Over the past few years, every designer has seen the surprising outbreak of blackletter types in marketing campaigns for major sports clothing manufacturers, a few phone companies, soft drink makers, and more recently on entertainment and music products. In such campaigns, blackletter type combined with photos of usual daily activity simply adds a level of strength and mystique to things we see and do on a regular basis.
But we couldn’t help noticing that the typography was very odd in such campaigns, where the type overpowers all the other design elements. This is because almost all blackletter fonts ever made express too much strength and time-stamp themselves in a definite manner, thereby eliminating themselves as possible type choices for a variety of common contemporary design approaches, such as minimal, geometric, modular, etc.
So extending the idea of using blackletter in modern design was a bit of a wild goose chase for us. But we finally found the face that completes the equation no other blackletter could fit into: Leather is a digitization and major expansion of Imre Reiner’s forgotten but excellent 1933 Gotika design, which was very much ahead of its time. In its own time this design saw very little use because it caused problems to printers, where the thin serifs and inner bars were too fragile and broke off too easily when used in metal. But now, more than seventy years later, it seems like it was made for current technologies, and it is nothing short of being the perfect candidate for using blackletter in grid-based settings.
Leather has three features usually not found in other blackletter fonts:
- Grid-based geometric strokes and curves: In the early 1930s, blackletter design had already begun interacting back with the modern sans serif it birthed at the turn of the century. This design is one of the very few manifestations of such interaction.
- Fragile, Boboni-like serifs, sprout from mostly expected places in the minuscules, but are sprinkled very aesthetically on some of the majuscules. The overall result is magnificently modern.
- The usual complexity of blackletter uppercase’s inner bars is rendered simple, geometric and very visually appealing. The contrast between the inner bars and thick outer strokes creates a surprising circuitry-like effect on some of the letters (D, O, Q), wonderfully plays with the idea of fragile balances on some others (M, N and P), and boldly introduces new concepts on others (B, F, K, L, R).
Our research seems to suggest that the original numerals used with this design in the 1930s were adopted from a previous Imre Reiner typeface. They didn’t really fit with the idea of this font, so we created brand new numerals for Leather. We also expanded the character set to cover all Western Latin-based languages, and scattered plenty of alternates and ligatures throughout the map.
The name, Leather, was derived from a humorous attempt at naming a font. Initially we wanted to call it Black Leather (blackletter…blackleather), but the closer we came to finishing it, the more respect we developed for its attempt to introduce a plausible convergence between two entirely different type categories. Sadly for the art, this idea of convergence didn’t go much further back then, due to technological limitations and the eventual war a few years later. We’re hoping this revival would encourage people to look at blackletter under a new light in these modern times of multiple design influences.