Above: Futura Medium 48, 60, and 72. Specimen Book of Bauer Types
, New York, 2nd Edition (undated, circa 1935).
It’s commonly known that proportions, weight, and spacing varied between metal typeface sizes as small text type has different requirements than display type
. But this Futura specimen clearly illustrates how the overall design of lettershapes themselves could differ widely between various sizes of a single face. Your impression of a typeface can change depending on the size you’re seeing.
The lowercase ‘s’ is especially unique in each size.
At 48pt its upper half is much smaller than the lower — it leads with its belly. At 60pt it becomes more vertically symmetrical, and its spine and terminals are much more horizontal. At 72pt the stroke endings point outward again.
I initially posted this at Flickr
to show digital natives why there is no digital Futura that is a true reproduction of “the original”. The original was many things, depending on the size. But I also wonder about this particular case. Why are there such clear differences between these ‘s’ shapes? (This doesn’t seem to be an optical compensation and there was no need for it at these large sizes.) Perhaps the differences weren’t even intentional. Perhaps the sizes were drawn by different people. I welcome your insight.