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A Worldwide Scavenger Hunt For Type Nerds

Welcome to the Futura type trap.

A Worldwide Scavenger Hunt For Type Nerds
[Photo: Igor Ovsyannykov]

You'll find it on the Volkswagen emblem. All over Wes Anderson movies. Writ large and in orange on the facade of a Big Lots stores. Once you know what you're looking for, the Futura typeface is everywhere.

It's a phenomenon German graphic designers Christian Weber and Sarah Schmitt call getting caught in the "Futura type trap." That's also the name of their website, which functions as a crowdsourced repository for found Futura.

Since launching on September 15 as part of an exhibition on the typeface at Gutenberg-Museum in Mainz, Germany, the site has amassed a whopping 691 images documenting examples of Futura out in the wild. They've come from Germany, Austria, Portugal, and Ukraine. All are uploaded to the site by the person who spotted the type, reviewed by Weber and Schmitt, and marked with a drop pin on an interactive map of the world.

The pair started working on the site in 2014 as student project at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz's intermedia design masters program (at the time they were joined by fellow students Jan Lorenz, Franziska Mamitzsch, Daniel Weberruß). The professors of the program were in the early stages of curating the exhibition FUTURA. THE TYPEFACE for the Gutenberg-Museum, and had asked the class to develop a project around the font. The team kept developing the project as part of the show, which opens next week and brings together famous examples of the font's usage—from NASA projects to works from László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Rand, and typographer Paul Renner—the designer of Futura.

The 1927 birth of Futura—which is based on the rational geometric forms of Bauhaus design—was a milestone in modern type history. Futura was the first geometric gothic typeface, as well as the first sans serif typeface to be cast and produced in all weights, grades, and fonts. It's still used widely in corporate logos, movie posters, printed ephemera and signage all over the world. In creating a living archive of the typeface, Weber and Schmitt hope to highlight its continued relevance and use. They've designed a "top spots" that showcase the best uses, and a ranking system that shows which cities have the most finds.

"There's a challenge between the German cities Hamburg, Kiel, and Aachen," the designers write in an email. "They would like to become the city with the most Futura finds, but Kiel currently holds the first place."

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