Paul Renner was an eminent twentieth century German graphic designer, type designer and typographer. He was also a remarkable painter and teacher. He is best known for designing Futura typeface which became the milestone creation of twentieth century and influenced the modern typeface designs. Although he was not directly affiliated with Bauhaus movement which emerged in 1920s, he strongly supported its principles and aims.
On August 9, 1878, Paul Friedrich August Renner was born in Wernigerode which then was located in the Prussian state. His father was an evangelical theologian who is reason behind his strict Protestant upbringing. He grew up to develop a German sense of leadership, responsibility and duty. Renner received his formal education from a secondary school, Gymnasium. After nine years of learning Greek and Latin, Renner opted to study arts at several different academies. In 1926, he accepted the position of the head at the Printing Trade School in Münich. Later he established and became director of the Master School for Germany’s Printers. While studying, he grew suspicious of abstract art form and developed repulsion for some forms of modern culture including dancing, cinema and jazz.
However, Renner was equally fascinated by the functionalist strain in modernism. Therefore, it would not seem wrong to perceive Renner’s work as a bridge between nineteenth and twentieth century tradition. One example can be his successful attempt at merging two fundamentally different typefaces together such as Roman typeface and Gothic. Moreover, he was a significant member of German Work Federation. He lent his expertise in developing a new set of guidelines for good book design. He was closely associated with another noted typographer Jan Tschichold. They both became part of the ongoing heated ideological and artistic debates. Renner took a stand against Nazi movement and made his position very clear and public through his scandalous booklet, titled Kulturbolschewismus (Cultural Bolshevism). It was published in 1932 and overtly condemned Nazi’s cultural policy.
In 1933, when Nazi rose to power they dismissed Renner from his post at the school and labeled him an intellectual subversive, a ‘Cultural Bolshevist’. He went into a period of internal exile after his arrest. Renner aspired to communicate his opinion of culture and tried to influence it through his writing, teaching and designing. He utilized his intellect and aesthetic skills to alter the fundamental landscape of material and spiritual form of life. As to communicate his view of high cultural standards, he invested his creative talent in applied arts designing books and typefaces. Furthermore, being a voracious reader, Renner’s ideals were influenced by prominent scholarly figures, such as Nietzsche, Goethe, Kant and Schiller. He began writing from 1908 onwards and prolifically produced work on design and typography.
Renner’s notable works include Die Kunst der Typographie (The Art of Typography) and Typografie als Kunst (Typography as Art). In these works he set the guideline for sophisticated book designs. Additionally, he played a significant role in inventing the popular Futura. The modern typographers even in the present time used this geometric sans-serif font frequently. Another one of his creations, Architype Renner is evolved from his early experimental exploration of geometric letterforms. His Steile Futura typeface was later transformed into Tasse which came out posthumously. Paul Renner’s valuable contribution to graphic design and typography includes works, such as Das moderne Buch, Vom Geheimnis der Darstellung, Ordnung und Harmonie der Farben and typefaces Renner Antiqua and Ballade.