Designed by Otl Aicher, one of the most prominent graphic designers to emerge out of Germany in the 20th century, the Rotis® Semi Sans Font family is part of the Rotis Font super family.
Having already established a world-renowned reputation in graphic design and, more specifically, corporate branding, Aicher joined the German kitchen company, Bulthaup, as a consultant in 1980. He established a studio in Leutkirch im Allgäu in the south of Germany, naming it Rotis. There, he worked in association with Bulthaup over the next several years on a variety of projects and on freelance projects such as the development of the typeface he would eventually name after the studio.
The Rotis Semi Sans font family was part of Aicher’s effort to create “bridge” font families that drew distinct connections between serif and sans serif type families. Aicher did not understand what he viewed as a “traditionalist” line drawn in the sand between serif and sans serifs. He set out to find a practical way to blend the two in the Rotis designs. The Rotis Semi Sans design functioned as a stepping stone between sans and semi serif — it has no serifs, but a marked variation in stroke width compared to the Rotis Sans font family.
The Rotis Semi Sans design is distinct for its heavy contrast between thin and thick strokes. Individual character features that standout in the design are: the horizontal tail of the uppercase Q, the tall x-height of the bowls in the lower case b and d, the contrasting stunted bowl of the lowercase a, and the unusually short tail of the lowercase y. The uppercase and lowercase C’s are also distinct for their top-heavy, leaning structure.Aicher passed away just three years after Rotis Semi Sans was released in 1991. In the years since, Monotype Imaging has acquired the rights to the entire Rotis superfamily and reissued it under the Monotype Originals label. Bulthaup has maintained Aicher’s studio as a working facility.
The Rotis Semi Sans design is used with the entire Rotis Superfamily by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, as well as by ERCO, an electronic fixture manufacturer based in Germany. Its most prominent public application is its use by the city of Montreal in Quebec, where they use the Rotis Semi Sans design for its logo, media materials and all of its public signage.