The following text features condensed translations of essays by Josef
Albers regarding his rationale for the development of his Schabloneneschrift
alphabets circa 1926. The Translations were executed by David Blocher
for the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
type--that is, written elements lined up in a regular fashion--
corresponds to flowing speech, to the uniformly stressed linguistic
representation. Epic language requires its purest application.
We don't speak like this at all any more. Life today doesn't take
place at a steady pace; we can no longer be classical. Time is
money: events are determined by economics. We live at a fast pace
and move accordingly. We use shorthand and the telegram and code.
They are not the exception, but rather the rule. Our speech is
condensed, and using only expression and gestures as language can
no longer be forbidden, as it was with the Greeks. Because we must
increasingly think in economic terms, we will become more and more
Americanized. A new world is coming. The new libraries in America
have few books, but very many magazines. We're moving in the same
direction. We read newspapers more frequently than books. The book
dealers' business isn't very good; who wants to have a multi-volume
work today, and where are the young people who bury themselves
in books all day long? There are already overview-magazines without
articles. Keyword excerpts which replace many essays of many periodicals.
And of these, we prefer the ones with pictures: the picture informs
better and more quickly; the page of pictures can be comprehended
in seconds. All typefaces are experiencing strong competition from
photography, cinema and radio. We have to read quickly, just as
our speech is condensed . Thus, flowing typefaces can no longer
dominate. The accentuated, emphasized, underlined, abbreviated,
illustrated font will predominate. As will the notice, the declaration,
the appeal, the program, the abbreviated word, the keyword in speech.
We must be able to understand the poster when riding by in a street
car or in an automobile. Thus, we are moving away from the book.
And in doing so, from the typography of the book. Most printed
material is no longer in the form of books. The language of daily
contact is no longer that of books, and the concept of written
language has almost exhausted itself.... Economy and therefore
technology and transportation prevail, and thus rigid standardization
is required. Everything
demands concision. The stencil typeface, which is published here
for the first time, is an attempt to shape in a standardized way
the typeface in its relationship to its individual elements and
in various typefaces' relationship to one another. It does not
claim to be definitive and its intent is to solicit interested
parties for their critique and collaboration.
It is intended to be a typeface for advertisements and posters,
especially for larger sizes, which is clearly legible at some distance.
of the most commonly used typefaces decreases with distance, probably the least
with "Egyptienne", which was first developed as a military typeface under Napoleon
I. The "stencil typeface" increases legibility at a distance. It is made up
exclusively of basic geometric shapes, as are "Egyptienne" and "Grotesk" in
part, and specifically of the following three: the square, the triangle (half
of the square cut diagonally), and the quarter circle whose radius corresponds
to the side of the square. The elements of the letters combined from these
shapes stand unconnected next to each other: the hairstrokes are replaced by
relationships of size and movement of the purely flat elements. The size ratio
is 1:3 throughout. The height of the small main stem [Balken] equals three
times the width. The distance between the letters is 1/3 the width of the bar.
The sides of the triangle (square divided diagonally in 2) are 2/3 of the total
of the square's sides. The minuscules measure 2/3 of the ascender. The distance
between the characters is uniform throughout, so there is no compensation or
adapting as is otherwise customary with round shapes. The furniture overhang
is, on both sides, equal to the inner distance. In doing so, and by composing
it of the same elements, a standardization of the typeface proportions results.
The type and furniture can thus be cut precisely with machines. The line does
not have any tracking added to it, it is no longer justified. The distances
between words and letters, giving the impression of variously sized gaps, are
no longer the exception, but rather are dispersed all over the writing area.
They [the spaces] will enliven it, just as large capital letters did when placed
in the middle of a word during the Baroque era... The standardization of
the constitutive elements of the letters allows reducing the letter to its
elements when there
is a modest need for especially large typefaces. The extent of the typesetting
material is significantly reduced and at the same time we obtain parts for
lines and geometric shapes, arches, circles, etc.; in short, elements for a
wide variety of material that may be used for emphasis.
Translation appears courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation ©1997.
All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without the written
consent of the Albers foundation. Complete translation with Translators
notes can be found within the Albers font package.