Strongly geometric, the ITC Kabel® typeface family is a bold sans serif design that acquired a loyal following in the early part of the 20th century and has attracted new popularity in the digital age. Characterized by monotone strokes and open counters, it’s most commonly used for decorative and display purposes.
ITC Kabel History
Named to honor the then-new trans-Atlantic cable, ITC Kabel® was designed by German typographer Rudolph Koch for the Klingspor foundry, which released it in 1927. At the time, many of the major type foundries in Europe were developing new sans serif typefaces, and the challenge faced by each was the development of the new typeface without duplicating either their own earlier work or the new work of competing foundries.
Koch’s work in developing Kabel was influenced by the work of his contemporary Jakob Erbar, but an examination of Kabel reveals many other influences as well, in particular Koch’s own background in calligraphy. While the bowls are nearly perfectly geometric, Koch’s personality comes through in the fanciful lower-case g, the angular stroke-ends and the splayed W, all of which combine to make the typeface decidedly less formal and staid than its contemporaries such as Futura®.
ITC’s 1975 revival of Kabel, designed by Victor Caruso, made several changes to Koch’s original design, the most significant of which increased the x-heights across-the-board. The overall effect of these changes was to make the typeface more legible, a feature demanded by many different media interests, especially advertising.
ITC Kabel Usage
ITC Kabel is very popular for signage and identity uses. It’s one of the predominant fonts used by the board game Monopoly®, and the Toronto Maple Leafs™ hockey team uses Kabel to spell out its name on the red maple leaf logo. The popular American grocery store chain Piggly Wiggly® employs Kabel for its font and some display uses.
Kabel is particularly effective in onscreen titling, as was the case in Yellow Submarine, the iconic Beatles animated movie of 1968. Art directors often adapt ITC Kabel, customizing it for their particular needs. The logo for L’eggs™, the popular pantyhose brand, is a slightly modified Kabel; it quickly became one of the most successful logos in modern marketing, highlighting the double entendre of a product for legs packaged in a plastic egg.