Walsheim

Work / Graphic Design

The epitome of Swiss style: Grilli Type refreshes GT Walsheim

Swiss type foundry Grilli Type have refreshed its typeface, GT Walsheim, a font inspired by artist Otto Baumberger. The type foundry created the updated version of GT Walsheim after customising it with clients and saw “some small things we wanted to work on in the course of that,” it explains. “More importantly, we knew that we still had the condensed width we wanted to get to at some point. And lastly, we never really told the story of the typeface’s origin, what made it special for us – so a refresh coupled with a mini site made a lot of sense.”

Otto Baumberger was a multi disciplinary artist but most notably, a poster designer creating tourism advertisements. Within these posters the artist would often “leave the aesthetics of landscape painting behind for a more abstract, geometric look that was so characteristic of the later Swiss style,” says Grilli Type. “Baumberger created those works before it would have been called design: He was a poster artist. His work exemplifies the movement from painterly to abstract designs during this time: Swiss Style before that term even existed.”

GT Walsheim began development in 2009 when Noël Leu, one of Grilli Type’s founders alongside Thierry Blancpain, was still studying visual communication. “Baumberger’s eye for type was what captured our interest in his posters.” Created by hand, he was a lettering artist with a particular style. “In his geometric sans serif style, the capital G with its unorthodox construction — the Baumberger G as we call it — is one of the most idiosyncratic aspects of his work… The spacious R, the narrow A and L, and the large tittles (the dots on i,j,etc.) are other distinguishing aspects of his geometric lettering style.” 

Noël began by collecting and analysing Otto’s capital letters on the poster designs to create a vocabulary “instead of simply tracing outlines”. This was followed by creating the numerical assets based on the posters too. Drawn by hand, he began to create them “more freely, to allow for a more curvy and friendly look”. One problem the designer faced however was the lack of lowercase letters found in the original poster designs. But by analysing the capital letters he created his own logic. “The counter sizing of P and R are the basis for the x-height,” the type foundry explain. “The structure also defined other circular elements of the lowercase.”

The typeface has its own microsite (gt-walsheim.com) and displays the new condensed version of the font as gif interpretations of Otto Baumberger’s posters. “Narrow letters take up less horizontal space and can be displayed at a larger size without taking up too much space,” says the foundry. To add to this, Grilli Type have created a supporting Cyrillic, stylistic variants of the Y, a, y and alternate umlauts for use in German, of course based on Otto Baumberger’s posters. 

“Nearly a century after the original designs, Baumberger’s letters are now available as a typeface and have found their place in contemporary graphic design.”

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