Bauhaus period fonts that inspired "Avant Garde"

akira_takiguchi's picture

Dear forum members,

I am interested in historical aspect of various fonts.

I read that Avant Garde Gothic was inspired by Bauhaus design ( ).

I would appreciate it if someone can provide images to show similar font design from 1920's-1940's.

Thanks in advance,

Akira Takiguchi akira.takiguchi at

oldnick's picture

The lineage, simply, is Paul Renner's Futura was adapted as Twentieth Century by Sol Hess was adapted by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase as Avant Garde Gothic.

eliason's picture

But see also Herbert Bayer.

William Berkson's picture

Oldnick, I don't know the story, but I don't think that's quite right. Twentieth Century is indeed a Futura knock-off or adaptation, but Avant Garde is to me quite different in feel. It is generally wider, has much shorter ascenders, and has the distinctive very wide CG and ce --which to me are hideous, but that's beside the point.

Mark Simonson's picture

I've always wondered if this influenced the design of Avant Garde:

I remember seeing lettering on a poster (for skiing?) from around the same period that looked similarly like a precursor to Avant Garde.

david h's picture

Steven Heller - ‘Crimes Against Typography.’ AIGA: AIGA Journal of Design. 4 August 2004.

Heller - “Herb Lubalin: Type Basher.” U&lc 25 (Summer 1998): 8-11.

John Berry - ‘Avant Garde, Then and Now.’ Creative Pro: dot-font. 4 May 2003.

Philip Meggs,- “Two Magazines of the Turbulent ‘60s: a ‘90s Perspective.” Print 48 (Mar-Apr 1994): 68-77.

akira_takiguchi's picture

Thank you very much for comments. Heller's articles mentioned by David are titled aggressive and I would love to obtain a copy (if possible).

"Herbert Bayer" looks visually an ancestor of "ITC Bauhaus".

My cause for the question is the image below, which I suspect is a postwar faked stamp on a military jacket.

Looks similar to Avant Garde but certainly "R" and "1" is different. Thus the query.

mk2's picture

MOMA published a book about Bauhaus recently.

oldnick's picture

@William Berkson:

Twentieth Century is a precursor to Avant Garde because, unlike Futura, it is a monoline face. Avant Garde, likewise, is monoline, but renders all of the letters in pure geometric shapes. The larger x-height and shorter descenders was an ITC trend in many of their revivals.

Jackson's picture

That's a great poster, Mark.

Mark Simonson's picture

Jackson: I think it is actually a book cover.

Nick: Are you sure about that? To quote Mac McGrew (referring to the metal version): "Twentieth Century is Monotype's copy of Futura, and in display sizes is essentially an exact copy, while composition sized are only slightly modified." If you showed both faces side by side with no labels, I doubt if anyone could tell which was which. The only obvious difference I can see are the quote marks. I could accept Vogue, which is more geometric and monoline than either Futura or Twentieth Century, as a more likely influence on Avant Garde.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

The Bauhaus-guys were really into using ‘building blocks’, which accounts for the geometric look of a lot of their products. Historically the use of geometric forms goes back to the days of Albrecht Dürer, but in the case of sans serif more specifically to the golden age of lithography (the latter half of the 19th century).

Lithographic artists used books with samples of lettering where the more modern forms of lettering (sans) were often based upon geometric forms. A later pendant for this are the guides for painters (meant are house painters who often doubled as sign painters) who were also trained in painting letterforms starting out with geometric forms. I have seen samples in the historic village of Enkhuizen in the NL. And there are also sample books in the same lieu for stone masons, architects and so on.

. . . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

stee85's picture

You should look an David Quay
Particularly Architype 1, Architype Renner, Here it shows some of Paul
Renners experiments with old figures and alternative character design,
which did not translate into Futura.

There is also some interesting info on other Bauhaus members.


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