Introducing Wolpe Fanfare, an energetic and futuristic typeface from The Wolpe Collection, by Toshi Omagari

With its energetic letterforms, which embody movement even while static, and its condensed appearance, Wolpe’s Fanfare typeface was a natural fit for the publishing industry. Designers could squeeze long names onto books, without compromising on appearance, and its distinctive, somehow defiant shapes lent sharp character to covers.  

Fanfare was designed in the late 1930s, while Wolpe was working for Fanfare Press, and would later find a home on Faber & Faber’s book covers. It proclaimed the title of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel collection of poems, set in a purposefully zig-zag formation, and on Thom Gunn’s Fighting Terms, which featured a stark type-only cover, and a salmon-pink background that emphasised Fanfare’s decisive character.

Contemporary designer Daniel Benneworth-Gray has reprised the Ariel cover, setting Fanfare in a purposefully contrasting mix of weights and sizes that emphasise its versatility and its striking appearance. 

Not just books, Fanfare appeared extensively on travel posters by the British Overseas Airways Corporation – including one created by Abram Games in 1949 – as both a logotype and headline font.

Although now in its seventh decade, much of which was spent in the archive, the typeface offers a curious blend of the vintage and also somehow the sci-fi – something type designer Toshi Omagari, who has added several new weights including a hairline, also comments on.

“It feels quite new, and doesn’t necessarily look like it was made in the 30s or 40s, but it somehow feels retro as well.”

Original drawings of the typeface show some of the deliberation Wolpe must have gone through while designing, with early uppercase Rs including a tail that never made it into the final version. In some cases Omagari has restored some of Wolpe’s intentions, including adding an alternate K and Y drawn by the designer.

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