VAN NELLE (Blueprint) — Geometric modernist sans
☛ THE SOURCE
A re-interpretation of the 1926 geometric sans serif alphabet system reproduction by Jacob Jongert, published in a 1930 sourcebook by N.J. van de Vecht. The geometric uppercase set of the alphabet system is what would later become the famous sans serif capitals which he used for lettering throughout many of his Van Nelle materials.
☛ THE FONTSTRUCTION
Attempt at making a convincing recap of the original alphabet by Jacob Jongert as it was shown in the 1930s sourcebook, and extrapolate that into a full functional font. The decision to go with a small grid sparked a number of limitations in terms of the design freedom that forced some inevitable changes. But the general idea sort of became not to make it a revival, but rather more or less a faithful revision. One that would still be instantly recognizable yet didn't necessarily had to be all about accuracy.
☛ —The small grid design made sure this wasn't happening anyway!
But, for instance, the most striking difference between the two fonts (their weight) in fact is such a byproduct for one of those limitations. Something FS's small grid couldn't properly reproduce, so VAN NELLE (Blueprint) has a slight stronger weight, making the font somewhat of a bold style version of the original. This in addition provided me with slight extra freedom to inplement a little personal touch for further manicure of the font's finer details. Which allowed me to cope with some of the optical clunkiness that come with a fatter face and the grid based design.
Besides these circumstantial differences, which were basically beyond my control, I've also made some intentional changes to make the typeface more practical to use. The changes include things like the significantly lowered ascender height, the slight different width for certain letters, larger tittle (dot above i, j & ĳ), and several more. despite these changes I believe it very much still reflects what Jongerts once invisioned for the system.
☛ SOME NOTES ON THE ORIGINAL AND ITS CREATOR
Jacob Jongert(1883-1942) was a advertising designer from the Netherlands. After varied studies, including being Roland Holst’s assistant and an acquaintance and colleague of S. H. de Roos [who brought the Arts & Crafts ideas of William Morris to the Netherlands and devoted his career to book design and typography] with whom Jongert experimented with several printing techniques and discovered graphic design as his ideal art form.
¶ In 1923 Jongert rolled in a unique and long-term collaboration with the Van Nelle company, where he became head designer, a position he held until 1940. The Van Nelle company had an extremely modern approach towards advertising (they even commissioned Cassandre to do a poster) and Jongert created for the firm a recognizable image with clear shapes, powerful letters and primary colours, totally Dutch avant-garde in style, and with a strict and rigorous approach directly linked to De Stijl principles. The corporate identity he created has become a milestone in the design world.
¶ The lettering, however, is the driving force that ties it all together. The style is a straightforward set of plain, mono-linear, sans serif capitals in a style that just started to come into fashion in the late 1920s, early 1930s with the rise of functionalism and geometric type design. Yet, while these ideas were already thrown out there, its clever simplicity plus the systematic and cohesive way Jongert implemented his lettering was unusual at the time. The square and minimal construction of the forms allowed the letters to contract and expand to fit any situation, yet maintain a consistent and recognizable appearance throughout the Van Nelle line. ¶ Something we only recently have learned to appreciate is to see his hand crafted system amid the current advancements in variable-font technology, which offers a similar kind of flexibility to typeface designs. A quality that certainly placed him well ahead of its time.
What I particulary like about Jongert's original is the stuff that is going on in the lowercase set of the alphabet, which are those quirky lowercase letter inventions that are different from the more traditional modernist sans, but sadly the lowercase letters were pretty much never used in his works.
I created a simple PDF typeface specimen for those who want to see the high-resolution preview.
PDF SPECIMEN WAS DELETED
Thats all Folks ☚
An attempt to recreate the lettering seen on a early 1900's poster ad for "Van Nelle" coffee.