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Forma, Dattilo, Modulo. Nebiolo's last effort to produce a 'universal' typeface

When Fri 11 Oct 1555
Where Krasnapolsky A
What Perspective alteration
Who Alessandro Colizzi

Founded in 1852 in Turin, during the first half of the 20th century Nebiolo was probably the only Italian typographic manufacturer with a worldwide market. Facing the rapid technological changes brought about by the advent of offset printing, in the 1960s the company was facing major financial difficulties, partly covered by State intervention. As far as typeface design is concerned, its Artistic Studio headed by Aldo Novarese had output a number of successful designs, including text families Garaldus and Recta. From 1965, following a marketing-oriented approach focused on the user, the management set a research group of graphic designers to work on a new typeface design. Headed by Novarese, who provided the basic alphabet, the team included Franco Grignani, Giancarlo Iliprandi, Till Neuburg, Ilio Negri, Pino Tovaglia, Luigi Oriani, and Bruno Munari. The collective design process was based on an analysis of contemporary sanserif typefaces and legibility tests, to develop a more mature, humane interpretation of the Swiss sanserif trend. The process was quite laborious with monthly meetings spanning across over two years. In 1968, Forma was eventually released as lead type. As its name implies, Forma aimed at representing the ideal letterform of its time, equally appealing to designers, printers and the general public. The typeface was favourably received by the design community (it won a special mention at Compasso d’oro in 1970), but although initial sales were encouraging, it could not really compete in a market already saturated by Univers, Helvetica and the like. Nonethelss, the family received various additions in the following years, as well as a slabserif companion, Dattilo. The Nebiolo foundry considered the teamwork as a success if the group was still working on a modular typeface in 1974. By that time, however, the company was again almost bankrupt, and when it was bought up by Fiat in 1975 Novarese was dismissed and the Artistic Studio closed down. This research is based on newly avaible sources that shed light on a little known chapter in Italy’s last efforts in typeface design before the digital revolution.

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