Futura for Volkswagen

Volkswagen Headline and Volkswagen Copy are custom versions of Futura’s regular and bold weights that Luc(as) made at MetaDesign in 1996. He developed these into a Multiple Master font, with two sets of figures, extra ligatures and arrows. Later, his company FontFabrik expanded the design to include Eastern European language support, as well as Cyrillic, Hebrew and Greek.

In the 1990s, with Erik Spiekermann at the helm of MetaDesign, these fonts were part of a brand update. The German automaker already had a history with Futura, especially in their American advertising campaigns in the. The original Futura, designed by Paul Renner and cast in foundry type at the Bauer’sche Gießerei, was more coherent than its eventual photo-typesetting and early digital font incarnations. Luc(as) consulted prints from the 1920s metal type as he drew these letters anew.

While the 1990s saw great creativity and experimentation in type design, many of the fonts used then did not have the design and technical level of quality that later became common. Font manufacturers hadn’t quite gone through the digital-drawing learning curve yet. Luc(as)’s generation chased after higher standards and was successful: Volkswagen Headline and Volkswagen Copy remained in use for 19 years until MetaDesign retired them in a 2015 rebranding.

The orange shapes behind the Volkswagen Headline O and o above are perfect circles. All of the typeface’s rounds were optically adjusted to appear circular, requiring them to actually be ovals.

Even though Luc(as)’s work for Volkswagen began years before he set up the FontFabrik and LucasFonts companies, the Volkswagen Headline and Volkswagen Copy fonts are perhaps one of the best examples of one kind of custom work he’s since performed for many clients. He calls it “doctoring the classics”. Many companies have been around for a long time, and a classic, mainstay typeface fits best to their brand. Revising of a design born in the digital era – like of his own TheSans or Corpid — just wouldn’t be the right fit. But older typefaces, as software, often just don’t do what a client needs. A redraw according to the most up-to-date standards is then necessary. This is what Volkswagen got from Luc(as), and it was good. What did Luc(as) get out of the deal? For years, he got to see one of the largest companies in the world use fonts that looked great.