The grotesque one-eyed ‘a’
When looking at the ‘a’ of the upright styles of Futura one might question how it could take type designing mankind so long to create such a simple and successful letterform. Starting from this question, I will show my findings on how and why this specific form of the upright ‘a’ has been developed through history, seguing into how it affects contemporary typeface design.
Taking a closer look, we observe that the upright one-eyed ‘a’ is unique within the history of sans serif typefaces. Among cursives it is of course common and older. This is mainly the story as we’ll find it in our books on the history of type. When it comes to questions on who actually designed the first sans serif one-eyed ‘a’ and why this may have happened, there are practically no answers though. Reason enough for me to start some investigations … An itenary on the history of letterforms first led me to Greek excavation sites. From there, the development of the one-eyed upright ‘a’ does not follow a straight path. It rather seems to be the result of a long (typographic) dialogue between Roman writers, royal French calligraphers, Bavarian cartographers, school script reformers, collectors, English and Saxonian typefounders, American wood engravers, Prussian draughtsmen and a poet from Berlin. The presentation also features a German fairy tale and some beautiful 19th century rarities from Barcelona.