Yet another chimerical font: A decent OpenType Futura

NiceTry's picture

This is another puzzling font problem. I am trying to find the following, without success:

An OpenType version of Futura, or a typeface similar to Futura, that includes small caps, text figures (and possibly 3/4 height numerals), alternate characters as originally designed by Renner, and an italic/oblique.

• DTL Nobel and FB Nobel are only available as PS, and do not include the SC/OsF.
• FF Drescher Grotesk has OpenType, but I don't see any SC/OsF.
• FF Super Grotesk is great, but no OpenType.
• EF Futura Pro (via Veer) has everything, but there's no italic/oblique available(?)
• URW Futura Pro (from Monotype, because the URW site is unusable) seems to have it all, except for some inexplicable reason the Small Caps are sold as a separate OpenType font.

Am I missing something, or is there a huge, gaping hole in the 100,000+ font galaxy?
Please suggest some alternatives if you can think of any. I am going for the simplistic, engineered, geometric look of the normal weight and width of Futura, evocative of an unassuming, utilitarian time -- not the Big 80's 'Just Do It' crap, or Cingularesque Avenir look-alikes. If there is something slightly more exotic, á la Nobel or Super Grotesk, that would be even better.

dan_reynolds's picture

What about Avenir Next? It has all of what your looking for, except the Renner alternate letterforms.

dave bailey's picture

Did you consider Avenir Next?

Bah, too slow...I should've figured the Linotype employee would get the reply out faster than me. :o)

John Nolan's picture

Lanston's Twentieth Century has the alts, but not the oblique.

dan_reynolds's picture

Yeah David! What a double post!

John, I had not seen Twentieth Century before. That looks sweet! I wonder how its alternates compare with the other alternates.

Grot Esqué's picture

Futura ND. I thought they promised the Opentype version last November…

NiceTry's picture

Avenir Next is very nice.
Is there anything else I'm missing?

The Foundry's Renner Architype also has all the alternates, but they are scattered in the open slots of the PS font, so they must be inserted manually.

Miguel Sousa's picture

Not really a geometric, but Gill Sans Pro has quite an extensive set (including Small Caps).

brampitoyo's picture

Along the lines of Gill, why not try Johnston Sans? It's hardly used, too.

But whatever Futura it is that you'll pick, make sure that it has uncompromised geometric features (e.g. a perfectly round "O"). Herr Spiekermann talked about this a year ago, I think.

brampitoyo's picture

On my defense of the consideration of your using Gill Sans, it is -- pardon the paradox -- both Humanist and Geometric, right?

NiceTry's picture

I would say it is the first Humanist, designed as a retort to Geometric forms but undeniably owing a debt to them.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Gill is not a geometric sans. I'd say you can only consider it a humanist sans.

dezcom's picture

What about Mark Simonson's Proxima Nova?


brampitoyo's picture


I was speaking in context of Gill Sans' capital characters. Aren't they based roughly on classical proportion (unequal bowl on 'B' and such), which in itself was based on basic geometric forms? I find this fact to be the only similarity between Gill Sans and Futura -- hence my defense on its usage.

How different is their capital from Grotesk? Grotesk's character widths are more similar between each other and is, in a sense, less geometric.

Have a look at this:

First line: Trajan
Second: Futura
Third: Gill Sans
Fourth: Akzidenz Grotesk
Fifth: Univers

mwebert's picture

Freight might also be worth considering...


// love what you do or do something else. //
Michael Ebert -- graphic designer, jazz saxophonist, horror movie devotee

NiceTry's picture

That's weird, Futura seems to have more in common proportionally with the Roman caps (Trajan?) than Gill. Perhaps that explains why the Futura caps always set so nicely when letterspaced generously. I always perceived Gill's capitals as being more closely related to incised capitals, I believe he had some experience cutting letters into stone.

Just noticed this came out:

Says it has something to do with the type on the 'Goog. I believe it was Nobel that was cited as the type on the outside of the structure, so this would be an improvement over the available versions of Nobel, as it has 3/4 height numerals and alternate characters. But unfortunately it has no small caps, and is slightly ovoid. I know this is basically a post to myself, but thought others might be interested in Verlag -- has all the genuine looks of circa 1950, but with the nice typographic touches of 2006. Except for the small caps thing.

brampitoyo's picture


Paul Renner himself stated that Futura's capital was designed to be in proportion with its Roman counterpart. The thing that nobody notices is that Roman capitals was geometric in construction because it was built on Golden Proportion and such.

So a humanist sans that is based on Roman capital proportions should also, in some sense, be geometric. It seems counterintuitive, but there you go.

Speaking of which, Mr. Gill was a stonecutter; and the example that I used -- Trajan -- was a rendition of stone inscription.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Just so. In the semi-geometric sans serif I've been working on (like, forever), the cap proportions were initially quite closely based on Trajan proportions. Of course, that still leaves some interesting questions: for instance, how you handle really heavy weights.


patricking's picture

i've been kinda into the futura that's installed with OSX, actually. it's not bad. i checked out the company who cut it, and they have a (fairly pricey) OTF version; company's called neufville digital. hard to find and hard to buy, of course. complete package is sold here.

dezcom's picture

"how you handle really heavy weights"

I have the same issue with a not-so-geometric sans I have been working on. The heavy weights don't allow for narrow and wide proportions in the same font with a monoline weight. You either have to increase contrast as weight increases or widen the narrower letters to avoid plugging counters. The caps are the toughest glyphs to make work for me.


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