Industrial typefaces

Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,045
edited February 3 in Technique and Theory
I often use the term, industrial when describing typefaces. I know what I think it means but I wonder what you think. What are some examples of industrial typefaces? Even if you've never heard the term, what do you visualize?
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  • Multipurpose workhorses that do their job without fanfare? Franklin Gothic, Charter, Akzidenz Grotesk, Clarendon (mostly).
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,724
    I think of something simple and built out of reusable shapes. Something that looks like it was designed by an engineer or draughtsman far removed from the world of Zapfino. My Ironstrike family was based on a ghost sign painted on the wall of a gym that used to be a warehouse. The gym was frequented by muscleheads who could handled dumbells that weigh as much as me. I kept that feeling in mind while designing Ironstrike. Tal Leming’s United is another typeface I consider industrial.

  • I’ll be the lazy one who mentions Neville Brody’s Industria. :-)

    I tend to think of things with lots of square or bevelled edges. Luis Siquot’s Abaton is another example that comes to mind.
  • I think of typefaces that originated mostly in the second phase of the Industrial Revolution (1870-1914), whose character reveal a spiritual attunement with that time.
    I.e. I consider many late XIX century grotesques/linear typefaces as industrial, but also typefaces like De Vinne, Century.
    I exclude typefaces of the era whose form is more anchored to tradition or pays direct debt to classic and previous centuries letterforms, such as Souvenir or ATF Bodoni, many continental ones inspired by Art Nouveau and Jugendstil.
  • Multipurpose workhorses that do their job without fanfare? Franklin Gothic, Charter, Akzidenz Grotesk, Clarendon (mostly).
    Most of which, not incidentally, originated during the second Industrial Revolution. :)
  • DIN.
  • DIN.
    We could call DIN “modern industrial” — but more invested with a "normative” need, an idea of function brought forth and reinforced by the modernist vocation, such as OCR or signage typefaces.
  • I think of something simple and built out of reusable shapes. Something that looks like it was designed by an engineer or draughtsman far removed from the world of Zapfino. My Ironstrike family was based on a ghost sign painted on the wall of a gym that used to be a warehouse. The gym was frequented by muscleheads who could handled dumbells that weigh as much as me. I kept that feeling in mind while designing Ironstrike. Tal Leming’s United is another typeface I consider industrial.

    Ironstrike reminds me of Clicker, albeit less modular.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,626




  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,290
    Maybe it is because I grew up in Pittsburgh, an industrial city, I think of type that reminds me of what I saw on heavy industry locations. Rugged, sturdy, heavy duty.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,724
    DIN.

    Absolutely.
  • While folks are definitely describing the overall mood of industrial typefaces very well, I’d also like to add that the aesthetic is a product of practicality. They have to be easy to reproduce (straight lines, few or no curves, simple forms) and easy to apply on a large scale (stencils, stamps). Of course these days, any letter can be printed on anything without too much effort, but those were the material requirements a 100-150 years ago at least.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,958
    Bank Gothic
    and all those “college” fonts
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 643
    edited February 3
    Then there’s industrial metal as a music genre, so maybe anything that goes with that?
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,081
    I thought of that analogy too, but "industrial" music is really a post-industrial phenomenon and its medium of sublime dissonance and noise is really almost opposite the stresses on function, efficiency, and simplification that I associate with "industrial" types. 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,045
    edited February 4

    Thanks, everyone. Now I know that there’s a range of ideas about industrial type. Here's what I have in mind when I use the term industrial: square with round or diagonal chamfers, somewhat modular. Angular railroad signage. Sports jersey octagonal type. Grid based railroad lettering. Signage in the “stovepipe” category is industrial. The current trend of “ironworks” display type is industrial. There’s also industrial display type that was fashionable in the 1940's/1950’s that's on the edge of Art Deco with aligned high or low crossbars. Sometimes the line between Art Deco and industrial can be fuzzy. While industrial type is easy to reproduce with a straight-edge and compass, it’s designed to be decorative. Chank Diesel's Parkway is an example of industrial script.

    I classify DIN as technical. Technical typefaces look like they were designed by engineers rather than type designers. They have curves and aren’t intended to be decorative (but we might use them that way). Technical typefaces may not be the most readable, but the intention is legibility and usually the ability to reproduce them with straight edge and compass. Examples: some license plate type, Highway Gothic, OCR, chainprinter/typewriter* DYMO labels, architect templates and stencils. Not all stencils are technical typefaces, but I think the majority of twentieth century stencils are. They’re often weren’t intended to be decorative; just functional and as legible as possible.

    Techno is harder to define as it can be like industrial and there’s some crossover. Techno has ultramodern aspects and eschews classical elements. I consider Microgramma to be the first techno typeface. There’s some overlap in 1970's/early 1980's Japanese industrial logotypes like Namco (check my Uniwars interpretation of that style). Industria is both techno and industrial—right on the border. Bank Gothic isn't techno...the old-fashioned elements put it in the industrial category.

    That’s how I define industrial and it was interesting to see the different ideas people had—not as clearly defined as I’d anticipated.

    * I don’t classify most typewriter type as technical. I’m picturing sans-serif IBM chainprinter type of the 1960’s-1980’s. The type of thing you’d see on an old driver's license or magazine subscription label.

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