The Nobel™ font family is a geometric sans serif family, designed by Sjoerd Henrik de Roos and Dick Dooijes in the early 1930’s for the Amsterdam Type Foundry, Lettergieterij Amsterdam. Like its sister typefaces in the geometric sans serif classification, Nobel’s design works around the purity of simple geometric forms, such as circles and triangles.
In the late twenties, Lettergieterij Amsterdam had invested a great deal of capital in Berlin Type Foundry, H Berthold AG. Seeking to solidify both the financial and creative connections between the two foundries, Lettergiesterij’s Artistic Head, de Roos, decided to pursue a repurposing of Berthold’s Akzidenz-Grotesk® typeface that could keep up with newly developed tastes.
Inspired by the success and popularity of the Futura® font family and its predecessor, the Erbar® font family, de Roos and Dooijes developed their new sans serif in the geometric style. The resulting typeface did not entirely please the team at Lettergieterjj; however, it eventually became one of the most popular typefaces for the Amsterdam foundry.
The typeface was re-envisioned in 1993 by the Dutch Type Library under the guidance of designers Andrea Fuchs and Fred Smeijers. At the same time, Tobias Frere-Jones – who famously referred to Nobel as “Futura cooked in dirty pots & pans”– began his own repurposing of the classic typeface for Font Bureau. At this point, the typeface included 6 styles. This work was later further developed by Cyrus Highsmith and Dyana Weissman with the addition of lighter weights and an expansion to a family of 18 styles.
The Nobel design offers unexpected segues from the usual geometric design of the classification, such as its unexpected double-stack "a". It has been described as more organic than its reserved geometric counterparts. This departure from the sterility of other geometric sans serifs is attributed by some to the influence of the Arts & Crafts School on de Roos. This subtle, albeit definitive, improvisation by de Roos was one of the key factors that endeared Frere-Jones to the typeface.
Typedia: Verlag: The Latest Pre War Modernist Sans
1. Jan Middendorp, Dutch type (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004), 45
After falling out of favor at the end of the 60’s, the Nobel design experienced a renaissance with its reissue by DTL and Font Bureau. Geometric sans serif typefaces like the Nobel design embody an iconic “modern” ethos associated with the mid-20th century, and are excellent for logo work or headlines meant to reflect that era. The Nobel design is often recommended for book cover and corporate use, and occasionally web use.