East German Type Design

kick_wunder's picture

I've been doing some research on design and typography in Germany, roughly from just before the turn of the century until 1945. There seems to be a wealth of information on this topic. I have especially been happy with the fairly recent research on blackletter, a form that seems near and dear to many typophiles.
I am wondering now about type and graphic design after the wall went up, in East Germany in particular. I know you are very knowledgeable on type history; please forgive my ignorance in regards to this period in history. I am seeking sources of information, or interesting asides, that may be hard for me to uncover at first. Just to get started...
I am particularly interested in how individual designers fared after the wall cut them off from the greater design community.

david h's picture

Well, VEB Typoart was East Germany’s state-run type foundry (Dresden, 1940 -1990 +- ); and look for stuff by the type designer Karl-Heinz Lange — mainly the book Typoart Freunde.

Ivo's picture

Here you can find an interesting article about VEB Typoart and especially Karl-Heinz Lange. He was one of just a few type designer in the former GDR.

Tim Ahrens's picture

Did you know this one? http://www.typoart-freunde.de/

Also, if you can get hold of it, the book "typoart typenkunst" is a good resource. Plus Horst Bunke's book on Albert Kapr. Also, Kapr's "Kalligraphische Expressionen" and "Fotosatzschriften" and "Stationen der Buchkunst".

kick_wunder's picture

Thanks! I had read a little bit about this here:
but the ping article was really great.

Florian Hardwig's picture

I am particularly interested in how individual designers fared after the wall cut them off from the greater design community.

You really should have attended the ‘Typostammtisch’ meeting in Berlin last autumn! ;-)
Karl-Heinz Lange held an intriguing lecture about his 60 years as a type designer.

One of his stories was of how once Typoart had commissioned him to draw a typeface, similar to Hermann Zapf’s successful Optima. Lange suffered from pangs of conscience: he didn’t want to be regarded as a plagiarist, of course.
His hope was that his personal handwriting style would rub off on the design and make the letterforms look sufficiently unique. But he wasn’t really sure about that.

On the occasion of a family celebration, Lange got an exit permit to leave the GDR. He seized the opportunity and met with Zapf in Frankfurt/Main (West Germany), in order to show him his sketches for ‘Publica’. “After what felt like an eternity – it must have been 5 minutes”, Zapf gave his consent and shook hands with his East German colleague.


dezcom's picture

Terrific story, Florian!


typerror's picture

Florian... thank you for posting the Publica and Korger link. Hildegard is one of my favorite calligraphers and people know little or nothing about her. Kapr gave a bit of space in his Scripts book. Publica is a beautiful face and does in fact distance itself from Optima and resolves some issues that Optima had.


Florian Hardwig's picture

No problem.
Re Publica: It might be of interest to you that Karl-Heinz Lange and Ole Schäfer currently are working on revised and enhanced digital versions of some of Lange’s typefaces; Minima, Super and Publica among them. They will be published as PTL Minimala, Suprala and Publicala via Primetype, in the – hopefully not too distant – future.

[edit: Crap, it’s all covered in the PingMag article. ;-)]
Currently, Karl-Heinz Lange is working on new versions of five of his designs: Publicala, Suprala, and Minimala will be based on his Typoart designs Publica, Supra, and Minima and will be released by PrimeType, while Rotola and Diplom Antiqua will be released by Elsner + Flake.

Re Korger: You might know her Schrift und Schreiben, alsp published in English as Handbook of Type and Lettering. The linked article mentions another (then new) book about her work as a teacher at HBG Leipzig. Its details:
Hildegard Korger: Schrift und Schreiben im Unterricht, ISBN-13: 9783932865121. Published by Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig, 1999. 132 p.

typerror's picture

Got it, love it and look at it often. Will check into the other.


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