Never Use Futura

a book about the life

of the typeface Futura.

Never Use Futura chronicles Futura’s uses from its avant-garde beginnings to its mid-century triumph and its present-day nostalgic, critical, and forward-looking uses. It is a story of countless designers who have used the type signal progress and promise change but also to critique capitalism and subvert authority. Even today, Futura remains the iconic typeface of tomorrow. Futura has sold millions of people their dreams and hopes (and shoes and cars), and ever since the Apollo missions its has embodied our cosmic aspirations. Futura is a secret history of modern public life.

Never Use Futura is an important corrective

to the 20th century
story of typography.”

—Futura Bold Extra Condensed

IF YOU THOUGHT
HELVETICA DEFINED
MODERNISM YOU
HAVE IT ALL WRONG!”

—GARAMOND NO.3

THIS BOOK MAKES THE SIMPLE CHOICE OF which FONT TO USE ONE OF THE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS OF DESIGN, and indeed
of MODERN LIFE itself.”

—BAUER BODONI

 

Futura is a foundational typeface of modern graphic design, and has a rich cultural history. This book will provide an important corrective to the 20th century story of typography, re-introducing designers to the full story of Futura from its early avant-garde use to its worldwide popularity throughout the 20th century, and to its global resurgence today. The book draws together the many and varied uses of Futura that make it a universal language while simultaneously confirming its unique typographic voice. The book is a playful yet passionate rebuttal to the perceived dominance of Helvetica as the typeface of modern design.

 

By presenting Futura in both a historical and contemporary context, the book offers a cultural critique of its many uses. Chapters will discuss its role as a crucial component of modern advertising and design, its role in branding for commercial corporations (from Nike and Shell to Louis Vuitton), and its critical uses by artists such as Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer.

 

Other chapters note Futura’s life in politics, its status as the unsung model for dozens of competing typefaces, and its incredible recent upswing in popular advertising, motion pictures, and corporate identity. In short this book will explore the full constellation of typographic meanings embodied by the typeface Futura. The book will engage rather than exhaust, featuring topical tales and illuminating commentary.

 

As a designer and  historian, Douglas Thomas conducted extensive original research, including archival work at the Newberry and Regenstein Libraries in Chicago, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the Sheridan Library in Baltimore documenting little-known material about the popular spread of Futura and its widespread influence, especially in the US. This original research gives Never Use Futura a scholarly edge—this is a book that any designer will enjoy, even the die-hard type nerd.

Early proofs of Futura by Bauer Type Foundry, designed by Paul Renner, 1924–27. Some of the extreme experiments in geometric purity like the lowercase a, g, and m would yield to more conventional forms before wide commercial release.

Futura (or Europe as it was known in France), was used in political printing throughout the 20th century.
These ballots used in the 1969 constitutional referendum vote in France. Failure to pass the referendum led to  President Charles de Gaulles resignation.