Wood Type


Wood Type - Kaufmann | International Printing Museumby Jim Thompson, IPM Board of Trustees

The wood-type for February is called Kaufmann, named after Max R. Kaufmann who designed the typeface for the ATF (American Type Foundry). It was released in 1936 as a metal typeface in standard and bold versions. Kaufmann is a script typeface with lower case letters that fit closely to form a cursive style that has an informal look and is very readable. The even weight of the stroke made Kaufmann a popular choice for script neon signs, in addition to its many print uses. Within two years of its release Kaufmann was included in the Hamilton Wood Type catalog for 1938 and was soon featured by other wood type manufactures. Our sample “American” is a 10 line type from the Acme Wood Type Co. of New York.

The Kaufmann typeface has enjoyed much use in advertising and the entertainment world. In the 1970s the bold version was used for the players’ names on Topps baseball cards (see below). Today it is used in the Logo for the Late Show with David Letterman (also below). However it is more widely seen by the large number of people who watch American Idol where it is featured in the shows logo (see below) which is almost always on screen. It does resemble a neon sign and they did modify the A to include the swish stroke heading for the dot of the “i”. Although American viewers think of this show as there own, it is really a spin off of the British TV show Pop Idol. But the American version is not the only spin off. Today there are about 42 Idol shows scattered across the world including Australian Idol, Asian Idol, Macedonian Idol (see below), and Ethiopian Idol to name a few. So the Idol shows are pervasive, and they are also very pervasive in the use of Kaufmann Bold as the typeface for those many of the 42 logos that use the English alphabet.