In 2001, during a renovation at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich, a set of original letterings were discovered hidden behind some wallpaper. The characters were individually painted and had been manufactured by hand in 1933 to be used as signage for the modernist building.
Now, 85 years later, Zurich-based type design studio Nouvelle Noire – in collaboration with Rudolf Barmettler – has released Rektorat, a type family based on the original historical letterings. “It’s this handmade, geometric aesthetic where you feel the spirit of the modernist era and the artistic craft,” respond Anton Studer and Clovis Vallois of Nouvelle Noire when asked what it was about the uncovered glyphs that initially sparked the studio’s interest.
Rektorat is the result of years of work by Rudolf (a teacher) who, in 2001 when the original letterings were first discovered, worked alongside a group of students to trace parts of the characters, refining them and then fully redrawing them in ink. A year later, while teaching at F+F Design School, he created additional weights, again with the help of students. Font designer Reinhard Haus then helped to digitise the drawings and extend the fonts using Fontographer.
“The objective was to create a family,” Nouvelle Noire explains, “Unfortunately, however, this was never realised.” Since 2014 Nouvelle Noire has worked alongside Rudolf to rework the entire concept and every detail of the typeface to “make it more than just another historical remake,” the result of which is Rektorat.
The outcome is a “reduced, but not cold” typeface, inspired by the geometric styles were widely used in the 1930s. Although the original lettering was only in one weight, Rudolf and Anton have extended the family to include the weights “hairline” and “heavy”, with five more in-between. All weights are then available in two styles: a “normal” and a “Re” version, “which stands for recurved and adds extra endings on selected letters,” the studio explains.
Rektorat is an unapologetically modernist and visually bold typeface, intended to be used on posters, packaging and corporate identities due to its signage history. Although inspired by an intriguing and altogether endearing story, the work Rudolf and Anton have done to extend the font beyond its original style has created a typeface with its own merit and context in the modern day.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.