Almost a half of a millennium after being mistaken for the original 4th century Gothic alphabet and falsely labeled “barbaric” by the European Renaissance, the blackletter alphabet was still flourishing exclusively in early 20th century Germany, not only as an ode to Gutenberg and the country’s rich printing history, but also as a continuous evolution, taking on new shapes and textures influenced by almost every other form of alphabet available. Blackletter would continue to go strong in Germany until just before the second World War, when it died a political death at the height of its hybridization. For almost 50 years after the war, blackletter was very rarely used in a prominent manner, but it continued to be seen sparely in a variety of settings, almost as a subliminal reminder of western civilization’s first printed letters; on certificates and official documents of all kinds, religious publications, holiday cards and posters, to name a few. In the early 21st century, blackletter type has been appearing sporadically on visible media, but as of late 2005, it is not known how long the renewed interest will last, or even whether or not it will catch on at all.
The last few years before World War II were arguably the most fascinating and creative in modern blackletter design. During those years, and as demonstrated with the grid-based Leather font, the geometric sans serif was influencing the blackletter forms, taking them away from their previous Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) hybridizations. Blackhaus is a digitization and elaborate expansion of a typeface called Kursachsen Auszeichnung, designed in 1937 by Peterpaul Weiss for the Schriftguss foundry in Dresden. This is one of very few designs from that time attempting to infuse more Bauhaus than Jugendstil into the Blackletter forms. This is why we used a concatenation of the words blackletter and Bauhaus to name this face.
The result of injecting Bauhaus elements into blackletter turned out to be a typeface that is very legible and usable in modern settings, while at the same time harking back to the historical forms of early printing.
The original 1937 design was just one typeface of basic letters and numbers. After digitizing and expanding it, we developed a lighter version, then added a few alternates to both weights. The Rough style came as a mechanically-grunged afterthought, due to current user demand for such treatment.
Having the flexibility of 2 weights and many alternates of a blackletter typeface is not a very common find in digital fonts. More specifically, having the flexibility of 2 weights and alternates of a 20th century blackletter typeface is almost unheard of in digital fonts. So the Blackhaus family can be quite useful and versatile in an imaginative designer’s hands.