Bauhaus, but not in Bauhaus

Certainly Bauhaus and Avantgarde are the most common cases of LTypI (Lacking Typographic Imagination aka choosing a font because of its name for an application of that name).

ITC Bauhausstraße 2

It might disappoint you vastly but the initial Bauhaus manifest 1919 and most of their printed matter in early years were set in art-nouveau flavoured seriffed faces, in the case below Ohio by Schriftguss AG/Brüder Butter. Back then one had to content oneself with the fonts a printer had in stock.

Bauhaus Weimar 1919

Later the typefaces chosen better complied with the ideas of the New Typography:
a clear, modern, industrial atmosphere achieved with anonymously designed, rather dark Grotesque faces — stripped of all unneccessary decorative elements.
A font often used f.e. was Breite Halbfette Grotesk by Schelter & Giesecke, recently revived as FF Bau by Christian Schwartz. Others were Ideal-Grotesk and Venus, recycled in Monotype Grotesque.

Grotesk breit hfett Grotesk breit mager vor 1900

above: Breite Halbfette Grotesk by Schelter & Gieseke ca. 1895
below: Venus by Bauer, 1907 and Ideal-Grotesk by Klinkhardt, 1908 

Venus hfett 1907Ideal-Grotesk Seemann

But the typographic ideas of the Bauhaus, above all Herbert Bayer and Joost Schmidt, went further. The radical constructivist designs we now immediately connect with “Bauhaus” however were only carried out in drafts, drawings and lettering, never in a typeface.
Paul Renners Futura was clearly inspired by the concepts of the Bauhaus (see alternative letters) but came out not earlier than 1928. Then however it was accepted as the “type of our time”.


The typeface ITC Bauhaus is a design from 1975 by Ed Benguiat and Victor Caruso inspired by the ideas of Bayer, Schmidt et al, but it is not a revival of any Bauhaus design.

So, what typefaces should we choose to be more imaginative?

Typefaces like the ones used by the Bauhaus: for example
FF Bau, VenusMonotype GrotesqueBasic CommercialGothic 726ARS Region

Geometric, contructivist typefaces based on the design ideas of the Bauhaus:
AlbersBayer UniversalJoostErbarFuturaDessauNeuzeitNobelSuper and more Futura alternatives like Avenir, Faricy, Superla, Twentieth Century.

Also check out this Bauhaus-fontlist at FontShop.

  • Great article, Indra! I just have three questions…

    >Paul Renner’s Futura was clearly inspired by the concepts of the Bauhaus
    >(see experimental letters) but came out no earlier than 1928.

    Is there a written source (e.g., by Paul Renner himself, or maybe an interview with Paul Renner from a 1928–1933 German design periodical) that would justify this claim? I am not sure how influenced Renner was by the Bauhaus as an institution. Without any citations to back this up, I would feel comfortable saying perhaps that Renner and the Bauhaus were both inspired by a series of concepts that were making their way through European design at the time.

    In several pieces of secondary literature, for instance in Bauhaus Streit 1919–2009, authors have written that constructivist ideas did not become common at the Bauhaus until after 1922. Perhaps this later acceptance came about in part because of Theo van Doesburg’s (private anti-Bauhaus) classes at his studio in Weimar, and also perhaps because of the struggle between Itten and Moholy–Nagy.

    So the ideas behind Futura were making rounds through Europe before they got picked up by the Bauhaus. Perhaps they got to Renner via a different source, too? Of course, Renner was not a teacher at the Bauhaus. And I think that he only ever gave one single lecture there (?) (and I do not know in what year it was).

    >Then, however, it was accepted as the “type of our time”.

    While Futura was definitely very popular, and a run-away best-seller for decades, didn’t the “type of our time” claim come from Bauer, in their promotional materials for the typeface upon its release, or early thereafter? Futura may be the type of its time, but if this claim came from the foundry that made and sold it, then perhaps a different descriptor of its success would be more accurate.

    >Geometric, contructivist typefaces based on the design ideas of the Bauhaus:

    This ties into my first question. I don’t think that it is completely accurate to write that many of those typefaces were “based on the design ideas of the Bauhaus.” More correct might be “based on design ideas that were popular in the 1920s, and which also found support at the Bauhaus.”

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