashionable aspect of blackletter:

http://store.shopbop.com/item.jsp?item=LAMB215&category=LAMB

clare.holmes's picture

when i saw that picture i thought, oh god someone else using blackletter in an 'anti' kind of a way, but when i had a look at the gwen stefani website it's actually (loosely) based on an illuminated manuscript. I'm not sure if i like it but it's nice to see someone do something slightly more positive than the snoop dog treatment that it usually gets.

http://www.gwenstefani.com

hrant's picture

This is the shortest -hence least abused- swastika-related thread I found, so...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4183467.stm _
One nice thing about this article is that it gives me an idea of how the swastika could embark on the (long) road to redemption: we could simply start calling the Nazi one Hakenkreuz. :-) I suspect we might be surprised how much of a difference a new name/distinction could make.

BTW, some nearly-useless trivia: Stefani is Armenian.

hhp

blank's picture

One nice thing about this article is that it gives me an idea of how the swastika could embark on the (long) road to redemption: we could simply start calling the Nazi one Hakenkreuz.

Redeeming the swastika by changing the name is sort of a lost cause. That would require explaining the root of the symbol and how the Nazis changed/misused it. By the time I get halfway through that lecture most people have stopped listening. Better to just let sleeping dogs lie and stick with the thousands upon thousands of symbols that aren't verboten in the Europe and North America.

cerulean's picture

I think the decorative revival theory is valid. Practically all of my ambigram clients want blackletter. They don't know what it's called, but they describe it as "fancy" and "sophisticated". I know this is in part because they think ambigrams have to look like the ones in Angels & Demons, but more importantly, I think they see value, and therefore class, in the decorative appearance of blackletter.

I think this accounts for the rapper usage too. Look at street culture's "bling" fixation. My guess is that their intention is not so much to choose an "evil-looking" font to look badass, but to choose a "fancy" font to indicate their wealth, just like all the gold chains, Cadillacs, and those flamboyant pimp clothes.

Geo Ben's picture

call me quixotic, but.... not all swastika forms are that ugly stamp used by the nazis.

geo.

hrant's picture

> That would require explaining the root of the
> symbol and how the Nazis changed/misused it.

I don't think that's how terminology works, or at least can work. Partly from my own experience (with "bouma" and "notan") my impression is that you can make quite a lot of headway -even all the way into the mainstream- simply by bullishly using a new term (especially if it's not really totally new) but spending a good deal of time explaining. Here's what I think would be a typical exchange:

You: The Nazis ... blah blah blah ... using the Hakenkreuz to ... blah blah blah.
Layman: What's a Hakenkreuz?
You: It's the Nazi version of the swastika.
Layman, version 1: Huh.

Layman, version 2: Why not just call it a swastika?
You version 1: A few reasons. One is that the swastika was actually an ancient symbol for good in many cultures, and we should try to clarify the difference. It's just good terminological practice. (Optional: And we should try to fix every single thing the Nazis ruined.)

Layman, version 1: You're trying to minimize the Holocaust aren't you?!
You: NEXT!

Layman, version 2: Huh.
You: Tell you what, let me show you some fraktur type...
Layman: Huh?

hhp

hrant's picture

Sorry, forgot:
The net result is that some people will let this sort of thing go in one ear and out the other, but some others will become receptive to the new term, or even pick it up themselves (among some people if only only to appear smart). And of course some people will hold it against you. :-/

hhp

blank's picture

You can find a pile of useful books on the subject by doing an Amazon search for Swastika. As for the fashion of reviving Blackletter, the topic has come up before, and it usually seems to end up with people realizing that Nazi use of Blackletter failed to make it taboo in the way it did the swastika. As someone else pointed out to me in a previous thread, the anti-defamation league and similar groups have not objected to Blackletter, so I think it’s safe to say the world does not care.

As for the swastika, I agree with Hrant, it is not worth the bother.

hrant's picture

> Nazi use of Blackletter failed to make it taboo in the way it did the swastika.

Not to the same extent certainly but the ill feeling is most
definitely still with us. Sometimes quite explicitly, like in
the writing of Heller. There's really no denying this.

> anti-defamation league and similar groups have not objected to Blackletter

And what do they say about fonts in general? Nothing. If fonts
became an overt PR tool, you bet they'd chime in against it.

> As for the swastika, I agree with Hrant, it is not worth the bother.

It's not worth the bother nominally for a typophile because we have bigger fish to fry. If I were a symbologist, or even just a graphic designer, I would try to bother. At the very least, even as a layman, I would be -and in fact am- opposed to the continued demonization of the swastika to the point of preventing uninvolved cultures from using it. What I'm getting at is that things like this shouldn't happen: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5268950.stm

hhp

hrant's picture

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