Notes Antic Disposition

Eye on Berlin

Not only the end of a decade, but the 20th anniversary of a monumental political event.

Eye Magazine 74 is a focus on the graphic output from Berlin.

Jan Middendorp on living in Berlin:

All big cities are labyrinths, seemingly haphazard collections of people and things that the visitor or inhabitant must make sense of by drawing mental maps and simplifying multitude into essence. But Berlin seems to resist such sense-making. It is more onion-like than any other city I know: you peel off layer after layer without ever arriving at a core. The essence is in the whole, and the whole is endlessly fragmented.

It’s not your income or ethnic group that decides where you live, it’s your mindset; and once you have decided where you belong, there aren’t many reasons to get out much. Each district is more or less self-supporting when it comes to offering places to shop, see shows or rent an office. And although one of these districts is called ‘Mitte’, each part of the town is in fact its own centre.

John Ridpath profiles Verena Gerlach, who has captured the essence of Berlin’s typographic history, of street signs in particular:

Early examples of the typeface have ‘an almost infinite number of variants of both alphabets’, with huge differences in character width and letter-spacing. The Eastern typeface is narrower than its Western counterpart, but Gerlach thinks this might be down to GDR pragmatism rather than style: street names tended to be longer in the East, celebrating Communist heroes with both first names and surnames as well as the appendix ‘Strasse’ or ‘Platz’. Her research has yielded three typefaces: Berlin East Original, Berlin East Rounded and Berlin West Original, with sub-families in Regular, Medium and Bold.

Another 20 year anniversary is that of FontFont, founded in Berlin by Erik Spiekermann and Neville Brody. FontFont and FontShop emerged at the perfect time to transform font distribution in the age of emerging digital type technology, putting control directly in the hands of type designers themselves. A memento of this beginning was documented in November 1989 when Brody and Spiekermann visited the Berlin wall.

For the truly interested, Berlin has The Buchstabenmuseum which hopefully will be one day open to the public. There’s also TYPO Berlin coming up, which is somewhat of a main event.