Even if you’re not a designer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “form follows function.” That’s how influential the school that espoused it, the Bauhaus, has become since its heyday in 1920s and ’30s Germany. Now, some of the movement’s most compelling–but largely unknown–lettering has been recreated from archival material, like original typography sketches and letter fragments, and transformed into contemporary digital typefaces.
The project is part of an Adobe initiative called Hidden Treasures that resurfaces design gems from the past in Adobe products–previously, the company recreated the paintbrushes used by painter Edvard Munch for use in Photoshop. For the second iteration of the initiative, Adobe worked with the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation to bring in five design students to create five distinct typefaces, all under the guidance of expert typeface designer Erik Spiekermann. While each of the typefaces will eventually be available to all users of Adobe Typekit, two are now available online: one inspired by Joost Schmidt, a teacher at the Bauhaus who also created the famed poster for the 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition, and the other inspired by Xanti Schawinsky, who taught classes in set design at the school.
The typeface Joschmi, which is based on work by Bauhaus teacher Joost Schmidt, is perhaps the most compelling. The letters, which have the look of blocky stencils, were created from just six lowercase letters by Schmidt from 1930 that Brazilian designer Flavia Zimbardi found in the Bauhaus archives. She had to design the rest of the letters and punctuation using only those six as a guide. To do so, she recreated the grid that Schmidt had originally used to draw the letters, and methodically added in new elements to create the entire alphabet.
For the typeface “Xants,” Swiss designer Luca Pellegrini used a 1932 alphabet from Xanti Schawinsky, but had to create many missing glyphs to go along with it. Schawinsky himself was a bit of a polymath, like many Bauhaus designers, and dabbled in painting, architecture, photography, graphic design, music, and stage design, the latter of which he taught at the Bauhaus. Pellegrini’s resulting typeface also has a stenciled look, but with a bit more curvy whimsy than Joschmi.
Eventually, there will be five typefaces, with others inspired by designers Carl Marx, Alfred Arndt, and Reingold Rossig. Today, these typefaces seem retro but not outdated–it’s easy to imagine them being used for all kinds of contemporary graphic design. The revival of these lost letterforms points to the continued importance of the Bauhaus, nearly a century later. Then as now, design continues to be a vital tool for communication.
The five typefaces will be available for Creative Cloud members to use, and you can follow the project’s progress here.