Fu­tu­ra, un font e i suoi mes­sag­gi Fu­tu­ra, a Font and the Mes­sa­ges it Sends

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Ne­ver Use Fu­tu­ra è l’av­ver­ti­men­to che l’au­to­re del li­bro, Dou­glas Tho­mas, si sen­tì fa­re quan­do era an­co­ra stu­den­te. Av­ver­ti­men­to che ha ac­ce­so la sua cu­rio­si­tà fi­no a spin­ger­lo a fa­re un’ap­pro­fon­di­ta ri­cer­ca su uno dei ca­rat­te­ri ti­po­gra­fi­ci più uti­liz­za­ti nel­la sto­ria con­tem­po­ra­nea. Dal­la sua com­par­sa nel 1924, quan­do Paul Ren­ner sul­la scia del Bau­haus ela­bo­rò un nuo­vo ca­rat­te­re sen­za gra­zie, fi­no ai gior­ni no­stri, Tho­mas ri­com­po­ne con oc­chio da se­mio­lo­go la sto­ria sfac­cet­ta­ta di que­sto font. Pren­den­do in esa­me pro­dot­ti di con­su­mo di mas­sa, brand di lus­so, cam­pa­gne elet­to­ra­li e pre­si­den­ti, viag­gi nel­lo spa­zio e sbar­chi sul­la lu­na ana­liz­za in­fat­ti co­me in ogni oc­ca­sio­ne Fu­tu­ra ab­bia con­tri­bui­to in mo­do fon­da­men­ta­le al­la co­stru­zio­ne del mes­sag­gio e del suo si­gni­fi­ca­to. Nel 1932, per esem­pio, scel­to co­me ca­rat­te­re dal Par­ti­to Co­mu­ni­sta, Fu­tu­ra era la tra­du­zio­ne vi­si­va del­la di­stan­za da Hi­tler e dal­la sua po­li­ti­ca. In The Royal Te­nen­baums di Wes An­der­son è in­ve­ce uti­liz­za­to nei ti­to­li del film e sul­le co­per­ti­ne dei li­bri che com­pa­io in di­ver­se sce­ne co­me mez­zo per vei­co­la­re un’epo­ca sto­ri­ca pre­ci­sa, gli an­ni Ses­san­ta. Ne­ver Use Fu­tu­ra non è so­lo un li­bro per i nerd dei font, è so­prat­tut­to un viag­gio af­fa­sci­nan­te nel­la sto­ria e nel co­stu­me de­gli ul­ti­mi 100 an­ni. (On prin­ted pa­per)

Ne­ver Use Fu­tu­ra is the war­ning that was gi­ven to the au­thor of the book, Dou­glas Tho­mas, when he was still at uni­ver­si­ty. But the war­ning on­ly ser­ved to arou­se his cu­rio­si­ty, and in­deed promp­ted him to car­ry out an in-dep­th stu­dy of one of the mo­st wi­de­ly-used ty­pe­fa­ces of the mo­dern era. Tra­cing its hi­sto­ry from its ve­ry be­gin­nings in 1924, when Paul Ren­ner used Bau­haus prin­ci­ples to crea­te a new sans-se­rif ty­pe­fa­ce, up to the pre­sent day, Tho­mas re­con­struc­ts the mul­ti­fa­rious hi­sto­ry of this font wi­th a se­mio­lo­gi­st’s eye. Th­rou­gh an exa­mi­na­tion of mass con­su­mer pro­duc­ts, lu­xu­ry brands, elec­to­ral cam­pai­gns and pre­si­den­ts, spa­ce tra­vel and lu­nar lan­dings, he con­clu­des that on ea­ch oc­ca­sion Fu­tu­ra was fun­da­men­tal to the con­struc­tion of the mes­sa­ge and its mea­ning. In 1932, for exam­ple, ha­ving been cho­sen as the ty­pe­fa­ce of the Com­mu­ni­st Par­ty, Fu­tu­ra was the vi­sual trans­la­tion of all that was fur­the­st from Hi­tler and his po­li­tics. And in Wes An­der­son’s film The Royal Te­nen­baums, it is used for the cre­di­ts and the co­vers of the books that ap­pear in va­rious sce­nes as a way of con­vey­ing a sen­se of a pre­ci­se hi­sto­ri­cal pe­riod: the 1960s. Ne­ver Use Fu­tu­ra is an in­tri­guing jour­ney th­rou­gh the hi­sto­ry and cu­stoms of the la­st 100 years

Ne­ver Use Fu­tu­ra Dou­glas Tho­mas, El­len Lup­ton Prin­ce­ton Ar­chi­tec­tu­ral Press 2017, pp 208, $ 24.95

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