sevenfingers's picture

Hello, a while ago I posted a typeface for critique in the display section, it was named Bastian Gothic Condensed http://www.typophile.com/forums/messages/29/868.html?1015663740

Anyway, I've been asked to display this typeface at a museum during an exhibition (strange indeed)along with an illustration and I decided to rename the typeface... I thought it looked sort of political in a 30's kind of way, communist or nazist/facist typeface, and I worked from that.

This is what I have got currently (I'm still working on it, this is just the illustration and the name of the typeface as you can see), and I'm wondering if I might get away spelling "politikal" like that, not entirely correct, but then there's a connection with the "party symbol" and the typeface name... even though politikat sounds strange :)


Any suggestions/criticism welcome, also on the illustration. I was going for the look of russian propaganda posters.

designalchemy's picture

Nice work, I especially like the flag and its icon. There is however two things I don't quite get, the K seems odd, and the @ after the type is a bit repetative with the @ already on flag. Can you elaborate on what this work means to you or exactly what your vision was.

designalchemy's picture

I thought you might find it interesting that there used to know a band from Santa Barbara, CA called "A Politik" back in the early 90's

glutton's picture

Wow -- very Shepherd Fairey.

My personal opinion is that a little cyrillic influence goes a long way. For instance, is the backwards "K" necessary? The font already looks very soviet.

The problem for me in using the portrait is that it doesn't really look like Russian propaganda art. It looks like a photo that someone hit with Adobe Streamline.

One thing the Constructivists did (Klutsis and El Lissitsky come to mind right now) was add design elements to photographs. That might be another angle -- have an illustrated background with the typography, but smack a B&W photo -- the granier the better -- in place of the illustration.

glutton's picture

But I like where you're going with it... I especially like the typeface...

sevenfingers's picture

Ok, thanks for the criticism. The K seems odd because it's mirrored, it was a last minute design decision (which indeed might be changed) because I wanted to have the cyrillic influence more apparent. It's not in the original typeface though, so it might seem odd.

As for the @, I wanted to have a connection to the flag, I thought of the @ symbol as the the "party symbol"... Like a swastika or the hammer & the I don't know what the other is called... cutter? (erm...)I can agree that it's a bit over the top though, I might remove it.

This was in fact semi traced from a photograph,
even though I didn't use streamline... (can't trust that damn program...) And I was after this look:


There's slightly more shading to it, something that the above miss, but still, I think it's fairly decent.

One thing I see in the original portrait is that it's a bit more "angular" or choppy if you like. As for the use of a b&w photo with high grain, yes, that would be nice, but it would kill my computer.

This is going to be printed at a huge size, about 2,5 - 3 meters wide (and then there's the typeface below...), so anything but native illustrator curves are out of the game.

Also, the type will be applied (where there's alot of white space) if it doesn't look cluttered, with mock up revolutionary political messages. Sort of like the soviet poster.

One thing I've noticed in most russian propaganda is the strong diagonals and 45 degree rotated text... I'll try that. :)

Thanx again.

glutton's picture


My feeling on the typeface was that it doesn't need the rotated "K" -- your typeface captures the right tone very clearly for me as-is.

sevenfingers's picture

Yeah, I got that. I was thinking of having a mirrored K as an alternative character before, but I designed lower case characters instead... So I'll remove that.

Btw, Anyone know what kind of printing options there is for a project like this? So far I've cut it up in pieces and printed it on several A3 sheets, and then put it back togheter. Getting a perfect fit of the edges when it's not a full bleed printout is real difficult though...

There's always the plotter solution, but it gets expensive. This is a no income project also, so I don't have all that much money to spend.

hrant's picture

> cutter?


Richard, this is very nice. Two buts:
1. It reads "politikat", which sounds like something Garfield might be accused of.
2. The Naziness of the flag is pretty strong. Be prepared to be called anti-Semitic, even though you're not. Solution? Unclear.


kraftie's picture

> One thing the Constructivists did (Klutsis and El Lissitsky come to mind right now) was add design elements to photographs. That might be another angle -- have an illustrated background with the typography, but smack a B&W photo -- the granier the better -- in place of the illustration.

The above original soviet piece was obviously a hand-drawn illustration (vs. photograph) and the whole poster was likely a serigraph (is that right, i dont know?).

Anyhow, I would suggest hand tracing the image of the man in your poster, scanning it, and then coloring the elements on your computer. Maybe that would give it a more authentic look?

sevenfingers's picture

yeah, sickle. Had it in the back of my head (well... then I would be dead.)
It does read as Politikat, already stated that in the first post... And I hate Garfield, so maybe I should just change it :)

The Naziness is indeed intended. I wanted a political design that was strong and controversial, and the swastika flag design suited it really well. I'm definitly not a nazist, so that's not the reason. I have always thought of this typeface as a "dictatorship styled" one, pick anyone you "like", cuba, russia, germany - they all have great graphic design (especially communist russia and nazi germany)
and that's what I'm mimicking.

As for Kevin's suggestion, I'm (as previously stated) staying away from bitmapped stuff. It would be unworkable on my computer. (If I had a choice I would make it in Illustrator and run it over in Painter with some clonebrushes, it does wonders)

Joe Pemberton's picture

It has the impact appropriate for the era but I
think the signals are mixed. (Communists and nazis?)
Unless that's the statement you're making, then by all

It reads 'politika' to me... for what it's worth.

sevenfingers's picture

Actually, my personal belief is that the extreme parts of the political scale, left or right, meet.(think of it like a circle...)
So, you could say that it's part of the message,
even though I wasn't aiming for that specifically, I just wanted it to look politic... in an uncomfortable way.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I'm reading it the same as the others: POLITIKAT
why not just have it be POLITIK and use the symbol
as you have intended. It seems a bit redundant to
have it twice in the same space.

Another concern is the appropriateness of the appropriation.
Hummm... Does that make sense? I highly doubt
the German Nazi party would want (would have
wanted) to be bundled together with the Russian
Constructivists or the Italian Futurists. If I remember
correctly they may have seemed to have similar goals, but
weren't their
goals as political parties intrinsically much
more divergent? (Sorry off-topic) I think the
idea of a photo is great, if only to avoid
mimicing too closely the other poster shown.

Maybe this article is off-topic as well. Oh well,
I do that all the time. "Design and
Appropriation: The Transformation Of Meaning in a
Global Market" by Enid Schildkrout:


I've typed this. It might be wrong. But I'll send it anyway.

perhaps, with the fat boiled off, i'm simply agreeing
with Joe.

sevenfingers's picture

Why would I care what hitler wanted? I'm not sure he would want a black person as the leader of the party either... so, again, it's supposed to be a mockup political poster with inspiration from both right and left.

A side note, I've heard Hitler had a such a love for fraktur (don't know in english... sorry) typefaces that he forbid the use of anything else in official german propaganda, this might be bollocks, but it is sure interesting from a readability view.

as for the @, congratulations Tiffany, you get to be the final voice for the removal... I'm doing it as I type.

Thanks again.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Maybe I was being too much of an historian. I do like the idea of it.

Sidenote: Hitler preferred Fraktur at first and then decided against it and forbade the use of it. See: Blackletter : Type and National Identity


sevenfingers's picture

That was more than I knew.
I read about his love for blackletter (thanks) typefaces in a swedish magazine called "Cap&Design", I think it's a sister magazine to "Print" in the UK (or US)...

Interesting links by the way, I'm building up my library with typographic books, but there are few shops that carry anything worthwhile in Sweden.

I did find an antique shop that only sold books on typography on the net, I'm going to pay them a visit when I go to Stockholm.

hrant's picture

Basically, the initial promotion but subsequent demotion of Fraktur in Nazi Germany had everything to do with politics - just like almost any other such case, like Ataturk's conversion of Turkish from Arabic to Latin.

> it is sure interesting from a readability view.



sevenfingers's picture

I can agree to a certain extent Hrant, but the overly decorated blackletters (mostly UC) can at times be unreadable. I'm not sure I've seen a blackletter typeface that was used during the Nazi period though, so this might or might not apply.

hrant's picture

The fraktur UC is indeed a mess. But the lc is stellar.

BTW, the samples of blackletter that we tend to see today are like circus performers. The *real* text fonts are boring to most people, so nobody these days bothers to bring them up. Even the incomparable "Type and National Identity" is virtually 100% display designs. Whereas the fraktur seen here
is from a mainstream novel printed in 1910.


glutton's picture

This is irrelevant, but the Nazis considered themselves socialists, so they might be considered akin to communists -- it's not like Joe Stalin didn't happy utilize many of Hitler's methods against his own people. Although I think everyone would rather be considered the Nazis diametrical opposite.

Another good story about fraktur typefaces is their appropriation by ghetto (especially Latino) culture! There is a jacked-up Prelude outside my apartment that says CHI-TOWN in blackletter on its side. The rapper Tupac had THUG LIFE tattooed in blackletter on his belly.

(Sorry for the segue, Richard)

sevenfingers's picture

Yes... As the precursor to the Nazi Party, Hitler joined the right-wing Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP) in 1919. The party espoused national pride, militarism, a commitment to the Volk, and a racially "pure" Germany. He later gained leadership and changed the name of the party to the National Socialist German Workers' Party, called for short, the Nazi Party (or NSDAP. Maybe not your everyday definition of a socialist party, but still...a worker's party.

As for fraktur typefaces and "ghetto"-culture... It's damn interesting. I want to know more.

plainclothes's picture

John, you must be somewhere in my region... Southern California? blackletter has been huge with the rather troublesome Latino gang culture down here for over a decade (I'm not sure when the trend began).

one of the more mainstream evidences of this is all of the LA Raiders (football team) paraphenalia floating around with blackletter type. this stuff was almost a marker for gang activity when I was growing up. in fact, numerous schools in the LA region banned Raiders clothing on campus because of the problems surrounding the hordes wearing the stuff. I'm not sure how the Raiders logo came to use blackletter as it has virtually nothing to do with Los Angeles -- but it sold some serious volume!

hrant's picture

> appropriation by ghetto (especially Latino) culture!

Yup. And actually by some straight-laced designers in Mexico City even! At the ATypI Leipzig conference, during a panel discussion about the future of fraktur, Gabriel Martinez Meave* indicated his bewilderment at the social (read: anti-social) baggage that germans ascribe to fraktur by saying something to the effect of: "Hey, we do a lot of blackletter lettering in Mexico, and we don't even know where it comes from, we just like the way it looks."

* A fantastic designer, BTW:


j_hisekaldma's picture

> the demotion of Fraktur in Nazi Germany

From what I've read, the change in policy was made beacause people in the annexed states were unused to Fraktur type, and had difficulties reading it.

> antique shop that only sold books on typography

Richard, that sure sounds interesting! You wouldn't mind pointing a fellow Swede in the right direction?

sevenfingers's picture

Så ja :)
Noticed it wasn't only typography... still, the only store I've found in Sweden so far.)

Miss Tiffany's picture

Below is basically how I remember it from the Peter Bain, Paul Shaw book on Blackletter. Although this word "Kurrent" isn't familiar.


"Why the German script disappeared: After the
turn of the century, Kurrent, much like its
printed counterpart Fraktur, declined in
popularity. As German society became more
cosmopolitan, the national style of writing was
viewed as antiquated and ugly. Consequently, the
humanist Antiqua, both in its printed and written
form became more and more fashionable. This, of
course, changed with the rise of the Third Reich.
Antiqua and Latin script were declared
"Un-German" and "non-Aryan". Only the Fraktur and
Gothic typefaces were to be considered "German".
The result of this policy was that during the
following eight years many perverted forms of
Gothic and Fraktur were designed, some of them
contemptuously known as "Schaftstiefel Grotesk".

johnbutler's picture

I attended that discussion in Leipzig, and will repeat my comments here, because I feel it is very important.

It is wrong to let some pathological subculture or political movement appropriate a style of lettering that developed over centuries. The fact that Christian Death or Storm Front choose to enlist someone else's hard work (e,g. a type design) in the service of their own cause or beliefs should not soil the type itself, especially when the original designer died over a century ago!! Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin's analysis as it appeared in the Bain/Shaw monograph, while a good compendium of illustrations, is in my opinion way off. Those designs should be celebrated and judged on their aesthetic and technical merit and not on what some 25-year-old bigot in an Oi band still living with his parents does with them. The increasingly neurotic impulse to suppress "dangerous ideas" so common in Germany today serves only to give those ideas more power.

People speak of a "Nazi aesthetic." THERE IS NO NAZI AESTHETIC. They plundered the aesthetic of the times just the same as they plundered Jewish property. To insist any differently is to give them credit they never deserved.

There are, however, a number of "Constructivist"-looking textura-grotesk hybrids that were inspired heavily by the aesthetics of the early Nazi and pre-Nazi era, mainly Tannenberg and Element, and whose advertisements leveraged the prevailing Nazi sentiment of the times, appropriately labeled "Schaftstiefelgrotesk." They are used today mainly for satirical purposes when someone wants to paint someone else as a Nazi (enter Godwin's Law.) And yet, all the anti-Nazi paranoia in Europe isn't enough to stop the EU giving money to The Amazing Exploding Palestinians in their effort to once again "protect" the world from der ewige Jude. Full circle in just sixty years.

You can get the black weight of Tannenberg from Dieter Steffmann's site www.steffmann.de for free, and you can buy the lighter and bold weights from www.fraktur.com, Delbanco Frakturschriften. Again, I presume any use would be for sharply critical/satirical purposes.

The best selection of blackletters available in one place is Dipl.-Ing. Gerhard Helzel's site www.romana-hamburg.de. In addition to his impressively cerebral list of hobbies (Latin, oil painting, electrical engineering, and writing erotic novellas) he offers over 300 digitized blackletters for sale, many unavailable elsewhere, with lots of ligatures and alternates including the important but oft-forgotten half-r. He puts a ch ligature in the c slot, so have your FontLab handy if you choose to buy.

Another source is FVL GbR, www.fraktur.de, from whom I recently bought the narrow alternates from Koch's Wilhelm Klingspor-Schrift and a few others. The exact relationships between these companies and the large foundries like Linotype and Berthold are not always clear, but from conversations that I've had with the one larger foundry, they're not that interested in reviving more old blackletters, because they simply don't sell enough to justify the investment required to digitize them, so these companies are generally not a concern to them, and in some cases they have reached an understanding. I hope to get a better handle on just who is and who isn't considered a pirate in these four cases, since there are some overlaps with commercial fonts on the glyph level if not on the font level.

On my own site, I have a growing directory of commercial blackletter designs offered by several foundries, large and small. Visit


The page will get a formatting upgrade in the next month or so. Anyone here with a commercial blackletter design who wants to be listed can mail me at john@eccentrifuge.com. The point of the site is to introduce font consumers to the lesser-known blackletter designs out there. Opinions are appreciated.

Finally, in regard to your design, my impression is that you disapprove of (pardon my ignorance) whatever group it is that you're depicting. If that's your intent, than the execution is flawless.

johnbutler's picture

Another thing... the bit about Hitler not reading Antiqua is incorrect. It was actually Bismarck who said that, one war prior. "Deutsche Bücher in Antiquaschriften lese ich nicht," I believe is how it went. The Nazis killed blackletter. If we're to be consistent, we should not associate Nazis with blackletter but rather with its absence. More blackletter, please.

hrant's picture

Although I personally don't appreciate your political jab about Palestinians (I grew up as a Christian in the Lebanese civil war, so please trust me when I say that the situation is much more complex than anybody west of Athens can easily comprehend), I do remember your participation during the Q&A in Leipzig very well, and thought you were right on (along with GMM), and I'm glad to see there are others who thought YSS view was way too negative (in spite of her superb presentation and great erudition).

The shapes are the shapes, and as much as it's our duty to learn from the past, it's also our duty not to let it ruin our future.

More blackletter, yes!


sevenfingers's picture

Ok, enough about Hitler... Here's the finished print! :)


Nevermind the picture quality or me in the bg, I'm simply there as a size comparison :)

hrant's picture

Which of course means that you now have to reveal you height... ;-)

BTW, looks totally class.


sevenfingers's picture

Thank you

I'm about 175 cm, so I'm below average height I guess.

But it's still huge, I couldn't fit it in my car, so I had to borrow my fathers Range Rover. :)

hrant's picture

Don't worry, you're slightly taller than me.
(Although I'm Armenian so I have an excuse...)

> I had to borrow my fathers Range Rover.

Now *that* is a culture clash! :-)


glutton's picture

Looks great -- Richard, how did you print it?

sevenfingers's picture

It's printed on a large format ink jet...
I was surprised by the quality :)

Thanks guys, I think it will be a hit during the exhibition. It's hard to miss :)

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