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Futura: the font that escaped the Nazis and landed on the moon

How this favorite font journeyed from 1920s Germany to the moon.

Futura changed everything.
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Futura’s become a favorite font of hipsters, recognizable everywhere from Wes Anderson movies (and Wes Anderson parodies) to your local gourmet hot dog company. But as the above video shows, Futura wasn’t always the darling of twee design: It started as an idealistic German’s vision for the future of type — at least until the Nazis made other plans.

Christopher Burke’s excellent biography of Paul Renner chronicles the history of this font. (Though the current edition is out of print, you can find used copies. Burke told me he’s working on an updated edition as well). Burke reveals how Renner and his design became surprisingly controversial once the Nazis began to exert control over German culture.

Fortunately, Futura’s design helped it transcend its national origin and tumultuous political climate, becoming a font that represented not only the forefront of design, but the entire planet Earth. Futura didn’t just signal the future — it also made history.

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