Günter Gerhard Lange Passes Away at Age 87

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News | Yves Peters | December 4, 2008

Tuesday morning, December 2nd, 2008, Günter Gerhard Lange passed away in Munich, aged 87. Lange was one of the important type designers and typographers of the 20th century. He is sadly often overlooked in English speaking countries*. In Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin’s words

[the type world] lost an upright, steadfast fighter for quality in type design. Not only Berthold’s artistic director, but a friend and objective adviser to many who needed personal help or an evaluation in type design.

(*) This is why I had to link to the German Wikipedia; there simply is no link on the English Wikipedia.

Günter Gerhard Lange was born in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany on April 12, 1921. Barely 18 years old and just out of school he was drafted into the armed forces at the beginning of the Second World War, and was wounded shortly thereafter in France. In 1941 he enrolled at the Akademie für Graphik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. His tutors included Georg Belwe for calligraphy and type design, typesetting and printing; and Hans Theo Richter for drawing, painting, etching and lithography. He graduated with honours and worked in Leipzig from 1945 on as a painter and a commercial artist, and took the position of assistant to professor Walter Tiemann – one the most important book and type designers of his generation in Germany – at the Leipzig institute.

After this period Günter Gerhard Lange moved to Berlin in 1949 and enrolled at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, studying freelance art with Professor Paul Strecker and drawing with Professor Hans Ullman. Early in 1950 he started working for H. Berthold Schriftgießerei at the Mehringdamm in Kreuzberg, initially as a freelancer. G.G. Lange would serve the Berthold brand for more than half a century. By 1961 he was appointed Artistic Director of Berthold AG; as such G.G. Lange has been responsible for the company’s entire typeface development programme since then. During that period he designed nearly one hundred original typefaces, which often display a calligraphic quality. He also supervised the production of many more typefaces by other well known designers; his criticism was always appreciated, because it came from a man with a very positive disposition. Furthermore G.G. Lange revived several classic faces, and transferred the lead heritage of Berthold’s classic typefaces, first to photocomposition and then to digital format. This was done in a sound and authentic manner, according to the highest aesthetic standards.

In 1989 Günter Gerhard Lange received the Frederic W. Goudy Award by the American Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) for his achievements in the printing industry. And in 2000 he was presented the TDC Medal by the New York Type Directors Club for his significant contributions to the life, art, and craft of typography. He spoke at several TYPO conferences and meetings of the AGD, the Alliance of German Designers. His legendary inaugural address (in German) at TYPO ’96 – Idea vs. Ideology was released in abridged version on vinyl, and can be viewed in full length – 68 glorious minutes of GGL – on the TYPO videoblog.

G.G. Lange was a remarkable university teacher and rare communicator, because he was true to his convictions and values. He was an example to many, a beacon of light. In analogy to American preacher Billy Graham’s “God’s machine gun” Manfred Klein dubbed him “Das Maschinengewehr Gutenbergs” (Gutenberg’s machine gun) in this article published in a special annual edition of the Typographische Gesellschaft München e.V. (Typographic Society Munich) at the occasion of Lange’s 60th anniversary.

But – according to Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin – perhaps most important of all

Günter Gerhard Lange relentlessly encouraged the younger generations, teaching and counselling until almost the end. By doing so he opened doors, eyes and hearts to art, architecture, literature and typography. He transmitted the value of education and love for the minute details that are indispensable for the whole to function. We lost a passionate type lover and expert – an authentic man. An era has irreversible come to an end.

Günter Gerhard Lange’s designs include:

  • Arena New® BQ (1951–54)
  • Solemnis™ (1953)
  • Boulevard® BQ (1955)
  • Champion® BQ (1957)
  • El Greco® BQ (1964)
  • Concorde® BQ (1969)
  • Berthold Garamond® BQ (1972)
  • Concorde Nova® BQ (1975)
  • Berthold Walbaum® Book BQ (1975)
  • Berthold Walbaum Standard™ BQ (1975)
  • Franklin Antiqua® BQ (1976)
  • Whittingham™ BQ (1976, with Dieter Hofrichter)
  • Berthold Calson 471® BQ (1977)
  • Berthold Script® BQ (1977)
  • Imago® BQ (1982)
  • Berthold Bodoni Old Face® BQ (1983)

Header image © Marc Eckardt
Source material for this entry includes Jürgen’s post on Fontblog and Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin’s message on the ATypI members mailing list.

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  1. GGL was a giant. I can think of several designers of his generation who seem to get so much more credit for their achievements. This is a pity. He may have run circles around all of them. Without GGL, I wonder if there would have been any quality type during the phototype-era.

    Posted by Dan Reynolds on Dec. 5, 2008
  2. No memoir of Lange is complete without the anecdote from the ATypI West Berlin in 1983. At the ITC lunch, an annual and lavish event attended by all the type development directors from all the foundries, Aaron Burns and Lorna Shanks were showing slides of the new ITC gallery before presenting the designs for the next year. Lange, always focused and demanding no matter how good the lunch or the wine, became impatient with the promotion and exclaimed, “Too much on ze valls!” GGL just wanted the type, please.

    Posted by Roger Black on Dec. 5, 2008
  3. Rest in peace GGL :) Look at us and smile :)

    Posted by ivalki on Dec. 9, 2008
  4. When I was working as a type director, it was a great joy to get a copy of the 1985 “Berthold Types”. The work of GGL and the other contributors to that 2 volume set represents a level of expertise and discernment that even today we must work very hard to equal.

    Posted by Peter Bain on Dec. 9, 2008
  5. Herr Lange shall be sadly missed and an inspriation for many.
    Bis Spade Mein Herr.
    Veilien Danke für Ihr Genie.

    Posted by P Burston on Feb. 5, 2009
  6. I’ll miss Mr Lange, and will always consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with him awhile at a 1985 graphic arts trade show that my friend and phenomenal typographer Bob Bair of the top quality Estelle Bair Typography in Philly had made me aware of. (Berthold was exhibiting its typesetting equipment, trying to get and keep a toehold in North America, which despite even an association with the great Alphatype, became a losing battle.) As described, Mr Lange was crisp in his critiques — blunt and demanding — which I admired. And as Peter mentioned above, the Berthold Types, Synopsis, and Probe booklets and Berthold’s specimens like the incredible 1980 E2, permeated with Mr Lange’s intoxicating design influence (and equally stunning art direction, production and printing). While there were many phototype lettering houses and many, many regional trade typographers whose abysmal settings dragged down the overall perception that phototype could ever be a reasonable successor to metal, there was plenty of truly high quality type design and production during the phototype era (most notably by The Headliners, Photo-Lettering, Inc. and Berthold), and Mr Lange kept all of us alert to making sure our work is always the very best it can be. He and his work are a great inspiration for the ages.

    Posted by Joe Treacy on Apr. 4, 2009

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