The Bauhaus Designer Paul Renner


Paul Renner was born 1878 in Germany. He was a graphic designer, typographer, type designer, painter, and teacher. From 1908 to 1917 he designed books for a living for the Münich publishing trade. While he was never directly affiliated with the Bauhaus movement, in the early 1920s he became an advocate of its aims and principles and became a leading proponent of the “New Typography”.

In 1926 Paul Renner became the principal of the Printing Trade School in Münich, and he was also the co-founder and Director of the Master School for Germany’s Printers. (Meisterschule Für Deutchlands Buchdrucker). Renner published a booklet titled ‘Kulturbolschewismus’ in 1932, in which he criticized the Nazi’s cultural policy. In 1933 with the consolidation of Hitler’s powers in Germany, the Nazis dismissed him from the school as an intellectual subversive, a ‘Cultural Bolshevist’. Renner arranged for his friend and member of his staff, George Trump, to take over the directorial position to avoid an unpredictable external appointment by the Nazis. Another noted member of his staff at the school was Jan Tschichold.

The same year, the Nazis also shut down the entire Bauhaus design institution in Berlin, thus creating a wave of immigration to the United States. One of the founders of the Bauhaus movement, the Hungarian painter and designer László Moholy-Nagy was one of the immigrants, who shortly after his arrival founded the Chicago Institute of Design based on the principles of the Bauhaus.

Renner’s seldom mentioned condensed typeface, “TOPIC” or (Steile Futura) features alternate rounded characters for the letters “A”, “E”, “M”, and “W”. (1953-55)

Futura is a sans serif face designed by Paul Renner between 1924 and 1926. It is based on geometric shapes which became representative visual elements of the Bauhaus design style of 1919-1933. Futura was commercially released in 1927-1930 and it became a cornerstone of the ‘New Typography’ classified as Geometrical Modernism. Form follows function became the key words and careful reasoning constrained all the character shapes to their utmost functional simplicity. With Futura, in typographical terms, the industrial revolution had reached its logical conclusion.

Initially, Futura was issued by the Bauer Foundry in six weights, a condensed version in three weights, and an Inline. Renner’s typeface family provided the right typographical tool for the professional designer and it became a popular choice for text and display composition. Even today, advertising typographers often use the combination of Futura Light/Book and Futura Extra Bold because of the design’s stylish elegance and commanding visual power.

Under licence, Deberny & Peignot issued the same type in France under the name of Europe. American Typefounders and Mergenthaler Linotype countered with a close imitation of Futura, named Spartan. Twentieth Century is another typeface which was ‘inspired’ by Futura. Futura Black was added later, and it is quite distinct from the rest of family, in fact, it closely resembles a stencil type. The Intertype Futura Extra Bold was designed by Edwin W. Shaar in 1952, and the Futura Extra Bold Italic was added in 1955 by Edwin W. Shaar and Tommy Thompson. Paul Renner died in 1956, and his original drawings for Futura are now on display at Fundición Tipográfica Neufville, Barcelona.

The Futura family members are: Regular, Light, Light Oblique, Light Condensed, Book, Book Bold, Book Oblique, Medium, Medium Oblique, Medium Condensed, Bold, Bold Oblique, Bold Condensed, Semibold, Semibold Italic, Extrabold, Extrabold Italic, Extrabold Condensed, Inline, Display and Black.

Renner’s other design, which is generally unknown, is the “TOPIC” or Steile Futura family. It is a condensed sans serif face with rounded alternate characters for the letters “A”, “E”, “M”, and “W.” The family consists of Medium, Medium Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic. TOPIC was introduced by the Bauer Foundry in 1953-55.