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By Linotype

Rudolf Koch
The first cuts of Kabel appeared in 1927, released by the German foundry Gebr. Klingspor. Like many of the typefaces that Rudolf Koch designed for printing use, Kabel is a carefully constructed and drawn. The basic forms were influenced by the Ancient Roman stone-carved letters, which consisted of just a few pure and clear geometric forms, such as circles, squares, and triangles. Koch also infused Kabel with some elements of Art Deco, making it appear quite different from other geometric modernist typefaces from the 1920s, like Futura.

Linotype has two versions of Kabel in its library. Kabel has a shorter x-height, with longer ascenders and descenders, making it a bit truer to Koch's original design than the second version, ITC Kabel, which was designed by Victor Caruso. This version, also known in the United States as Cable, has a larger x-height, shorter ascenders and descenders, more weights ,and a diamond shaped i-dot.

Typefaces in the same oeuvre include Avenir Next, ITC Avant Garde Gothic, Metrolite, Metromedium, Metroblack, and Erbar, just to name just a few."

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.

Linotype: Font Magazine - The Constructivists
Typophile: Kabel
Kabel Font History

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.

Geometric Sans
Sans Serif