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Please note that, except where indicated, these typefaces are not available for licensing.
Big Black Book Stencil
Empire State Building
Munich Re Group
2004-2005. Commissioned by Spiekermann Partners for Deutsche Bahn AG. Designed with Erik Spiekermann. Some styles produced with Tal Leming. Not available for relicensing.
Between 2003 and 2006 (possibly starting even earlier), United Designers undertook a major rebranding of Deutsche Bahn (DB), one of Europe's largest companies. Print communication needed to be better coordinated, sub-brands needed to be better integrated, and a strategy for the future had to be mapped out, and a new type family was going to be a cornerstone of this. After two false starts (one of which resulted in the popular FF Unit), Erik and I finally sold them on a much more eccentric family than we expected them to agree to.
Around 2002, I experimented with a Garamond loosely based on the smallest sizes of Garamond No. 3 cut by ATF. As I was obsessed with Dwiggins at the time, I applied his M-Theory, adding subtle corners to as many of the soft forms as I could, including serif brackets, the ends of serifs, and ball terminals. I liked the face but didn't love it, so I put the project away until our second DB proposal was rejected, when I found it while digging through my hard drive for anything unfinished that might give us a head start on another solution. The one stumbling block was a matching sans - Erik wanted the Sans and Serif to match closely, because that would be easier for the client to understand. I was concerned that a Garamond-derived sans would be inappropriate for a transport company, and wouldn't adapt well to schedules or signage.
Our compromise was to stiffen up the Garamond a bit, and to only loosely use its structures for the Sans, which has much more regularized proportions. The detailing on the Sans draws equally from humanism and functionalism. The Garamond lends the angled terminals on some strokes, softer forms like the tail of the 'R', and the scooped terminals on some verticals, which echo the head serifs. Other details are borrowed from agates and typewriter faces, such as the serifs on the 'r' (to keep 'rn' from being confused with 'm' on schedules) 'i', and 'l'. While these details do help with legibility, we emphasized them more than is strictly necessary to make their functionality part of the aesthetic - sort of like a window in the face of a watch that proudly displays the works inside.
The complete family includes Serif and Sans for text and display, a special Headline Sans for tight tracking, a secondary serif News face for use in DB's internal newspaper, and an Office Sans for corporate communications. In early 2007, Erik and I received a gold medal from the German Design Council for the DB type family.
More about each part of the family:
DB Sans & Sans Head