Name: Neue Plak
Type: Retail typeface
Publisher: Linotype (Monotype)
Release year: 2018
Buy it at MyFonts
Neue Plak is a revival of Plak which was originally designed by Paul Renner of Futura fame. It was designed together by Linda Hintz and myself.
In contrast to Futura, Plak in 1928, Renner’s second typeface, was a display face. But much like Futura, he designed it in a rather mechanical manner. It was available in one weight and three widths. Each width had a unique detail like capital R and lowercase s, but the most iconic one is the lowercase r in the wide version. Also noteworthy is very aggressive tightening of capital proportions as in L T, perhaps to save space or minimise the need for kerning that could be especially problematic in display types. Plak was available in wood types which you technically could improvise kerning by cutting type, but a design that didn’t need kerning would be more useful.
Not having lived in Germany, I haven’t experienced the typeface firsthand. At least I have seen it used a lot in Bild, the German tabloid, until the late ’60s. Linda didn’t seem to appreciate the fact very much, but I love how effectively Plak is used.
Plak was possibly the first of what I call mechanical grotesque, preceding DIN 1451 by three years with the same concept. (Speaking of mechanical, both Avant Garde Gothic and DIN traditionally belong to the geometric sans, and I question the validity of such a crude categorisation. For me, typefaces like DIN and Plak should be isolated from the expectation of certain letterform choices in the geometric sans) Plak’s legacy in modern type scene is strong, as I see in Commercial Type’s Graphik and Apple’s San Francisco. But Plak itself was not up for the demand of the modern graphic design. Linda felt the same too, and we decided to work on a new revival together.
Our design roles were totally equal and we were both design directors; we were basically working like co-pilots from Pacific Rim. Our works were split by masters on one day, glyph set on another day. The boundary was never fixed and always fluidly exchanged. Kerning is a highly personal work done by single designer, and collaborative kerning can be very inconsistent (it’s no more personal than outline work, but personal difference in spacing is not as easily detectable). In our case, we did kerning tryouts by kerning the same master independently, comparing the results, and discussing every difference in order for us to trust in each other’s kerning decisions.
The result was a typeface that is true to Plak but also up for the modern demand. 48 weights of the family were interpolated from lovingly crafted 12 masters, but the quirky local differences that made each weight of the original Plak unique are all kept. Not all weights look uniform, but that is the charm. Besides, we already have countless number of uniform typefaces and I don’t feel the need to add another, especially if at the cost of respect to the original design.
It’s accompanied by Neue Plak Text which consists of 12 weights, 6 of which are italics.