Art Nouveau Typestyles
by Ilene Strizver
Although virtually every design era of the past has had some influence on typeface design, the Art Nouveau movement may have directly inspired more typefaces than any other.
Popular in Europe and North America, the Art Nouveau style had its beginnings in the late 1800s and remained dominant until the outbreak of World War I. Its aesthetic was characterized by extreme decoration, and was evident in architecture, painting, sculpture, furniture, clothing and even jewelry. Some consider Art Nouveau to be a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, when craftsmanship was trumped by mass production and machine-made products.
Typically, Art Nouveau typefaces are stylized, elegant display designs, and are frequently inspired by the posters of Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha and Joseph Kaspar Sattler, three renowned artists of the period. Art Nouveau type designs are usually extremely decorative, and can include embellished stroke endings, very high and low “waistlines,” diagonal and triangular character shapes, top- or bottom-weighted stresses, angled crossbars, and in some cases, filigreed initials. Some typefaces have more than one of these distinctive traits.
There are many Art Nouveau typestyles currently available in digital form. Some are authentic reproductions and revivals of typestyles from that period, while others, such as ITC Benguiat and Virgin Roman, are original creations that have been inspired by the Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau typefaces show a variety of distinctive features, including embellished stroke endings (Belwe, Arnold Boecklin), very high and low waistlines (Maigret), diagonal and triangular character shapes (Maigret, Virgin Roman), top- or bottom-weighted stresses (Artistik, Baylac) and angled crossbars (Belwe, Arnold Boecklin, ITC Benguiat Condensed).
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.