Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed between 1924 and 1926 by Paul Renner. It is based on geometric shapes that became representative visual elements of the Bauhaus design style of 1919–1933. Commissioned by the Bauer type foundry, Futura was commercially released in 1927.
The family was originally published in Light, Medium, Bold, and Bold Oblique fonts in 1928. Light Oblique, Medium Oblique, Demibold, and Demibold Oblique fonts were later released in 1930. Book font was released in 1932. Book Oblique font was released in 1939. Extra Bold font was designed by Edwin W. Shaar in 1952. Extra Bold Italic font was designed in 1955 by Edwin W. Shaar and Tommy Thompson.
Although Renner was not associated with the Bauhaus, he shared many of its idioms and believed that a modern typeface should express modern models, rather than be a revival of a previous design. Renner's initial design included several geometrically constructed alternative characters and ranging (old-style) figures, which can be found in the typeface Architype Renner.
Futura has an appearance of efficiency and forwardness. The typeface is derived from simple geometric forms (near-perfect circles, triangles and squares) and is based on strokes of near-even weight, which are low in contrast. (This is most visible in the almost perfectly round stroke of the o, but the shape is actually slightly ovoid.) In designing Futura, Renner avoided the decorative, eliminating non-essential elements. The lowercase has tall ascenders, which rise above the cap line. The uppercase characters present proportions similar to those of classical roman capitals.
Original Futura design also included small capitals and the old-style figures, which were dropped from the original metal issue of the type. The digital versions of these glyphs were first produced by Neufville Digital under the Futura ND family.
The work on the type family continued in the 1940s, but Renner's poor health had slowed down the development. Renner started to work again on this project in 1951 under the name of Steile Futura (Steile in German means "upright" or "steep").
The font family released by Bauer consist of mager (light), halbfett (medium), fett (bold), Kurziv halbfett (medium italic), and Kurziv fett (bold italic). The font family was released in 1952-1953. It was sold in German, English, Spanish, and French markets as Steile Futura, Bauer Topic, Vox, Zénith respectively.
The font family has rounder letters than Futura Display. For the first time, italic type features are incorporated in the italic fonts. The fonts incorporate handwriting features, especially in italic version.
Neufville Digital issued Futura, Futura Black, Futura Condensed, and Futura Display (Futura Schlagzeile) under the Futura ND family.
Typeface designer Adrian Frutiger acknowledges Futura as one of his inspirations for his 1988 typeface Avenir. More recently Futura has been the basis of Ikea Sans and Opel Sans, fonts designed (for Ikea and Opel, respectively) by Robin Nicholas.
Tasse is a revival of Steile Futura.
Beteckna is inspired by Futura.
Car maker Volkswagen uses in its graphic identity a version of Futura modified by Erik Spiekermann's design agency, SpiekermannPartners. It differs slightly from standard Futura; for example, the letter O is perfectly round so as to emulate a car tire.
The Sci Fi Channel uses a variation on the font family for its on-air and print branding.
The television series Futurama uses the font heavily.
The Illinois Institute of Technology uses the font for its publicity campaign.
It is a corporate branding font for Hewlett-Packard, where it has been used in product packages and manuals since 2004.
The Reform Party of Canada which was Canada's second largest political party from 1997 to 2000, used a modified bold italicized version of Futura for its logo. The capital M used in the logo was altered from how it traditionally appears in the Futura typeface.
The font has also been used extensively in the fashion industry, as the logo typeface for companies such as French fashion conglomerate Louis Vuitton and British Luxury department store Harvey Nichols.