Industries

Formats

Typefaces

  • These are the most common typefaces in the database, but there are many more. Try a search!

The Other Times Modern

From the “Where are they now?” files, an undocumented paperback version of the classic newspaper typeface.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Mar 11th, 2013.

C D Moorby of UK fashion blog Stitched & Stitched used this image to post his new year’s resolution, declaring, “I will be a better blogger in 2013!”.

The deepest rabbit holes of type research often open up from a simple font identification request. I fell into one of these on Thursday when David Corti of September Industry sent me the image at right. It presented one of those troublesome ID challenges: type that feels so familiar but every guess is slightly off. I immediately thought of Times, but the details here are sharper (‘S’), more dramatic (‘E’), with wedge-like serifs. The whole thing is more narrow than Times, with stronger contrast, indicating that this is a variation designed specifically for display use. After online sources failed me, I went to the big yellow book. And there it was: Times Modern.

Times Modern compared to condensed and extra bold styles of Times. Besides its compact stature and sharp details, Times Modern also differs in its angled terminals on the stems of letters like ‘b’, ‘h’, ‘n’ and, most strangely, the bottom of the ‘u’.

The reason this thing was so tough to locate is that it is a font that was available digitally for years, but then silently yanked from the market, and thus the web — meeting the same fate as fonts like Haas Unica and ITC Didi. Complicating research even further, there are multiple designs known as “Times Modern”. Most articles we find today refer to the typeface designed by Luke Prowse and Neville Brody in 2006 for a redesign of The Times of London. And later, Eduardo Manso created Sunday Times Modern, an unrelated family for The Sunday Times.

This Times Modern, on the other hand, is a pre-digital design (published digitally by Scangraphic, then Elsner+Flake as “SH Times Modern” or “EF Times Modern”). But it’s unclear just how old it is. The history of Times New Roman is, of course, a very long and thorny one, and there’s no need to go into that here. Suffice it to say, this Times Modern appears to me to be entirely separate from Times or Times New Roman. My guess is that it was produced in the 1960s or ’70s, as it has the flavor of those off-kilter, high contrast headliners of the phototype era. Those who mourn the disappearance of EF Times Modern can still find like-minded eccentricities in type like Denver, ITC Grouch, Grumpy, Caslon Graphique, Benguiat Caslon, Cabernet, Troover Roman, Hawthorn, the new Superior Title, and more.

Willy Fleckhaus’ 1970s covers from Suhrkamp’s Taschenbuch Wissenschaft (science paperback) series. Umlauts are placed to the side of capital letters to accommodate the tight linespacing.

Perhaps Times Modern’s origins can be traced back to its most iconic use: the taschenbuch (paperback) series from German publisher Suhrkamp. Simple and striking, the covers stick to a strict template of tightly spaced Times Modern Black in just two sizes centered at the top. The title and author are large; the subtitle and imprint immediately follow in smaller type on the next line.

The system was developed by legendary German designer Willy Fleckhaus and Rolf Staudt, beginning in 1971. Some reports claim that the designers developed this customization of Times themselves for these covers. But Carsten Wolff, co-author of a 1997 Fleckhaus monograph, disputes that, telling us that Fleckhaus used classic phototype faces originating from suppliers like Linotype, Stempel, and Bauer, and did not design his own.


The 1001 years of yearning (2002). Suhrkamp maintained the paperback identity for over 30 years, but it got watered down over time, with looser type and full-bleed imagery.

Another departure, this special edition of Amerika (1997) got foil stamped type. Still, the template was more or less intact until about ten years ago when Suhrkamp replaced the Fleckhaus system with a new design using banal left aligned type and four color blocks. Sad.



Fleckhaus also used this face (or one very much like it) even before, for his work at Twen, a sexy magazine for “people in their twenties, from 15 to 30”. The cover below suggests that the font existed as early as 1970.

Twen magazine, December 1970. Photo via Eye magazine.

The Acne Jeans logo process as suggested by Zachary Ohlman on Typophile.

Younger folks may recognize Times Modern from the original logo of Acne Jeans. The Swedish clothing label modified the face slightly, giving its ‘A’ a hefty top serif à la Caslon Graphique. They have since evolved into a bolder, more polished logotype.

I am still quite curious to know more about the origins of this typeface. Did Fleckhaus really create it? Did it debut with only this “Black” weight? I did find two weights of a very similar typeface in a 1980 phototype catalog. The design, called “Times Bold Modified”, is not as condensed but has many of the same unusual details — with the addition of some goofy swash add-ons that were so prevalent in fonts at the time.

I also wonder why EF Times Modern is no longer available from Elsner+Flake. My hunch is that Monotype, the trademark owner of the “Times” typefaces, revoked their right to sell it, but that’s only speculation. I have some emails out to Elsner+Flake and people who worked with the foundry when the font was still available. I’ll update this article if and when I hear back. Failing that, I’m relying on you, dear readers, to shed some light on this mystery.

Danke to Indra Kupferschmid and Florian Hardwig for their insight and assistance with this post.

Update: Elsner+Flake wrote to say the removal of their font from the market is due to a complaint from Times Newspaper Ltd. who claimed that the name was too close to Times Classic and Times Millennium. Sigh.

Update, Mar 18, 2013: I contacted Albert-Jan Pool, who worked at Scangraphic from 1987–91. He did not remember Times Modern and didn’t find it in his catalogs. But adds this:

Brendel Informatik [now TypeShop Collection] (Walter Brendel used to be customer of Peter Karow at an early stage of the development of Ikarus, part of their data were in some of the more obscure IK archives of URW) seems to have had some kind of “Times Serial” called Riccione with 7 weights. Maybe E&F derived Times Modern from there by generating a condensed version of the bold weight?

Indeed, the bold weights of TS Riccione do come closer to Times Modern than anything I’ve seen in digital form (besides E+F’s now unavailable version). Riccione is clearly a different design, though — more cleanly drawn, with balanced counters. This can be a great thing for users, and the XBold is particularly nice, but it does miss the compressed wackiness of Times Modern if that’s what you’re seeking.


17 Comments on “The Other Times Modern”

  1. Nick Sherman says:
    Mar 11th, 2013  2:05 pm
    Edit

    For the Acne Jeans logo, there’s a very good chance that the A wasn’t modified for that one logo, but was simply an alternate form that was offered with the font. This definitely wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for a face with its origins in phototype.

    Great post!

  2. Mar 11th, 2013  4:47 pm
    Edit

    Photo-Lettering had a face similar to this called Bartuska Modern Times as far back as 1964, probably earlier. VGC lists two similar faces called Times Bold Modified No. 1 and No. 2 in their 1973 catalog. Headliners also had one called (what else?) neo-Times Roman that had bold weights that were similar. (The version with flat serifs they called neo-Times English.) Alphabet Innovations had one called Times Text in 1972. There were probably others, and I suspect it was a phototype display thing mostly.

    One thing they all have in common is the idea of “fixing” the inconsistent handling of details between Times Roman (or Times New Roman) and Times Bold. None of the interpretations were exactly the same, but they were all the same idea. EF Times Modern seems to be the only digital example.

  3. Mar 11th, 2013  7:50 pm
    Edit

    Thanks for the comment, Mark. You certainly identify what ties these type designs together. It looks like they were an attempt to add weight to the regular style of Times without changing the details (such as the angled stem serifs). I mentioned Times Bold Modified in the piece, and I’ll add that scan below just so it’s here on the same page of the post.

  4. Mar 12th, 2013  12:43 am
    Edit

    Times Modern Black has some odd design details. Some of the lowercase letters—the “d” and “n” for example—have very narrow counters, but others, like the “o”, have very open counters.

    VGC’s Times Bold Modified, in addition to the smattering of oddball swash characters, has figures that look like they are from a different typeface.

  5. Albert-Jan Pool says:
    Mar 19th, 2013  4:26 pm
    Edit

    Just found out that I had another Scangraphic catalogue from 1992. It has Times Modern in it. The font number is 38809, the first digits 388 indicate the familiy and 09 the weight. 388 tells me that it was one of the last typefaces produced during the time I was at Scangraphic. Also, it is marked with an S, not with B which indicates that it was availble as Supertype (type sizes up to 90 mm cap height) and not as a Bodytype (up to 36 pt). For me, this indicates the following: Artwork digitized at URW with Ikarus, who may have had E&F do the work, conversion to Supertype Format by URW for Scangraphic, corrections at URW, specified by Scangraphic, widths and kerning by Scangraphic. From what was usual those days I now reconstruct the following: Between 1987 and 1991, many typesetting houses (such as TypoTausend, TypoBach, EInsatz, City-Satz, GST-Group, Context-Group, eventually also some of the TypeShops switched from Berthold to Scangraphic, because Berthold failed to successfully lauch their long promised CRT/Laser system, whilst Scangraphic had both systems running … Which meant that they would only order a Scangraphic system when we would be able to supply some of the typefaces they made their money with. In such cases, ‘artwork’ (basically a typeset alphabet) was delivered to us and then digitized as soon as possible. So this is what happened with Times Modern. It probably started its life in a catalogue showing various condensed versions of Riccone (maybe indicated as ‘Times Modern’ to lure the art-director’s eyes onto it). You probably know this from the old Photolettering catalogues. Then it got picked by Willy Fleckhaus, who eventually ordered some modifications to fit it with his ideas for the typography on the Suhrkamp book titles. The typesetting studio probably had an 2,5 Inch filmstrip font made according to that specification in order to ensure continous production quality. When the Scangraphic system was ordered, the Riccone Condensed alphabet was typeset, indicated as Times Modern and given to Scangraphic. Being a part of the Scangraphic library then, it later survived in the E&F library.

    BTW. I think that Fleckhaus did not really contribute to the ‘design’ of Times Modern. In Germany it is quite common that art-directors state that they ‘create typography’ and do not distinguish between typography, logotypes or typefaces. So when someone tells that Fleckhaus ‘created the Suhrkamp typography’ someone else may easily understand from that that he designed the typeface. Sometimes this is on purpose (when talking to clients), sometimes this is accidental, like students that keep talking about kerning when they mean spacing. No matter how often you explain it. They use it because they think it is cool to do so :–)

    Times Modern in Scangraphic catalogue

  6. Mar 19th, 2013  8:59 pm
    Edit

    So what you are suggesting, Albert, is that there must have been a Riccione available at one of the phototype manufacturers that Fleckhaus saw and for which he ordered a condensed version (or which was offered as that), sometime before 1970. Perhaps the change of name took place before that and Riccione was already offered under the name “Times Modern”. To trace the roots we can probably more or less disregard the digital era, unless Brendel or Scangraphic remembered from what phototype firm the model came from.

    There was a Times Modern available at Berthold, shown in their Headlines E3 on p. 129, but it looks totally different. I also can’t find any similar face in their Staromat catalogs. What company could have provided the fonts or type setting for Twen in 1970? (At that time Twen was owned by Gruner & Jahr Hamburg, Fleckhaus himself lived somewhere in the Rheinland area.)

    I tend to doubt this typeface/adaption was proprietary, so at some point someone probably offered it in one of their catalogs. Who has some more phototype specimens from the late 1960s?

  7. Albert-Jan Pool says:
    Mar 19th, 2013  10:32 pm
    EditOops, I overlooked that Fleckhaus used this typeface before Brendel and Karow started working on Ikarus. I also checked Berthold Fototypes E1: no typeface like Times Modern as used by Fleckhaus. So my theory for today is that the first typefaces called Times Modern / Riccione have been created without digital means. Now it would be interesting to know when Brendel started his Type Shop business and wether there are type specimens from the Type Shop of that era which may shed some light on this. Another manufacturer which could have been involved is Letterphot. They produced a Staromat-like photo setter. Brendel does not mention Letterphot in his catalogue “faces” from around 1985–1990 though. Unfortunately I do not have any catalogues of the Type Shops or Letterphot. Who does?
  8. Mar 20th, 2013  1:04 pm
    Edit

    The info about Brendel to be found on the net, e.g. at MyFonts suggest that he was active in the phototype typesetting business well before 1972, when he started Ikarus with Karow.

    Before 1972, when type users demanded their type color to be “a little lighter or little darker”, Brendel, as the owner of over 28 type shops across Europe employing about six hundred people, could not meet their demands with the existing typefaces. Consequently Brendel developed a method to satisfy their needs.

    Okay, maybe lighter/darker was not possible, but I still imagine it pretty easy to make modifications as in our case in phototype and produce a custom film strip or disk.

    One of those weird documents by Stiehl you never really want to click accuses Brendel of having ripped off Times New Roman under the name Riccione. I also found a listing in Reichardt’s data, so I think it’s safe to assume that at least Riccione originates at Brendel, just no idea when and whether it’s really the direct predecessor to Times Modern. Checking Letterphot is a good idea, alas I have no material about them.

  9. Albert-Jan Pool says:
    Mar 21st, 2013  12:34 pm
    Edit

    The story of ‘a little lighter or darker’ on MyFonts remains vague on what really happened I think. ‘A little lighter or darker’ is probably what Brendels customers asked for around 1970, and it must have been questions like this (next to wider, narrower, tighter, brighter, rounder, shaded, you name it) why, presumably after having started and running several Type Shops with opto-mechanical phototypesetting equipment for some time, Walter Brendel started to think of approaching the problems of typesetting and type design with the help of a programmer. Together with Peter Karow he developed the idea of storing typefaces in an outline format that would be digitizable from artwork, editable, scalable and modifiable, which finally resulted in the invention of the Ikarus Format (the other digital formats from those days simply failed one or more of these points). They envisioned that through digitizing and interpolation it would become easily possible to offer a large range of weights for a typeface family. The Type Shop families, who are now available on MyFonts still show convincingly that Walter Brendel had managed to realize such families. Most of them have 7 weights. Not all of them are what we would call ‘state of the art’ from a designers point of view, but compared with Linotype traditionally having 2 and ITC having 4 weights as a standard range, this was quite a remarkable achievement those days. It was only in the late 1980ties that Stempel started to redesign their families like Schneidler Mediäval and Janson Text and create ranges with 5 weights. Also Berthold usually stuck with 4 weights in those days.

    I now realize this is getting a longer story which is a bit off-topic here, but I hope that it is still interesting and may eventually lead to answering the questions about who actually designed Times Modern / Riccione and how the first years of the Type Shops and their typeface library have looked like.

    Back to subject: Fleckhaus seems to have started the Suhrkamp design range in 1971. My question is now: Did he use Times Modern / Riccione from the very beginning, do we have Suhrkamp covers which actually document this usage? It could be of help to more accurately indicate the Date of Birth of this so intruiguing  typeface.

  10. Mar 21st, 2013  6:00 pm
    Edit

    Fleckhaus used the typeface as early as July 1970 in Twen magazine (first use I found but I did not look very intensively).

  11. Mar 22nd, 2013  11:18 am
    Edit

    Look what I found! This Modern Times Black is  from the “Letter-Fan”, a type specimen by Lettergraphics International, Photo Process Lettering Service, ©1969. My copy was distributed by Typographica GmbH [sic], Gesellschaft für Typographie und Reproduktion – Typo-Service · Photosatz · Akzidenzsatz in Kornwestheim, Germany. Price: 25.— DM

    I think it is very likely that something like this was the source for Fleckhaus.

    Here’s a sample of the neo-Times Roman that was mentioned before by Mark. I found it in the 1978 Headliners catalog:

    While we’re at it: I also stumbled upon yet another Times Modern. This namesake has nothing to do with the Times Modern in question. It is actually some version of Trooper Roman:

     

  12. Ganpat Prajapati says:
    Feb 3rd, 2014  11:01 am
    Edit

    Which font in the Times series has an ‘M’ with a wider base?

  13. Feb 3rd, 2014  11:26 pm
    Edit

    Can you clarify what you mean by “base”?

  14. Feb 4th, 2014  8:04 am
  15. Sebastien Lordez says:
    Oct 21st, 2014  4:43 pm
    Edit

    Hello. Does anyone know where is it still possible to get the file of this font (Times Modern). I am in a quest for days now and I still haven’t found anything…Many thanks if you can help!

  16. Oct 21st, 2014  5:40 pm
    Edit

    Have you tried asking Elsner+Flake? Since the reason for taking the font down was due to a complaint related to the name, there is the possibility that it can be licensed under a different name.

  17. Sebastien Lordez says:
    Oct 21st, 2014  10:25 pm
    Edit

    Hello Florian. I’m gonna do this right now! I drop a line here as soon as I get the answer.

Post a comment