BERLIN — de la lettre peinte au cara­ctère typo­graph­ique | From Let­ter­ing to Type Design | Von Schrift­malerei zu Schriftgestaltung


»Towards the middle of the 1980s, Ver­ena Ger­lach, a Berlin-born adoles­cent, reg­u­larly crossed the con­trol post on Friedrich­straße to visit a friend liv­ing in the east of the city. She star­ted to note and to mem­or­ise the inscrip­tions, shop signs and mur­als that dec­or­ated the facades of build­ings and shops, painted in most part between the 1900s and 1940s, and left to decay. After the fall of the wall, Ver­ena, now a stu­dent in visual com­mu­nic­a­tion at the Kun­sthoch­schule Ber­lin Weißensee, deepened her explor­a­tion of the areas in east Ber­lin, more spe­cific­ally Pren­zlauer Berg and Mitte. Here she gathered pho­to­graphs between 1991 and 1998, doc­u­ment­ing a large num­ber of shop signs and facades. She returned in 2005, endeav­our­ing to review her ini­tial view­points, and could not fail to notice the effects of reuni­fic­a­tion: this unique epi­graphic her­it­age had almost com­pletely dis­ap­peared, covered by the con­tem­por­ary deal­batores of capitalism.«

The fea­tured typeface FF Karbid Pro was ori­gin­ally inspired by these store­front let­ter­ings from the 1920s and 1930s. Using it as a start­ing point, I then dis­sem­in­ate its spirit into a fam­ily of well-behaved but ener­getic text faces.
FF Karbid is the res­ult of my final dip­loma work in 1998.

The painter’s let­ters — On his­tory and forms of Ger­man let­ter­ing is the first of Fritz Grögel’s essays writ­ten for this book. The meth­ods of pro­duc­tion and repro­duc­tion of let­ters in Ger­many between the end of the nine­teenth cen­tury and the begin­ning of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury were, as in many coun­tries, typo­graphy, engrav­ing and litho­graphy. Yet, the fer­tile ter­rit­ory of let­ter paint­ing remains over­looked and little known. Grö­gel weaves links again between its tech­niques and its forms with much pre­ci­sion and many rare and for­got­ten doc­u­ments. His second essay, Daily life’s wit­nesses — Ber­lin let­ter paint­ing por­trayed, goes even fur­ther into the man­i­fold prac­tices, medias and styles of let­ter painting.

The fore­word, writ­ten by Fred Smeijers, under­lines the sig­ni­fic­ance of Karbid and moreover its fecund con­nec­tion between type his­tory and type design.

Sébas­tien Morlighem’s intro­duc­tion deals with the power of writ­ing and its fra­gile per­man­ence in the city. Even more than the book, the city is the domain of let­ters, as they can be seen and appre­ci­ated by every­one. All the signs, inscrip­tions, posters, painted mur­als on the façades of build­ings are the marks of memory, daily renewed.

The design:
The book lay­out deals with the very com­plex idea of show­ing the texts in three lan­guages, also strictly related to the men­tioned images and illus­tra­tions.
This book is not meant to be an essay and pic­ture book only, but much more a col­or­ful descrip­tion of the typeface FF Karbid Pro and it’s mak­ing of. There­fore, the whole book is func­tion­ing as more than 100 pages of type spe­ci­men.
To catch the »smell« of this spe­cial city at this import­ant polit­ical period, I also cre­ated some illus­tra­tion col­lages, com­bin­ing his­toric images and the ori­ginal letterings.

»Amongst my favour­ite books about typo­graphy and let­ter­ing I have read lately, Karbid, Ber­lin – From let­ter­ing to type design stands out as one where I pos­sibly have learned the most new things. I am thank­ful for the authors to have taken me on this fas­cin­at­ing jour­ney in a lesser-known area of let­ter art.«
A won­der­ful, very enthu­si­astic book review by Yves Peters for Font­shop.

FF Karbid Dis­play Pro type specimen

FF Karbid Pro type specimen

FF Karbid Text Pro type specimen

FF Karbid Slab Pro type specimen

Ber­lin map with loc­a­tions of former let­ter­ings

the let­ter­ings »before and after«

illus­tra­tion detail

type­set­ting detail

type­set­ting detail

type spe­ci­men detail

illus­tra­tion detail

illus­tra­tion detail

our let­ter­ing heros

type spe­ci­men detail

type spe­ci­men detail: my former flat in Max-Beer-Straße 15

some saved let­ters

Spe­cial thanks to Fritz Grö­gel for his fant­astic essays and all his incred­ible sup­port of this pro­ject.
My regards go to Tomasz Fabi­anow­icz, for his assist­ance, Chris­ti­ane Land­grebe, and Clem­ens von Lucius.
Many thanks to Fred Smeijers for his won­der­ful foreword.

Ypsi­lo­ned­iteur | Bib­lio­thèque Typographique

132 pp, 22 x 30 cm, duo­tone, 16 pp 4c, ca. 260 ills.

French, Eng­lish, German

ISBN 978–2-35654–024-9

The typ­peface FF Karbid Pro is avail­able at Font­shop.