Axel Bertram’s Rabenau™ typeface family masterfully blends design sensibilities, combining formal beauty and grace with a touch of calligraphic joie de vivre. Bertram, a professional type designer for more than three decades, began designing Rabenau almost 20 years ago. This labor of love is his first commercially available typeface.
Initially, Bertram intended simply to create a typeface for his own use in book design and related projects. Over several years, as he used the typeface, Bertram continued to refine character shapes and proportions, subtly adjusting individual letters. He reconsidered the structure of every detail, from counters and stroke terminals to serifs, in the interest of making the design appealing for a wide range of applications.
“Many of my past projects play into the design,” observes Bertram, “from lettering for book covers to proprietary alphabets I’ve drawn for clients, and designs I’ve developed for educational settings. I’ve also looked to the work of early 19th century British printer and type designer, William Bulmer, for guidance.”
Well into the project, Bertram began working closely with calligrapher and type designer Andreas Frohloff, a collaboration that ultimately expanded Rabenau into a family of 16 designs – completing the transformation from a labor of love, to personal statement, to commercial product.
About the Designer
Bertram was born in Dresden in 1936, and studied at the Berlin Weissensee Academy of Fine and Applied Arts. In1960, he co-founded of the “Group4” art workshop, of which he remained a member until 1972. Bertram has worked as freelance graphic artist for publishers and cultural publicity media for over 45 years. He has also developed alphabets for magazines, television, branding – and even typewriters. However, none of these designs has been available commercially, as all of them are custom typefaces drawn for specific projects or corporate clients. In the mid 1990s, in addition to his on-going freelance projects, Bertram began work on a personal venture, which has culminated in the Rabenau typeface family.
Rabenau is a melding of influences, defying simple classification. The face is very much its own design. At first glance, its marked contrast in stroke weights and vertical stress suggests a heritage in neoclassical designs such as the Bodoni or Didot typefaces. Closer inspection, however, reveals baroque traits such as gently curved serif bracketing, rounded flag terminals and subtle tapering of upright strokes. The open form of the lowercase g loop even gives a nod to the transitional designs of John Baskerville. Bertram and Frohloff have given Rabenau a broad repertoire of weights and styles. The regular, book, semibold and bold weights each have italic complements. Four condensed designs, in addition to three very bold “poster” weights and a “shadow,” give the family remarkable versatility. Pronounced stroke contrast is maintained throughout the heavier weights, providing a distinctive sparkle, even at large sizes. Rabenau’s large x-height, bracketed serifs and ample proportions also ensure exceptional performance at small sizes.
The compete Rabenau family is available as a suite of OpenType® Pro fonts. These fonts, in addition to providing for the automatic insertion of ligatures, small caps and old style figures, also offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.