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Tempo (typeface)

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Tempo Medium Italic in a specimen sheet.

Tempo is a 1930 sans-serif typeface designed by R. Hunter Middleton for the Ludlow Typograph company.[1] Tempo is a geometric sans-serif design, closely copying German typefaces in this style, above all Futura, which had attracted considerable attention in the United States. Unlike Futura, however, it has a "dynamic" true italic, with foot serifs suggesting handwriting and optional swash capitals.[2]

Tempo was expanded to a sprawling family released over the 1930s and 40s, that (as of 2020) has not been fully digitised.[3] It included the shadow-form display typeface Umbra, which has often been released separately.[4] Some styles had a double-storey 'a' in the usual print form, similar to Erbar, others the single-storey form in the manner of Futura, and numerous alternative characters were available.[5] Digital-period type designer James Puckett describes it as "bonkers; really four typefaces that just got lumped together for the sake of marketing."[6][7][8][9] Middleton also designed a slab-serif typeface in similar style, Karnak, around the same time, again copying a German trend of Futura-style "geometric" slab-serifs.[10]

Tempo's italic, with its 'feet' at the bottom of the letters, was an influence on that of the popular 2002 geometric sans-serif family Neutraface, designed by Christian Schwartz.[11][12][13][14]


  1. ^ Allan Haley (15 September 1992). Typographic Milestones. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 117–120. ISBN 978-0-471-28894-7.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Christian. "Back with a flourish #5. Christian Schwartz on swaggering swashes". Eye. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  3. ^ Korwin, Josh. "The Ludlow: Typographic Influence, 1931–1962". Three Steps Ahead. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  4. ^ Devroye, Luc. "R. Hunter Middleton". Type Design Information. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  5. ^ Hutt, Allen. Newspaper Design. pp. 117–120. With Tempo Heavy roman it is necessary to specify the alternative 'squared' characters for A, M, N, W; with these caps. in their normal pointed form the type has the look of one that has strayed from advertising display into news.
  6. ^ Puckett, James. "Currently working on an accurate revival of R. Hunter Middleton's typeface Tempo". Dribbble. Dunwich Type Founders. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  7. ^ Puckett, James. "Tempo Heavy Italic". Daily Type Specimen. Dunwich Type Founders. Retrieved 29 January 2019. Tempo has a fun mix of Futura's teutonic sternness and R. Hunter Middleton's love of lively quirks. Middleton worked in a backward leaning f, a curvaceous style for v, w, and g, and big open apertures for e and s that resemble American advertising letters of the era.
  8. ^ Puckett, James. "Tempo Alternate". Daily Type Specimen. Dunwich Type Founders. Retrieved 29 January 2019. Tempo Alternate was designed to look more like Futura than the original release of Tempo. They failed pretty miserably; only a blind man could confuse this for Futura Bold.
  9. ^ Puckett, James. "Stellar Bold". Daily Type Specimen. Dunwich Type Founders. Retrieved 29 January 2019. Stellar and Tempo, released in 1929 and 1930, respectively...both have the Erbar a
  10. ^ Neil Macmillan (2006). An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press. p. 135. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  11. ^ Schwartz, Christian. "Neutraface". www.christianschwartz.com. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  12. ^ Berry, John D. (2006). Dot-font: Talking About Fonts (1st ed.). New York: Mark Batty Publisher. pp. 117–121. ISBN 0-9772827-0-8.
  13. ^ "The Neutra Legacy". House Industries. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  14. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Neutraface: Functional Novelty". Typographica (archived). Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

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