Industrial typefaces

Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
edited February 2021 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?


  • Multipurpose workhorses that do their job without fanfare? Franklin Gothic, Charter, Akzidenz Grotesk, Clarendon (mostly).
  • 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.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    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.
  • DIN.

  • 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.
  • Bank Gothic
    and all those “college” fonts
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 689
    edited February 2021
    Then there’s industrial metal as a music genre, so maybe anything that goes with that?
  • 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. 
  • This discussion seems to leave out the serif fonts that might have a right to be called 'industrial.' When I think of 'industrials serifs,' I tend to go back to mid-19th century, early-Victorian industry. To my mind, Bookman and Benjamin Fox's first Clarendons are quintessentially 'industrial' faces. 
  • Good point, Konrad. New York City has those old industrial slab serifs all over the place on nineteenth century buildings.

  • Thank you. Quintessentially American-industrial is the I-beam -- the steel pylon shaped like a slab-serif, uppercase /I/, to withstand stresses from all sides. That steel beam, and the stolen labor of black men and poor immigrants, built the East Coast. The I-beam was everywhere. 

  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 425
    edited March 2021
    For me industrial type is when it is engraved on metal objects, like vintage film cameras  a few quick photos I just took from a some I have here 

    I find they are usually sans, have mostly straight lines (but are not strict about it), and the terminals are rounded or have soft corners. I believe this is due to the tool bits used in the etching. 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
    @Eris Alar
    I'd classify that as technical.
  • I think "industrial" has always been ambiguous, when we use it in regard to fonts. Now that I think about it, it seems we've let it denote two different things. 1) fonts that required some industrial gear to make. E.g., an acetylene torch to cut out of a steel plate; or a drop force to stamp into a metal sheet. The "college squarish" kind of type; or the Constructivist style (in Russia)/New Deal era (in America) all-cap fonts used in steel mills, WPA posters, early Soviet propaganda, etc. The kind that Drone Ranger, the font developed for the Women's March organization, pays tribute to:

    2.  Fonts associated with the Industrial Age, i.e. the part of the century when Western economies relied on heavy manufacturing, before they switched to service industries. Primarily, that denotes early slab serifs, and the impersonal, generic faces used for signage in industrial facilities at that time. 

  • Russell McGormanRussell McGorman Posts: 261
    edited March 2021
    It's in the name, isn't it :)
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    i like it
  • i like it
    Thank you.

Sign In or Register to comment.