This headline is set in Aeroplan by TypeTogether. Get it on Fontstand for only €4.50/month.

This typeface is a contemporary serif family that subtly references a lesser-known chapter in typographic history. But those who select it will surely do so because of the peculiar connecting strokes in Aeroplan’s italics – as in the “a” and “n” above. Those are nice, but Aeroplan’s got even more to offer.
This headline is set in Aeroplan by TypeTogether. Get it on Fontstand for only €4.50/month.

Aeroplan’s letters are sturdy in their construction, and there is a good deal of variation between the lowercase letters’ widths. The vertical serifs on the capital letters are scalloped, which feels like a nice echo of Johann Michael Fleischmann’s 18th-century serif types. You can see what I mean by looking at the “G” and “E” in the first two lines of the specimen below.

The family discussed here is Nina Faulhaber’s first release. She began designing Aeroplan as a student in the design department at Augsburg, Germany, where Maurice Göldner is a type-design professor. Typographically speaking, Augsburg has been in the design press a few times lately, most recently because of typography professor Michael Wörgötter’s facsimile edition of a West-German specimen-card collection. At the moment, Nina is studying on the typemedia master’s degree course at KABK in The Hague.

TypeTogether published Nina’s typeface because she entered it into that foundry’s Gerard Unger Scholarship competition, and she won. Several more of TypeTogether’s scholarship-winning typefaces are on Fontstand, too, including Bely, NoortLektorat, and Rezak.

Gutachten und Urteile die Schriften Romanisch von Schelter & Giesecke, Mediäval-Antiqua von Riegerl, Weissenborn & Co. und Lateinisch von H. Berthold betreffend hervorgegangen aus den Musterschutz-Prozessen der Firma Schelter & Giesecke

Elzevir letters are too tall. The Dutch type was presently to take its turn as the prevailing fashion. Previous to that, however, we must notice that the Parisian fashion had been adopted in England with conspicuous success by

on parvient facilement à se convaincre que les mêmes caractères ont été employés pour les unes et pour les autres. Ces caractères sont de la dimension connue en typographie sous la désignation de petit-texte

suo nipote. In tal anno pare morisse o si ritirasse Luigi, il cui emblema era: Concordia res parvae crescunt, e lasciò quattro figli, due dei quali Arnoldo e Joost, o Giusto, non seguirono la professione paterna

Aeroplan is a sturdy typeface for composing texts meant for immersive reading or at least bits of display typography with a lot of copy. The italic fonts really should make their way into pretty large-sized use. It isn’t that they won’t hold up in small sizes but rather that it would be a shame not to put the long connecting strokes to prominent use. As a family, Aeroplan is concentrated, with just eight fonts. In addition to the italic, regular, semibold italic, and semibold styles shown above, it also includes medium and bold weights.

For decades, typeface reviving has been a popular exercise for students in type design classes. Aeroplan’s design is influenced by letterforms Nina found in a small manual printed in 1916, Motorschule für Flieger, an early book on aviation mechanics. She began creating a series of fonts under the working title of Flieger, a German term for an airplane. In an interview with TypeTogether, Nina mentioned that her design was “similar to the body types distributed at that time by many foundries as ‘Mediäval Antiqua.’”

Nina also mentions that she was not “able to determine the exact origin of the typeface. However, the publishing house, Waldheim-Eberle A.G. Wien-Leipzig, had its own foundry that produced type for in-house use only.” She reasonably concludes “that the typeface [could have been] produced there [but that it] was never advertised outside the publishing house, and has since been forgotten.”

In late 19th and early 20th century German typography, Mediäval-Antiqua was not quite a specific term. Instead, typefoundries applied it to a broad range of designs. Strictly translated, it means medieval roman. But a better English translation is old-style serif. The term was initially applied to German castings of mid-19th-century British old-style revivals. One 1926 source suggests that letterforms similar to Aeroplan’s bolder weights originated in Italy during the 1870s, although I suspect those chunkier types reflected American trends instead.

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I found a copy of Motorschule für Flieger in the library of the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin. I hope that it’s the same edition Nina Faulhaber was inspired by when designing Aeroplan. In any event, the above page is a good illustration of a German-language technical manual from the beginning of the 20th century. The photograph gives a good idea of what the original surroundings of Mediäval-Antiqua-style types would have been. Photo: Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Bibliothek.

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This page from Motorschule für Flieger provides a good overview of the text’s typography. Most of the text is set in a regular-weight Mediäval-Antiqua. Subheads are in a bolder weight. There’s smaller-sized text in a footer. In the above photo, the abbreviations ZH and HL are set in italics but German-language typography was still using wide tracking as a means of emphasis when this book was printed. There is a line in the lower half where the word Anlaßmagnetapparat is really tracked out with a ton of space between each letter. That wasn’t a mistake. Indeed, it was common practice. Today, we’d probably use italics, bold, small caps, underlining, etc. instead.

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Above you can see three sizes J. G. Schelter & Giesecke’s Medieval-Antiqua typeface, probably published in 1901. This is almost certainly a different design than the still-anonymous type Nina Faulhaber was inspired by. However, it belongs in the same category and is a good illustration of how her genre originally looked. Note the lowercase “g-forms, with diagonally-sloping lower bowls. From Schelter & Giesecke’s 1912 Hauptprobe, Bd. 1. There, it is called Anker-Mediäval 21. The “Anker” in the name is not an attribution to the artist Hanns Anker – who collaborated with H. Berthold AG instead – but rather to an anchor, which the foundry used in its logo around the time of this catalog’s printing.

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The above settings, on the specimen page following the previous image, mix the Mediäval-Antiqua with a matching bold weight. You can see how those bold fonts were initially intended to be used, at least when we’re talking about text sizes. They were secondary typefaces for emphasis, like italics. Photo: Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum, Hist. Archiv, Nachlass Günter Gerhard Lange.

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One of Schelter & Giesecke’s Frankfurt-based competitors was D. Stempel AG, and you can see its take on the same Mediäval-Antiqua genre above. When it was published in 1910, Stempel marketed this design as the Mediaeval-Schriften I. Garnitur. Later, it renamed the typeface Setzmaschinen-Mediäval, or typesetting-machine old style. In Germany, Stempel was responsible for manufacturing all the typefaces for Linotype machines, and as this was a typeface for setting lots of text, with time customer-base for the typeface must have switched to mechanical typesetting almost exclusively. Like these Mediäval-Antiqua designs from Schelter & Giesecke and Stempel, Aeroplan is a text typeface for book design or text-heavy editorial work. From Stempel’s ca. 1925 Hauptprobe. Photo: Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg.

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Above, you can see the bold design that Stempel made for the Mediäval-Antiqua model in 16 to 96-point (Didot) sizes. They’re from the Halbfette Mediäval I page of the foundry’s ca. 1925 Hauptprobe. Emil Wetzig’s Handbuch der Schriftarten, published by the Alfred Seemann Verlag in 1926, indicates that this bolder style was an Italian original from 1875 – although I view that attribution somewhat skeptically. Note the low-contrast nature of the letterforms. The bolder styles of Nina Faulhaber’s Aeroplan aren’t a revival of these particular fonts, but this specimen is nevertheless a pretty good illustration of the genre she reinterpreted. Photo: Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg.

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I would have really liked to put a specimen here that contained letters with less contrast than what you can see above. The Halbfette Mediaeval-Cursiv from H. Berthold AG and Bauer & Co. has way more stroke contrast than Aeroplan. But look at those in-stroke and out-strokes! This is pretty close to what Nina Faulhaber achieved in Aeroplan, although the strokes in Aeroplan’s italic fonts connect better and in a more graphic way than what we see here. Likely it is a bit easier to make that effect work in digital type than with blocks of metal. From H. Berthold AG and Bauer & Co.’s 1911 Hauptprobe. Photo: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

At the beginning of the year, I asked fellow Fontstand News author Indra Kupferschmid which typefaces from 2023 she’d found particularly noteworthy and should be reviewed. I think that “Aeroplan” came back as a single-word text message. Indeed, Aeroplan is a good typeface, especially it is especially remarkable as a type designer’s first release. Its quality speaks both to the underlying skills of its designer, her teachers, and the coaching and mentoring that TypeTogether provided.

Being a good first release, though, isn’t usually one of the grounds designers consider while they are selecting a typeface. So, let me provide additional reasons, relevant for practical work. Aeroplan is a robust serif design for text composition. Obviously, all typefaces are intended for use in texts of some kind, but with “text-setting,” I mean longer text passages, as in book design or editorial design (I gotta be honest with you, dear readers, I absolutely hate the term “editorial design.” As shorthand for all the kinds of online and print publications it covers, I think it is pretty lacking). You could use Aeroplan for all the text on a website that needs several kinds of fonts – bigger, cooler-looking fonts for headlines, smaller and bolder fonts for subheadlines, and fonts for reading-text sizes. Aeroplan could just as easily find a home in a magazine, an exhibition catalog, an annual report, or literally any conceivable advertising and marketing pamphlet.

Most designers make their final font selections based on some kind of “vibe.” Aeroplan references a less common text-typeface style from the early 20th century. Like, maybe this should be the pick for museum labels in an exhibition about early-twentieth-century painting. Or a book typeface for short stories written around that time. Maybe you’ve already picked an art-nouveau style headline for a project – because plenty of designers have been doing that for years now, and Aeroplan could be a good candidate to pair that (you’re probably not going to set whole paragraphs of text in Eckmannpsych…). Or maybe you don’t care about history at all – but you just love the long connecting strokes on Aeroplan’s italics. You wouldn’t be wrong. We could all think of worse reasons to select a typeface, too. If you’ve read this far and you’re considering Aeroplan for a project, I hope you find a completely unexpected place and way to use it. Surprises like that wouldn’t just please me. I’m sure that they would surely delight everyone who had a hand in the typeface’s design process, too.

The fonts mentioned in this article are available to rent by the month for a fraction of their retail price on Fontstand.