Where is the Blackletter

Chris Washer's picture

Hey,

I am wondering what blackletter faces are usually used for. I should mention that I am from New Zealand, which is a very, very young country. The only time I see blackletter faces around here are for fashion labels (on the goth bandwagon) and heavy metal record covers. Or not-heavy-metal-record-covers that are being ironic. The covers are mostly foreign (i.e. American, British) anyway.

Oh right, and on newspaper titles.

So, where else arethey be used?

- Chris

Si_Daniels's picture

Christmas cards
Neo-Nazi web sites
Low-rider car clubs
Certain legal documents
Math

pablohoney77's picture

gang tatoos
diplomas and certificates
anything that wants to be perceived as German
and i've noticed No Doubt/Gwen Stefani have a love for blackletter.

a couple more things:
Special Interests: Blackletter
Critique: Blackletter

Chris Rugen's picture

Hardcore bands
Urban Outfitters

Chris Rugen's picture

And, of course:

White Castle logo

(Though this is probably just a U.S. thing. Since they don't have a website, I can't confirm this.)

rs_donsata's picture

Vernacular sign painting
Newspaper mastheads

thelring's picture

Where is the Blackletter?

I see the Blackletter.... the next title by Steven Heller (that can write the book this weekend, and publish it by Monday)

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

Lots of beer labels: dutch, belgian, and german ones specially...
Also several liquors use black letter in their labels.

pablohoney77's picture

maybe you could take blackletter and really make it New Zealand... I would love to see a hybrid between blackletter and some Maori motifs.

Si_Daniels's picture

Re. beer labels

Interesting press release a few days ago about redesign of a local brand...

http://www.happyhours.com/pressRelease_story.htm?&itemid=665

"The typography is a merger of new letterforms with ancient German type

Si_Daniels's picture

Re. beer labels

Interesting press release a few days ago about redesign of a local brand...

http://www.happyhours.com/pressRelease_story.htm?&itemid=665

"The typography is a merger of new letterforms with ancient German type

Diner's picture

You bet your buns they have a site! http://www.whitecastle.com/

:D

speter's picture

But those would be small buns, no? ;)

gargoyle's picture

Happily, Disneyland's logo has reverted back to the blackletter version in time for its 50th anniversary.

(Actually, the logo for the park never changed -- it was the logo for the entire "Disneyland Resort" that used the script/Futura combo, but now even the resort logo uses the blackletter instead. Yes, I'm a bit obsessive with this stuff.)

And didn't Full House star John Stamos buy the old Disneyland sign? Or is there more than one?

piccic's picture

Hey guys, about the use of the Blackletter I made a suggestion in the thread "Nazi Taint" (in the Typophile Forums

peter_bain's picture

I think blackletter belongs wherever it is found. Criteria for "good" use (and which typeface) are the same as for roman, italic etc.

Si_Daniels's picture

Reebok's new ad campaign - blacklettertastic

http://www.reebok.com/useng/default.htm

Si

kris's picture

Chris, check out some of Shane Cotton's paintings, he paints a very interesting blackletter in a stylised Mongrel Mob-ish manner:

http://www.gowlangsfordgallery.com/artists/atom/scott.asp?artwork=65

(top right, in the circular formation)

I have seen various examples of Maori art 'stylising' blackletter, it seems to be a very suitable letterform for that sort of work. There is some examples (I think) in the recent Treaty Signatures book.

Very popular for beer as well, Steinlager:
http://www.steinlager.com/

Right up your alley, being an Aucklander and all :-)

hrant's picture

And of course there's the fledgling blackletter=Evil=Muslim angle:

LipstickJihad

Huh, I wonder where that trend is coming from... Doh me.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

Dude, I have never seen any Blackletter=Muslim imagery, ever. That would just be whack (although it would be quite an interesting design challenge!!!). Now, Blackletter=Gangsta Rapper

hrant's picture

> I have never seen any Blackletter=Muslim imagery, ever.

Did you actually look at that cover?

As for some real insight into how and why Mexicans use blackletter, all you have to do is ask Mexican designers (they use the internet too, you know), Gabriel Martinez Meave having already expounded on this during the ATypI conference in Leipzig. They use it because they think the forms look cool, nada mas.

dan_reynolds's picture

Yeah, I looked at it. There's a first time for everything. And one can only respect Mexican designers who spec blackletter

pablohoney77's picture

re: Mexico.

I think that Mexico has a long-standing tradition of using blackletter. they probably got it from the Spanish as far back as the conquistadors. this is not based on any hard evidence, but just a hunch i have. i guess i should read up on the proliferation of blackletter.

eomine's picture

IIRC, blackletter is used in Mexico mainly for hand-painted signs and letterings. It's a 'vernacular' thing (see Hector's reply to this thread on March 23rd). I don't think it is more used in 'graphic design' there than it is in other places.

hrant's picture

Looking at that Reebok site, I got this idea: why not marry a revival of blackletter with all-lc setting? This might make sense on a number of levels: blackletter UC is (traditionally) illegible (to those who only know the Roman structures); German text has too many caps (at least many Germans think so); one reform will keep the other company, so to speak*. Noting that Otl Aicher set the German text in his Typographie in all-lc. <preempt>Yes, and in Rotis too...</preempt>

* Although I'm personally a huge fan of mixed-case text; I'm just thinking of an angle to break the ice (faster).

hhp

diego m's picture

As a mexican graphic and type designer I have to attest to the amazing multiplicity of blackletter in the country. The diversity and originality of the shapes and how they are used is quite inspiring.
It is used everywhere: bars, meat vendors, markets, clothing shops, ice cream or hot dog carts, street snacks, taxis, buses, restaurants, etc. etc.
I made quite an extensive photographic research, trying to figure out the exact meaning of it, like what exactly it is conveying, elegance? tradition? heat? but everytime I found an instance defying convention. I think it is something engraved in the Mexican subconscius.
Furthermore, the sign painters have not stayed stuck to the traditional model, of course. There are places where truly original designs are evolving (more jungle-like, funky, luscious)
It is so fun!
d

ah!, another funny thing. Corona's logo (the famous beer) is made with blackletter in Mexico, but not in europe (?)

mexican gothic lettering

pablohoney77's picture

I made quite an extensive photographic research

i'd love to see more of those fotos!

diego m's picture

As a mexican graphic and type designer I have to attest to the amazing multiplicity of blackletter in the country. The diversity and originality of the shapes and how they are used is quite inspiring.
It is used everywhere: bars, meat vendors, markets, clothing shops, ice cream or hot dog carts, street snacks, taxis, buses, restaurants, etc. etc.
I made quite an extensive photographic research, trying to figure out the exact meaning of it, like what exactly it is conveying, elegance? tradition? heat? but everytime I found an instance defying convention. I think it is something engraved in the Mexican subconscius.
Furthermore, the sign painters have not stayed stuck to the traditional model, of course. There are places where truly original designs are evolving (more jungle-like, funky, luscious)
It is so fun!
d

ah!, another funny thing. Corona's logo (the famous beer) is made with blackletter in Mexico, but not in europe (?)

mexican gothic lettering

diego m's picture

As a mexican graphic and type designer I have to attest to the amazing multiplicity of blackletter in the country. The diversity and originality of the shapes and how they are used is quite inspiring.
It is used everywhere: bars, meat vendors, markets, clothing shops, ice cream or hot dog carts, street snacks, taxis, buses, restaurants, etc. etc.
I made quite an extensive photographic research, trying to figure out the exact meaning of it, like what exactly it is conveying, elegance? tradition? heat? but everytime I found an instance defying convention. I think it is something engraved in the Mexican subconscius.
Furthermore, the sign painters have not stayed stuck to the traditional model, of course. There are places where truly original designs are evolving (more jungle-like, funky, luscious)
It is so fun!
d

ah!, another funny thing. Corona's logo (the famous beer) is made with blackletter in Mexico, but not in europe (?)

Dav's picture

The 'Corona' logo is set in blackletter in Europe as well, I think..
( At least in Austria it ( still ) is.. )

clare.holmes's picture

The corona logo is set in roman type in europe and blackletter in the rest of the world. Something to do with the war i think! but thats a whole different topic...
english/european
mexican/ the rest of the world

scripsit's picture

Hello everyone. First time poster. Interesting topic

dan_reynolds's picture

Welcome to Typophile, Don!

I certainly agree with you that Blackletter is a rich, and varied medium, which can be used just like any other tool for the right purpose. However, I disagree with two other things that you mentioned in your post.

First, the second world war has everything to do with the decline of blackletter as a used typeface style(s). Blackletter today serves a number of decorative roles in design and society. But pre-1930, it was used for a wider scope of design roles. Today, most Germans avoid Blackletter like the plague, because they associate it with Nazism (and people's assumptions are often more powerful and convincing that the truth). This reaction is especially true in younger Germans, in my experience, even among graphic designers (who should know their type history better).

Books just aren't printed with Blackletter types anymore, neither in Germany nor elsewhere. Blackletter may still be seen the world over (even in Germany, especially on things that are supposed to look old, or on beer labels), but it has been relegated to a much less significant, and more superficial place.

Secondly, it wasn't Claude Garamond in c.1540 who struck the death-blow to Blackletter as text in non-Germanic countries, but rather the duo of German printers and Italian patrons in the 1460s and 70s. Especially Nicholas Jenson (okay, he wasn't really German, but he was a Gutenberg apprentice in Mainz, I think).

The Italians never embraced Blackletter printing. Even their more-native Rotunda hands didn't get much press. The Renaissance Humanists wanted "Roman" looking letters. They actually got Frankish letters, but they couldn't tell the difference :-)

They never took to Textura or Schwabacher, like patrons in Germany (and Holland, England, Scandinavia, etc) were doing. And by the time that the Holy Roman Emperor commissioned the design of Fraktur, there was a stylistic split across Europe which would soon become ideological: Luther's works were solely printed with Schwabacher and Fraktur types, making them "Protestant" type. A southern Catholic would have used those letters for his books at his peril.

dan_reynolds's picture

In my above post, I generalized with the term "southern Catholic." I really meant the countries south of Germany, from 1517 onward.

I should point out as an additional aside that, in Southern (i.e., Catholic) Germany, Textura was still used during the Reformation and Counterreformation to set religious texts in Latin, and that was OK. After a certain point (I can't put a date on this), there wouldn't have been any "Protestant" stigma attached to any sort of lettering style within the German-speaking countries; I suspect that this was after the Catholic Church in Germany felt comfortable enough with the relative success of their Counterreformation.

However, were I a printer in Rome in the 1600s, I would not have tried printing anything for the Pope with Fraktur

hrant's picture

I think Jenson and company (not Garamont) did indeed have more influence on the demotion of blackletter than WWII. It's true that the Nazis were most responsible for reducing its usage (after having hailed it as the "true German typestyle"), but think about why they really dumped it: it was unsuitable to the needs of Empire; and only because of the pre-existing typographic situation, due to... the Italian Humanists! Mussolini would be proud. Heck, she probably would be today...

hhp

scripsit's picture

Hi Dan,

Thank you for your warm welcome. It is indeed a pleasure to find a website where one may indulge one's typographic interests with other knowledgeable "typophiles."

"I disagree with two other things that you mentioned

raph's picture

Don: no need to apologize or fear. This is exactly the right place for someone so passionately obsessed with type. Welcome!

hrant's picture

Don, great post.

> it also wouldn't have continued to be as dominant as it was

That's a good point.
So maybe if there is a glorious rebirth, it might partly be due to the depths it had previously sunk to!

Also, I think your pro-Garamond arguments hold water.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

I don't want to diminish Garamond's role in the development of typograpy, but I don't think that he had much of anything to do with driving Blackletter out of France. He made Serif types better

nadine_chahine's picture

Late arrival:

Blackletter is close in structure and concept to several kufi styles. I am attaching an example I found via google on:

http://www.kb.dk/kb/dept/nbo/oja/os/katalog-arabisk-islam/ara1.htm

Kufi sample

There's also this:
http://w3.uniroma1.it/studiorientali/arabistica/webgrafia/univers/

Note: Arabic Kufi started developing with the Islamic conquests and was quite developed by the 9th century.

dan_reynolds's picture

Note: Arabic Kufi started developing with the Islamic conquests and was quite developed by the 9th century

That puts Kufi way ahead of blackletter in terms of historical development! The first real blackletter hands were probably French texturas from c. 1100.

Your image posted above reminds me a lot of Irish manuscripts like the Books of Kells, Durrow, etc. While some of their pages were quite elaborately decorated and patterned (so much so that individual letters are hard to discern) other pages have large decorated letters against more neutral backgrounds. When I was studying art history, my professors believed that the Irish elaborate style

hrant's picture

Actually, a fixed pen angle is not required in "Western calligraphy" at all, although it does tend to be a norm in most hands from what I can tell. The three parameters are translation (movement in the Cartesian plane), rotation (of the pen) and pressure (which releases more ink, with the correct type of pen). In fact, even in hands that are based on a fixed angle you get the occasional exception (depending on the letter "skeleton" - think of the "z"), to avoid ungainly results.

BTW, there's quite an uncanny similarity between certain Celtic manuscript motifs and certain Armenian ones, including the famed knotwork... And from what I understand there are at least two scholars working to figure this out.

hhp

scripsit's picture

Regarding the similar characteristics between different writing systems

scripsit's picture

"I don't want to diminish Garamond's role in the development of typograpy, but I don't think that he had much of anything to do with driving Blackletter out of France."

A very curious opinion indeed! I wasn't going out on a limb here, merely reporting what is a commonly recognized bit of typographic history. And I wasn't just talking about France, but the majority of Europe. Here are just a few brief quotes from various sources on the matter. Many more can be found without much effort.


CLAUDE GARAMOND'S EFFECT ON BLACKLETTER:

"His roman letter forms won general acceptance in France and elsewhere and were a chief influence in establishing the roman letter as standard, in place of the gothic or black letter."

dan_reynolds's picture

Well, I can admit a mistake. Go Claude! He did do great work

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't always buy the "great man" theory of history. The quality of your quotes is somewhat second-hand, Don.
M. Garamond is a convenient myth, but I will need further convincing!

Perhaps the blackletter was already morphing towards a humanist style, via rotunda and a French equivalent of the "Montane" roman types.

rs_donsata's picture

Blackletter came to M

Cristina Paoli's picture

Hello everyone. I’m new here. I’m a mexican graphic designer studying an MA in Graphic Design in London. I’m so happy that I found this blog, because I been thinking on making my thesis exactly on fraktur type in Mexico!!!!!! This idea has been in my mind for a long time, but I always thought that no many people would agree. I would like to know why is such a Germanic element taken by Mexicans and completely changed in terms of what it imply.
Certainly by reading all your comments I been inspired. Thanks, and hope this conversation continues.

Syndicate content Syndicate content