The Villa Aurora is an artists’ residency and international meeting place, fostering German-American exchange with fellowship programs in the fields of literature, music, art and film. In 2010 they had their 15th anniversary which was celebrated with an exhibition in the Academy of Arts Berlin and the release of this catalogue featuring the grant recipients of the last five years.
The catalogue is set in two languages: German (black) and English (turquoise). URW Grotesk is used for information about the artistis and their artworks, while Dolly is used for the names of the artists and literary texts.
Looking at it again after Zapf’s death I’m honestly confused that I don’t see URW Grotesk everywhere. it seems to have everything: a nice, airy feel, touches of eccentricity in the square-circle bold designs (I’m reminded of Eurostile), a colossal range of widths and weights, one of the world’s most famous font designers behind it, and a price from most retailers that seems ludicrously low for what you get.
Any thoughts? My suspicion is the awkward obliques are what did for it, plus that geometric 'a’s are awkward in body text, but maybe it just got released at the wrong moment.
All valid points. In addition, I think that URW Grotesk was just too untypical for Zapf to be appreciated by the Zapfians. And the Modernist Sans-Serif camp didn’t expect something interesting coming from him. Also, they were already well served with Univers and others. Maxim Zhukov told the anecdote that at the Type 90 conference in Oxford, where both URW Grotesk and Avenir were shown and promoted, Frutiger said that “Hermann is not a sans-serif man”.
URW Grotesk certainly is more eccentric than Avenir, but you are probably right in that it came too early in that regard. Furthermore, it is released with URW. Unlike Linotype, that’s not a publisher known for pushing re-workings of their older faces.
There seem to be two camps of Zapf appreciators – those who love the classical and calligraphic, and those who love his squarish typefaces and designs from the ’70s and ’80s. I (decidedly) count myself to the latter and have used URW Grotesk quite a bit, though a PS version from the early ’90s that didn’t come in as many variants as listed on MyFonts today; in fact only light, regular, medium, bold, plus their italics. (The wide version as I see it on MF looks pretty horrible actually.)
The italics are OK to use. My main quibbles are the hiddeous Q and the, for my taste, too-Zapfian R. I agree that it was probably released in a time where geometric sans-serifs weren’t especially popular, and now it is too old and dusty to be noticed by current desigers who strive after the ultra new and on-trend. That URW doesn’t do any marketing for its back catalog and releases some of the lamest typefaces imaginable now doesn’t help.
URW Antiqua is also a very lovely, alas very underused typeface. I especially love the italics, e.g. the black italic. Will scan some specimens soon.
Ad for HBKsaar as it appeared in Slanted Magazine a couple of years ago, using URW Antiqua and URW Grotesk.
Contributed by Stephen Coles