The Kabel® font family is a geometric sans serif, designed in 1927 by Rudolf Koch for the Klingspor foundry. It was christened Kabel as a testament to the newly built trans-Atlantic cable. Kabel stands out from many of its geometric contemporaries thanks in large part to its humanistic and distinct characteristics.
Koch began the design of the geometric sans serif that would become Kabel in the mid-1920s, during his tenure as the in-house designer at Klingspor. The era of German Modernism was in full blast, driven by the success and prominence of the Bauhaus School.
Koch took some personal digressions from the prevalent mindset of his artistic contemporaries in his design of Kabel. It bears Carolingian features in its e’s, a’s, and g’s and diverges from strict modernist “circle and straight line” geometric form with its sheared terminals cut at an 8 degree angle and chamfered horizontals. It also has a cross-over “W”, a characteristic seen in very few typefaces. It is often seen as a more “lively” version of its contemporary, the Futura® font family.
Having ascertained that Kabel’s eccentricities would stymie its commercial ambitions, Klingspor eventually issued a Neue Kabel® font family with an uncrossed 7 and a w without a cross-over. The DStempel AG foundry eventually took over the rights to all designs created by the Klingspor foundry and reissued Kabel, although the 1975 revival by Vincent Caruso is generally considered a complete digression and unrelated to the source material.
Kabel is used extensively for title and logo work. It is employed by the NBC network in its logo, possibly its most prominent and iconic application. NBC also used a heavy weight Kabel in the onscreen graphics of its sports coverage in the late 80s. It has also been used by the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, L’eggs pantyhose, MTV, and in the titling of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.Media coverage (100)
The general reception of Kabel upon its release was positive, although its contemporary, the Futura font family, stole a lot of its thunder. Harry Carter, famed typographer and writer, called it “almost as good as Johnston’s sans”, referencing the Johnston Sans™ font family, a popular sans serif of 1916 used most famously for the London Underground.
Not all public reaction was positive. Many modernists wanted formal geometry at the core of a design, whereas Kabel seemed created by “eye” rather than mathematical principle. Jan Tschichold, author of the modernist classic, Die Neue Typographie, found it too “designed” to be a perfect typeface.