Futurist typography

spacecadetjoe's picture

I have recently fallen in love with the futurists. I love everything they stood for and everything they produced.

Does anyone know much about their typographic principles? Specifically, were there any futurist type designers?

I will post info i find in this thread as I continue to research.

blank's picture

I love everything they stood for and everything they produced.

You really need to do some serious reading and rethink that statement. Start with Benito Mussolini’s Wikipedia entry.

riccard0's picture

Personally I have never liked much futurism (and like even less the recent induced fad surrounding it).
That said, the only good way to look at it is, in my opinion, in the context of the various avant-garde movements of the start of the XX century.

dezcom's picture

The early 20th century brought a flurry of "isms" and "ists' to being. It was a time when mechanization, electricity, automation, and motor vehicles changed life dramatically. There never was a period where there was so drastic a change so quickly come about. The arts replied with various attempts at trying to either follow or lead the transformation of an agrarian society that had done everything by hand to the world of mass production, consumerism, and much more leisure time.
It was an exciting time and a confusing time. People interpreted it in various ways, one being Futurism. The concepts of time and motion were rethought and given some attempt at form. Remember that this time period also gave birth to the Theory of Relativity, Quantum theory, two world wars with the Great Depression sandwiched between and ultimately, nuclear weapons.


Nick Shinn's picture

It was an exciting time...

Any personal anecdotes, Chris?

dezcom's picture

Yes, Nick, while I was having lunch with Einstein and Bohr, Duchamp came by and bought a typeface from me :-)


spacecadetjoe's picture

Eh, puckett, i know they were all fascists, thats what I like about them. The profilo continuo del duce inspires me in a big way. Is that actually futurist? I don't think that one's actually futurist but its totally rad in any case.

Chris, that was a lovely contextualization of the movement but I am looking specifically for information on the way the movement influenced type. Did it? Are there any typefaces that could be called futurist?

I want a typeface with speed and violence and airplanes and **** getting shot and shit

spacecadetjoe's picture

whoa, auto-censor! ****=mother****_E_R_S

spacecadetjoe's picture

oh my god it saw right through my encryption and created an infinitely looping equation, this thing is powerful

dezcom's picture

There were no Futurist typefaces that I know of. Most of the movements of the time did not generate an actual typeface. Making typefaces in those years involved time, money, technical knowledge and therefore a connection to an established foundry. Young avante garde arty folks rarely could put that combination together then. Even the Constructivists did mostly hand lettering or linocuts. Bayer's work waited years before someone else made type of it. Renner spent years at it and required working with a foundry to finish the real work. The Futurists never made the cut though.


Nick Shinn's picture

Fregio Mecano.

spacecadetjoe's picture

thanks guys, that fregio mecano is really something

ncaleffi's picture

"Start with Benito Mussolini’s Wikipedia entry."

"i know they were all fascists"

Painting every futurist as Mussolini's servant is too simplicistic; Italy's cultural history is much more complex. For example, one of the most famous futurist book, a "latta" by F T Marinetti published in the 30's, was designed by Bruno Munari, one of the greatest XX century designer, a man whose democratic feelings can't be denied by anyone. The same can be said of many of the greatest designers belonging of the "futurist" era - the 20's and 30's decades - like Bertieri, Frassinelli, Mardersteig, Butti, Tallone, whose work cannot be related, in any way, to a totalitarian attitude. (As a sidenote, I guess that Futurism was much more an aesthetic than a political movement, but this is another matter; not that they hadn't political issues, anyway).

Regarding futurist typography, in a sense, Marinetti's aim was to create a visual complement to the "new century" milieu - something that could express the dizzy flush of trains, cities, machines, metal, industry, and so on. Most of all, it was a reaction against the old world of late XIX century bourgeoisie. Graphically, it was an experimental (and perhapes necessary) approach which, after the first enthusiastic times, soon lead to a more clean and traditional typography, towards the end of the '30's. I'm no expert in the matter, but it's difficult to find "typographic principles" in futurism, in a traditional sense; it was much more a matter of "us against them". Somehow, their approach (not different from other early century avant garde movements) resembles what happened in graphic design in the 80's with people like Neville Brody, David Carson, Rudy VanderLans.

It was also a great time for typefaces - besides more traditional stuff, in 1930 Italian typography spawned its response to Futura, Nebiolo's foundry "Semplicita":


riccard0's picture

designed by Bruno Munari, one of the greatest XX century designer

One of my favourite quotes from Munari goes something like this:
"I'm one of the few persons that can say to have a futurist past"

barthak's picture

I don't think there's really any futurist typeface, but there is:
futurist typography.

1985's picture


"Although in the early years of Italian Fascism, modern art was tolerated and even embraced, towards the end of the 1930s, right-wing Fascists introduced the concept of "degenerate art" from Germany to Italy and condemned Futurism. In 1938, hearing that Adolf Hitler wanted to include Futurism in a traveling exhibition of “degenerate art”, Marinetti persuaded Mussolini to refuse to let it enter Italy. In the same year he protested publicly against anti-Semitism, which was being copied from Germany by the Italian Fascists."


I'm not sure how strong this source is, but if true it does provide a shade of grey between the black and white.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Sorry about selfpromotion, but after reading this thread I remembered a font I made some years ago based on an old logo for Giro d'Italia. It was truly ugly; drawn with ruler and compass with no intakes or optical corrections. Therefore it was just so pretty I had to turn it into font.

It's not a universal style, but it still has a modernist character. Soon available from MyFonts.

Nick Shinn's picture

Futurist (and Dada) typography owed a lot to the messy magazine advertisements of the late 19th century, which expressed the random aesthetics of the new mass media.

X Ray Vision's picture

Futurism and Dada, may have in common the debt to messy magazine advertisments, but we musn't forget that although not all italian futurists were fascists, the sympathies of many lay with them, this does not invalidate the quality of the work and although Dada an Futurism shared certain aesthetics Dada was often absolutely critical and Futurism (at least in being instrumental to the creation of a fascist aesthetic modern an traditional at the same time was in that sense totally different). Let us not forget Russian Futurism, little did Mayakovsky, Malevich, Goncharova or El Lissitsky to name just a few to do with Marinetti, or Balla who allthough they shared with the Russians a love of modernity, machinery an dynamism weren't a bunch of italian neo-pagan counts who loved dressing sharp, driving fast Bugattis, betaing up anarchists and communists, instead considering themselves revolutionaries interested in world revolution and an international revolutionary art (a term open to interpretation in those days here are two points from the futurist manifesto which may make you look deeper into your "interest for futurism" which seems merely aesthetic. Heres a few pearls from their manifesto:

9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
!0. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.

Here you can read more.. http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html

Fregio Mecano is a great typography, I have not seen it used in fascist propaganda some is incredibly avant garde even by todays (poor standards) miles away from the "ancienne regime" style of other totalitarianisms including Stalin, miles ahead, and there's the sublime Bruno Munari... as in Spain where I'm writing from in the thirties the graphic arts were instrumental to political communication and many designers and typographers took sides. If you are still interested in Futurism there is a great book in Italian "L'arte de la Publicittà Il manifesto italiano e la avaguardie 1920-1940"....

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