REVIEW: Never Use Futura

NEVER USE FUTURA by Douglas Thomas

Who doesn't love the typeface Futura? Certainly not Nazi Germany, U.S. Election campaigns, NASA, mid-century design, American malls, Nike, Wes Anderson, Barbara Kruger, Volkswagen, CSA Archive or Aaron Draplin. The previous list is long, but for good reason. This classic geometric san serif has the ability to create rather broad visual languages in a chameleon-like manner, perhaps moreso than any other typographic family in existence. Industrial products, modern fashion, elementary schoolbooks, sports messaging and pretty much everything in between is well-served with the ever-changing character of the world’s most hardworking typeface, Futura.

Their recognizable letterforms have been embraced everywhere and continues to this day (Bon Appetit Magazine, Vanity Fair fashion ads and the influence of geometric sans in current rebrands, just to name a few). As we celebrate this typeface's 90th anniversary, a set of impressive typographic books are being released this Fall. First out of the gate comes “Never Use Futura” from graphic designer, writer, historian and educator Douglas Thomas. I first saw him talk about his love and appreciation for Futura at Typecon Seattle in 2016. His talk was at times humorous, revealing and most enjoyable, very much like this well-researched book. It reads as an expansive essay covering the history of the typeface's creation, its wide usage over the years and where it stands today within the crowded world of digital fonts.

I quite enjoyed nerding out on the many historical details about competitive versions of Futura from different international foundries, as well as the abrasive responses directed towards print publications using “the eccentric, malformed, ugly, and illegible type reflecting cubist art.“ Blasphemy! (Surely, I jest.)

“Never Use Futura” is a satisfying and delicious introduction to all things Futura. In some ways, finishing this book was like that feeling after seeing the film “Memento” when one starts looking at everyday life with different eyes….noticing the finer details that seemed inconsequential. And yet that typeface was hidden in plain sight more than first realized. Whether a lifelong devoted fan or you just like it for its agile robustness, this book will make you always want to use Futura.