Fonts like Futura are more than just shapes for words and letters. Conceived as a revolutionary visual experiment, Futura encapsulates modernism in miniature. Unlike its visual contemporaries, Futura never went out of style: it gained momentum with each new generation, from the Apollo missions to Nike, high art, Hollywood, and elections past and present. Today, Futura is not simply an artifact of a single time or place; it reveals a secret history of modern public life.

Wystrzegaj si Futury (Polish edition)

Cover image. © Princeton Architecutral Press 2017. Designed by Douglas Thomas.

Never Use Futura is a delight to read“

—Paul shaw, eye magazine


a look at the handsomely designed pages

promises worthwhile reading.


“Never before has font design moved

so prominently into the psyche of the

common person. This book both reflects
and accelerates that trend. Summing Up: Essential. All readers.”



Thomas’s wonderful book charts [Futura’s]

history in an inviting, digestible way”


“...not just a book for font lovers. Above all it is an intriguing journey through the history and customs of the last 100 years.”



Must read.

—steven heller, print

“Futura’s ubiquity makes Never Use Futura an essential handbook on the way the modern world looks and how we read its words.”

chris ingalls,


Never Use Futura is neither a dense textbook nor an opinionated ramble on art history. It tells a smart, incisive story about the way one typeface became woven into our cultural sentiments”

—maya lim, design observer

Early proofs of Futura by Bauer Type Foundry, designed by Paul Renner, 1924–27. Some of the extreme experiments in geometric purity like the lowercase a, g, and m would yield to more conventional forms before wide commercial release.

Futura tells a history of modern public life hidden in plain sight. Long outliving its creator Paul Renner, Futura has weathered a worldwide economic depression, international trade embargoes, political boycotts, and partisan propaganda, plus decades of knockoffs and competitors. One of the most iconic designs of the twentieth century, Futura has sold millions of people their hopes and dreams, not to mention shoes and cars; true to its earliest advertising, nearly a century old, Futura is “The Type of Today and Tomorrow.”


Never Use Futura is the first English-language book to chronicle the cultural history witnessed (and recorded) by the typeface Futura, from its avant-garde beginnings to its midcentury consumer triumph to its present-day nostalgic, critical, and forward-looking uses. Designer and historian Douglas Thomas unpacks Futura’s symbolic and practical influences on design, commercialism, politics, and contemporary social life. Presenting artifacts from the Apollo 11 Mission, haute couture branding, and even gas station pumps, Thomas explains (and contradicts) his titular advice with wide-ranging commentary on the meanings, constraints, and deceptions of using a typeface.


Douglas Thomas is a graphic designer, writer, and historian. He is an assistant professor of graphic design at Brigham Young University. His design work has been featured in Communication Arts, Print, and Graphis. He holds an MFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he also taught graphic design, and an MA in history from the University of Chicago.


Ellen Lupton is a writer, graphic designer and the director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art and of the Center for Design Thinking. She has published a number of books on graphic design with Princeton Architectural Press, including Thinking With Type.

No digital Futuras are exactly alike. In red is Neufville Digital’s Futura (the legal successor to Bauer Type Foundry); the other outlines are a dozen contemporary Futuras, each in the same point size.



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