February 26, 2010  |  Design
From the Archives 02: A Brief Homage to Franklin Gothic

The MoMA Department of Graphic Design's metal set of Franklin Gothic

The Franklin Gothic typeface is the primary influence for nearly all MoMA materials; it’s the basis of our logo (see the top of your screen) and our official font “MoMA Gothic,” which were both created by Matthew Carter. We were happy to see that MoMA used a version of Franklin Gothic as long ago as the 1930s. We found these printed materials in our archives while doing some research on our current identity.

We understand not all people are totally crazy typographic aficionados like us, but more often these days, casual observers are able to recognize subtle differences in typefaces that were once thought to be the domain of only the obsessed. Can you spot Franklin Gothic on the walls of MoMA, in our subway advertisements, or anywhere else? Look for the “two story” lowercase “g” with a unique “ear” to be certain!

An exhibition announcement for Corot-Daumier, The Museum of Modern Art, 1930

An exhibition announcement for Paintings and Lithographs: Toulouse Lautrec & Odilon Redon, The Museum of Modern Art, 1931

A MoMA wall label from the 1930s

The typeface in use at MoMA today


TOO COOL! I especially love the last image. Love the little colors of those brochures. The wall is a typographical piece of art!

Interesting! When did Matthew Carter design this typeface? (I know he also designed the type used in the Boston Globe…) His link doesn’t say…

Morris Fuller Benton actually designed Franklin Gothic, I think they are referring to the logo and MoMA Gothic typeface being designed by Carter, not Franklin Gothic.

What are the differences between Benton’s Franklin Gothic, and Carter’s MoMA Gothic? From the sample you provided here, I couldn’t find any discernible distinctions between the two except for the slightly extended face width of MoMA Gothic.

Interesting information. Thank you for sharing!

I don’t get it. Why did MOMA pay to have a standard classic like Franklin Gothic ripped off? To pay Matthew Carter? To avoid paying Monotype? Isn’t there enough typefaces in the world? It’s hubris.

“Isn’t there enough typefaces in the world?”

When I was a design student years ago someone asked this same question. The professor’s response: “Why do people still write new songs? Aren’t there enough old songs already?”

Companies often commission slightly tweaked proprietary versions of existing fonts to avoid the problems that arise when different vendors use different versions of a font, esp. one with as many different variations as Franklin Gothic. No doubt they paid Carter a lot more than the cost of buying Monotype’s (or anyone else’s) FG.

Your blog is fairly slow to load in Safari.

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