TypograFriday: Fraktur, Part One

So, I’ve been obsessed with blackletter type for years, and putting off blogging about it for who knows how many TypograFridays. Before I start in on, “what exactly is fraktur/blackletter”— that’ll be part two! — I thought I’d show you a few of the projects I have used it on recently as a means of showing how obsessed I’ve become (click here if you can’t wait until next week to find out a little more history).


It started when, for a book arts class in 2007, I made a short book about blackletter, sort of a rambling discursive monologue about its contemporary use and non-use: blaming the Third Reich for why Gutenberg’s beautiful type has now been reduced to being used only for certificates and death metal, setting some of On the Road in it, analyzing its form (“arrows pointing heavenward and to the ground at once. Its dark strokes are heavy but because of its stilletto heels it still manages to float,” &c.), discussing contemporary attempts at revival, recounting my nervousness that I’ll land on an FBI watchlist when I looked for the verboten Nazi fraktur/roman hybrid ‘jackbook grotesques’ online, and so forth.

This year, I’ve hand-drawn blackletter for three projects: it’s apparently my new favorite thing. Most recently, our newest Christmas card uses hand-drawn blackletter that fuses heavy metal pointiness and spurs with classic fraktur shapes and interweaves it with a black scroll studded with lettering for something which leans slightly more toward dangerous than traditional. It may be my favorite card yet; we’re really happy with this one.

Earlier this year, we made a baby announcement for our nephew Valor Gjertsen and couldn’t resist mashing up blackletter with, say Cooper Black into something soft enough for an infant and yet medieval-badass enough to fit his name (and medieval-themed nursery).

And finally, this summer my workmate at my day job, Amy Cesari, toured as the surrogate drummer with the Donnas as they opened for Blondie and Pat Benatar. (!!!) Anyway, because our company is totally rad and familial, we all went to see their show together. And I got to make a special poster for it, with somewhat weighted billing. Amy (who also drums for The Demonics) is incredibly rad, and I did my best to paint her rock demeanor in the type, wickedly pointed all caps acid green blackletter.

From “post-Nazism, blackletter is only really usable for traditional-authoritative or morbid subjects” to, “Whether rock poster, Christmas card or baby announcement, it’s the choice for me!” What happened? I’ll tell you: I fell in love. (To be continued next week in Part Two: Fraktur mon Amour)

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