Schauspiel im ZDF (1978–83)

As Steven Heller noted in this week’s interview for Lubalin 100, ITC Avant Garde Gothic has seen more than its share of misuse in the nearly 50 years since it was released. So much so, even early on, that its author Herb Lubalin is said to have regretted ever designing it. In many cases it’s the typeface’s many alternates and ligatures that are abused, but one designer who treated them with respect and skill is Christof Gassner. See his logo for Canton, for example, or these excellent booklets for German television network ZDF.

Gassner is a fan of Lubalin, and it’s apparent in his work. He didn’t hide his admiration in interviews, either. Two years after Lubalin’s death, Gassner was featured in U&lc, Vol. 10, No. 2 (June 1983):

“I have two big ideals (sic) for my typographical works: First, the calligraphers and book artists before Gutenberg: second, Herb Lubalin, who gave back, with his epochal work, the lost imagination to typography.”

From the same U&lc article:

Gassner’s work has appeared in U&lc before, but you wouldn’t know it; each time the look is different, with new surprises in typographic design. It would be more apt to call his work typographic illustration, for he has a gift for making type talk to us, even when we don’t understand the language. He was born in Zurich and was educated in the highly respected “Swiss” school of graphic design at the Kunstgewerbeschule. Upon graduation, he went to Germany and discovered, to his amazement, “There were other typefaces available than Helvetica.” This profound experience, he has aptly demonstrated in his inventive typographies.

The brochures featured here advertise theatrical programming on ZDF from 1979 to 1983. Each 21×19.8 cm issue has black-and-gold covers and three to six opening spreads of display typography, much of it masterfully set in Avant Garde, and some in other fantastical designs, including Gassner’s own typeface, Knirsch. All issues credit Gassner for graphic design and Jobst Barkewitz for production.

My thanks to Florian who graciously received my lucky find from a German dealer and scanned two favorite spreads from each booklet. We gladly add it to our small collection of Avant Garde Used Right.

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