Understanding Modernism through a Font

Consider the font for the city of Edmonton:

The curved “E,” the bulky, serifed font: like an old Barbara Streisand or Neil Diamond LP from a garage sale, something about it smells musty, but not quite retro. When the font was develop in the early 1970s by Herb Lubalin and Antonio DiSpigna it probably seemed ultra modern and cool. The font is called ITC Serif Gothic, and it was used on many products during the 1970s. Now, however, it seems to call attention to Edmonton’s many failed attempts to catapult the city to the newest and most modern developments in design: mega malls, urban freeways.


About the Banner


In 1962, the City of Edmonton commissioned a study to examine the current problems of the city and make recommendations about its future growth. This banner is from the final part of the study “Urban Renewal.” Reflected in the illustration are representations of Alberta’s rural heritage as well as its future as a centre for urban growth.


Notes on a Method

“The cities will be part of the country; I shall live 30 miles from my office in one direction, under a pine tree; my secretary will live 30 miles away from it too, in the other direction, under another pine tree. We shall both have our own car. We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline. All of which will necessitate a great deal of work … enough for all.”
—Le Corbusier, The Radiant City