Eurostile, A Synthetic Expression of Our Times

Edited version of an original article by Aldo Novarese from Pagina, International Magazine of Graphic Design, No. 4, January 1964. Published under the auspices of the Società Italiana di Grafica, Milan. Editoriale Metro S.p.A.

With the 19th century ends the era of the book, the machine which helped it to reach its apogee of glory is now leaving it behind as new times need faster and immediate means to convey impressions and ideas. It is now sufficient to open our eyes to get the message as a whole, taking it in one shot or in the quickest possible way is now an every-day necessity. This prompts us towards new ways of serving our faculty of vision, anticipating in our imagination innovations in the arts, typefaces included.

Eurostile, A Synthetic Expression of Our Times
Eurostile, A Synthetic Expression of Our Times
Eurostile, A Synthetic Expression of Our Times

From classical faces which readers know so well, countless others have sprouted – every period has its own. Typefaces have always adapted to prevailing styles and will continue to do so in the future. After centuries of evolution and changes we are now under the strong influence of merciless advertising, neon lights, slogans, stylized forms and symbols and huge inscriptions of ever increasing size.

We have reached a period when from a train or from a motor car window there is no time to enjoy or even look at the scenery and it is even becoming difficult to read the super concise headlines of newspapers. With the same bored gesture we keep emptying our mail boxes, obstinately refilled with advertising material.

Printing shops must keep on hand a rich variety of faces, families and series to be ready to satisfy ever-changing requirements and founders must cast and present new faces to help printers out of their difficulties. New faces are needed to attract the eye of the hurried passer-by. For a printer, the problem is the availability of a fancy type that in its inspired lines provides the possibility of adaptability to the four basic families and, at the same time capable of being used for a great variety of works. Both artists and technicians serve the interest of graphic arts – the search for new forms is the artist’s task and technicians must give a body to the new forms.

The new Nebiolo Eurostile series, inspired by Microgramma, the well known sans serif, has its own unmistakable outline, well matching the feverish activity all around us. This new typeface should be considered a symbol of our present times, as other faces were the expression of other periods of the past.

Today more than ever before, graphic work is based on a well balanced page. Spaces, lines, ground tinting and color tones are all strictly connected, interlaced elements affect each other – they must therefore be evenly balanced in an architecturally perfect composition. Clearly, type has a place of outstanding importance among them.

Through its compact and square lines, Eurostile efficiently expresses modernity and synthesizes the tendency towards a functionalism that solves many aesthetic problems and gives a modern and typical appearance to a printed page.

Its outline is already familiar and unconsciously present whenever we look at a television set, which recalls the typical shape of an “O”, this same impression we get looking at a series of windows of fast moving vehicles (figure 1). When we look at modern buildings we get the impression of countless letters “H” assembled together (figure 2). The square shape with narrow curved angles is a typical architectural expression of our times, much as the round arc was of the Roman period, which produced the inscriptional characters of the ogive arch of the Gothic style, which produced the medieval faces (figure 3, left).

In the design of Eurostile, the printer and layout man will find the possibility of breaking ties with tradition and with the past, imparting to their work a modern look in full accordance with modern trends towards simple and functional lines.

Looking closely at the Eurostile letters we find that in spite of their compactness they do have a geometrical gracefulness which does not fatigue the eye but on the contrary, attracts inattentive eyes to its uncommon characteristics. The letters are decorative and, when set, give a general impression of a pleasing horizontal ornament. Lastly, the well chosen “color” tone of the light and bold series spurs the imagination to uses and combinations well suited to modern advertising (figure 3, right). Each letter has been successfully handled, the object of careful study in every detail and optical proportion, so difficult to obtain in this field.

For more on the history of Eurostile, read Eurostile Next by Paul Shaw, Print Magazine, August, 2008

In 1952, the Nebiolo foundry in Turin, Italy, released Microgramma, an unusual sans serif. A titling typeface (which thus had no lowercase), it was designed by Alessandro Butti (1893–1959), the foundry’s type director, with the assistance of Aldo Novarese (1920–95). Ten years later, Novarese revisited Microgramma. He created a lowercase, and reduced the size of the capitals to make them compatible. To the original five cuts (regular, bold, condensed, extended, and bold extended), he added bold condensed and compact variants, and thus Eurostile became part of the design landscape in the ’60s. Its distinctive television-screen shape reflected the technological optimism of the period.