Backstein, an abstract angular display font

Here's a little something I literally built over the the weekend. It's inspired by the broken antiqua signage in the old Berlin subway stations. Backstein is German for "[baked] brick".

The idea of a squarish gemetric font is hardly original, but I hope I brought in some fresh air with those rather unconventional letter forms (especially the {r} and {s}).

Here's a PDF specimen:


I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on it.



  • I like this quite a bit. I agree that the more unconventional structures freshen it up, and they are nearly all very smartly conceived.
    I think the /L/ comes up to high on the right.
    /S/ may be too wide. /c/ looks too narrow to me.
  • The unconventional structures do surprisingly work. I like that /k/ and /æ/.
    The "diagonals" of /x/ could be a little steeper. I sometimes read that /q/ as a /R/, but it could well just be me. You could also move the top joint of /s/ to the left so it is not confused with a /J/.
  • Thanks for your comments!

    @ Craig: I quite like the narrow {c}, but I'll experiment with some wider cuts to see whether there's one I like more. Agreed on your other suggestions.

    @ Alexis: Yes, the {x} is my least favorite letter here. Let's see what I can do about that. I can see how {q} and {s} look a bit like {R} and {j} in isolation, but when used within a word, I think their position wrt the x-height makes things pretty clear. As for tweaking the {s}, my impulse would be to go the opposite way and cut of the spur on the top right...
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 246
    Reminds me of René Knip’s typefaces.
  • I agree with Craig on all points. I think the angles, the balance of ascenders and descenders, and the clever eccentricities (I'd like to mention the cursive-inspired {z} in addition to the two you noted), give this a lot of personality. And it's surprisingly legible.

    It is definitely suited better to display applications—at smaller sizes and larger blocks it begins to look like Klingon—but it does have nice color. I printed out your pdf and it looks very even and well kerned.
  • One thing I noticed: the {fs} ligature is maybe a little narrow? It looks like its own, single glyph rather than two, linked or otherwise interacting glyphs.
  • Tristan, that's an eszett (ß).
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,518
    edited April 2013
    @ Indra: I'll look at Knip's typefaces once I have Backstein published... I'm sure there are quite a few fonts out there already that look similar; it's not a very far-fetched design principle after all. Currently, I can still claim that my design is "original" in the sense that it's only loosely inspired by an existing typeface — I'd like to keep it that way.

    @ Tristan: Yes, I also got a distinct Klingon impression from the block text in the specimen, and it is very welcome. I might actually use that for my marketing material. {{{:{>

    Also very glad to hear you like the color and spacing. Believe it or not, there's a grand total of 6 kerning pairs in this font, and the majority of them involve punctuation. The design is so rugged it doesn't need kerning... also, Glyphs makes it ridiculously easy and comfortable to do spacing and kerning (thanks Georg!).

  • A touch of Klingon and a touch of Hebrew. I like it.

    /L is a bit too much like /U; I'd tame that foot serif. Maybe close the forms of /a and /e just a tad? Is /X too narrow? Is /S too wide?

    Very attractive and distinctive.
  • @ Alexis: Ah, but of course. I'm not familiar enough with German to know when it would be used.
  • Hi Christian,

    I think it's beautiful, it has a Blackletter feeling (maybe inspired by your last project?). I would consider reducing the last stem of lowercase /w/ just to make it different from a rotated /m/, suggesting a different ductus just to see what happens. It would probably work well if the third stem starts when the second finishes. About the /r/, did you got inspiration from a more cursive letterform or in handwriting?
  • Thanks for your comments, everyone! I've made changes to {L S X s w x}:


    @ Daniel: As I mentioned earlier, my direct inspiration was broken antiqua as encountered in Berlin. However, I'd certainly say that the work on Gryffensee sensitized me to the beauty of broken type in the first place, and to the fact that it's an underrated parameter space in type design with huge unexplored territories in which to be creative.

    And yes, that {r} is most certainly derived from the "curly" form common in handwriting (though the cursive I was taught in school had an antiqua-style {r}).
  • That new w seems to me to be a bit stiff for the font (though seeing it in a longer block of text would be helpful). I wonder if angling what would be the first up stroke up (like in the old w) would bring energy back into it. On the other hand, it's no crime to have some characters "play it straight," and it certainly fits with the v this way.
  • Actually, I found keeping the left stroke angled looks best among the other characters:


    I've updated the PDF specimen if you'd like to see it in action.
  • That one does look better. Attached is (an extremely crude approximation of) what I was trying to describe, though.
  • @ Tristan: Yeah, I understood your description, and gave it a try. I found that disjunction at the bottom jarring, though. I think I'm going to stick with the one above.
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 138
    This is so cool, good for you. I will leave it to everyone to pick but I think this is innovative. Really creative and fun! I love it.
  • Backstein Regular is now out on MyFonts, with a 25% introductory discount. I'm currently working on a spectrum of weights; they should follow soon. Thanks for your help, everyone!

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