Fraktur mon Amour
This declaration of love caused a minor sensation: A book bound
in black imitation leather, with a bright pink title and page
edges, full to bursting with exactly 300 Fraktur typefaces. A work
that is something between the Bible and an object of sexual desire,
the 27-year-old author, Judith Schalansky, talks to us about her
award-winning book and the surprising renaissance of the Fraktur
typeface that was falsely declared to be dead.
Ms. Schalansky, your book is provocative and fascinating. What
were your reasons for creating a book like this about the Fraktur
Schalansky: I'm fascinated by ambivalent phenomena. And
Fraktur is ambivalent. It's actually a dead font. No literary work
today is still set in Fraktur. On the other hand, Fraktur is also
very much alive again. It is amazing how often it is used for
displays, on T-shirts, labels and flyers.
That must be the reason for your ironic portrayal - you wanted
to show that the font which was reputed to be dead was in fact full
Schalansky: Yes. The book intentionally plays on this
ambivalence: On the one hand, you have the black leather in the
classical axis design giving it a very dignified appearance. On the
other hand, there is the bright pink and slushy title. Both break
with the common view of Fraktur. Pink stands for femininity and
lust, which provides a contrast to the masculine-martial idea that
many associate with Fraktur. It was important to me to include both
approaches. Of course I also wanted to cause a stir with the almost
flippant combination of these two opposites - and I was even a bit
shocked myself when I held the book in my hands for the first time.
What ignited your love of Fraktur?
Schalansky: When I was about 10 years old, I discovered
an old Bible on my father's bedside table. I was enchanted by the
book: the thin paper, the flexible cover, and then this old,
strange lettering in it which seemed to me to be cryptographic. And
then when I deciphered, "God created heaven and earth" -
it was something really remarkable. The experience had a lasting
effect on me and was one of the reasons why "Fraktur mon
Amour" is, to a certain extent, like a Bible.
What role does Fraktur play in print and design today?
Schalansky: It is currently very much in fashion in
advertising, for example with companies like Nike or Reebok. Some
designers and artists use it - people who are on the lookout for
something new or something that can be applied in a new way. Even
though Fraktur is so distinct, it elicits very different
interpretations and emotions. Some see it as antiquated, but it can
communicate every possible feeling - from cozy or homey to simply
cool. "Old English" or "Fette Fraktur" are the
most popular examples covering the whole spectrum. The martial
"Schaftstiefel Grotesk" from the 1930s is an exception -
you can hardly cast that as recent.
You're currently working on the second edition of the book which
will contain 333 fonts. What are your criteria for choosing the
Schalansky: I accept all well-made fonts - those from
publishing houses, but also those from typography freaks. The
contemporary Fraktur fonts in particular show that our font
heritage is still very much alive and can be played with in
wonderful ways. Now and then there are also fonts that end up
meaning nonsense. But that's absolutely fine because they show the
depth and scope of the work. For me it's important to put history
aside and look at the fonts without prejudice because this
inheritance is something that should be treasured.
Is "Fraktur mon Amour" really a declaration of love?
Schalansky: For the first edition I spent several months
just researching. But then everything happened very quickly. I took
a break from studying and worked day and night for three months.
I've noticed now in my work on the second edition that I have to be
careful, because I get so absorbed in the topic that I lose myself.
But it is this almost erotic relationship that attracts you and
makes you want to delve further into the font.
Born in Greifswald, Germany. She studied art history and
communications design. Today she lives and works as a self-employed
designer and author in Berlin and teaches typography at the Potsdam
University of Applied Sciences. In 2006, Ms. Schalansky published
Fraktur mon Amour, which was awarded the silver medal by the Art
Directors Club Deutschland and the "Award for Typographic
Excellence" by the Type Directors Club of New York. In the
spring of 2008, she made her literary debut with the Mare
publishing house in Hamburg for her novel "Blau steht Dir
nicht" (Blue Doesn't Look Good on You: A Sailor Novel).