Tiffany Wardle Memorial Liveblogging™ of a presentation at ATypI Brighton 2007 (q.v.)

This big bald German – really, you can pretty much wrap it up right there – designed Fago (worst name of a typeface ever), Officina weights, Info. Is about an extremely little-known designer from the GDR. He comes from type lettering, not only handlettering. Karl-Heinz Lange. (Shows early templates to teach you to draw your own typefaces on a grid. Some very bold and expressive from the 1960s.) But this is not what you saw at the Helvetica film, but this is very different. I think different will make it. Readability is important, but some things have to be different. (Shows VW vans hand-decorated.)

Wrote a 28-page book, 1963, on how to draw typefaces. Construction diagrams. But he just needed 28, not the several hundred pages, to show it to people who had never heard of typography and should be able to draw things on their own. Constructed sansserif typefaces. Quite interesting because a lot of things are based on it, even the supergrotesk, which is basically very common – Futura is based on such sketches. There’s no need to search for these fonts; you can draw them on your own in simple ways. Shows a handlettering one with a capital ß. We still discuss this form now. It is available to be put into Unicode. A few issues later, he had to throw it out because people didn’t want to see it because it was too modern; today it’s still modern.

How to draw typefaces with stencils. This is a very easy weight and it looks very find. Constructed serif typeface [a didot], and a hand-drawn one. This is very close to his own handwriting. His typeface Publica is very close to this.

I met Lange I guess i 2004 in Leipzig. All the fonts from the former DDR type designers are still not published because someone has the rights. Nobody knows where the rights are that allow you to publish it. And we sat together and said, let’s work on your typefaces. He said: I never thought of it. I thought they were dead a already. Let’s do it, and let’s throw out all the things that I don’t like before. So we started. It was the first time the typeface Minima was published, in the book Fotosatzschriften, 1989, a very short time before the GDR becomes unified. This is one Lange typeface, Magma, based on the lettering from Herbert Thannhaeuser. Lange was born in 1929. He’s still working with computers. This is Super grotesk, very often used in the GDR; there’s still a hot-metal version that is used. Very special form drawn for phototype.

This is the one that he loves most, Publica. He was asked to do an Optima typeface for the GDR. He doesn’t want to copy Optima, and he even went to Zapf to see if these drawings are not too close to Optima. He said it’s OK, they’re close to your own spirit. And this is what Lange likes most.

This is Minima. He drew this typeface in 1982 and the fist release was as a phototype with only book and bold weight in this catalogue in 1989. It could become the most read typeface in the GDR if the GDR hadn’t stopped using it. This is one copy of the final version. In the GDR, they didn’t have much time t spend on corrections, so Lange was allowed to make only three proofs, os therefore his need to draw it new. This is the bold.

Therefore, it’s used. It’s the Berlin telephone book from East Berlin in 1989, but they were not distributed because there was no East Berlin. A lot of typeface designers dream about to draw a typeface for a telephone book because it’s very complicated and very interesting, but when this came out there was no GDR and the typeface was really dead. (Shows illos.) He was asked by a bible producer to think about readability, and how they can use new typeface with fewer pages. He just make the searches, and they ask him, do you know someone who can draw the typeface? Well, can do it. And therefore he did it for a bible and then a telephone-book typeface. Very high x-height, very unique forms [like descending f, angled crossbar of e].

(Shows construction drawings.)

So what we did is, these are the sketches from the original prints. These are the planning that Lange drew himself, even a black and a condensed. First we decided to make more weights. We made it more strict, clearer, because the normal weights and the normal styles are very clear. We also did it in the italic typeface. (Shows that Publica and Mimina italics are too similar.) We throw out all these parts from phototype, because there’s no need to do it like that. The final is PTL Minimala with 84 styles, coming out at the end of the year. (Had to totally draw it anew.) Drew in 1982. Lange won a silver medal in Czech Republic. But nobody ever used it; it’s the same with all his other typefaces.

What’s next? Cyrillic, Greek, because he speaks Greek and Russian. It’ll be called Publicala. We probably won’t release the light one in the first step. Next, Superla, the supergrotesk. He made a version for Typo-Art hot metal. [Looks just like Flyer.]

(Shows photo of K.-H. and Gunter Gerhard Lange, but they aren’t brothers.) (Shows some his own other fonts. He just finished the Heidelberg printing typefaces, but can’t show them to us.)

(I asked what happened between him and Spiekermann. I cannot tell you that, he said, then continued and said: When you get involved with a big type designer, at some point you have to break off on your own. You can’t start just from zero; [by implication] you can do your learning on the job with the big company, but you have to redraw things once you separate. Don’t be angry if people separate from you. Because you have to show them everything. All the things you know are open for everyone. You can show it to people. People will not steal your work; they will find their own way if you teach them.)

(Q. from man about Bell Centennial and Gothic: Your view about legibility, sensitivity? Totally different. First, it’s the view of Lange. He drew it in the GDR and it was very separate. But it was not made for telephone books but for bibles. But it’s still the same: It’s a big book with a lot of text in it. We know Bell Gothic, but he tried to find out how condensed he could make it so the width of capitals is more open than normal letterforms. It becomes my typeface partly, but it’s still his.)

(There was only one typefoundry in the GDR. It became Typo-Art. He worked as a book designer for very small libraries.)

(The -la suffixes in the names are for Lange to separate them totally for any rights.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.09.14 10:48. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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