1970s Font Styles

by Karen S. Garvin
Geometric letters and exuberant serif shapes represented the disco decade in type.

Geometric letters and exuberant serif shapes represented the disco decade in type.

The 1970s was the era of disco. The font styles of that decade reflected the playfulness and exuberance of the times, sporting enormous swashes or other bizarre appendages. Many of the display fonts designed for use on posters or album covers were thick rounded letters or unusual shapes. But the 1970s also saw the debut of many geometric fonts that were often used in advertising and magazines because of their readability.

Avant Garde

In 1970, designers Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase designed the font Avant Garde Gothic. Based on geometric shapes, Avant Garde's designers were heavily influenced by the German Bauhaus minimalist styles of the 1920s. Avant Garde was designed to be used for headlines and originally included alternate letters and ligatures. A condensed version of the font was created in 1974 by Ed Benguit and in 1977 André Gürtler, Erich Gschwind and Christian Mengel created oblique forms of the font. Avant Garde has a tall x-height, which makes it seem larger than other fonts the same size, and is clean and easy to read.


The Bookman font originally dates back to the 1860s, when it was designed by Alexander Phemister. After languishing, it became popular again in the 1970s, primarily because it had a wide range of expressive swash characters that suited the mood of the 1970s. However, a complete font family did not exist for it, which limited its use to headlines or decorative letters. In 1975, Ed Benguit redesigned the font. He redrew the letters, raising the x-height to make the font more readable. And he created four weights for the family, including true italics, which allowed Bookman to be used for text as well as headlines. Benguit also designed alternate letterforms and swashes for Bookman to add to its artistic flair.

Lubalin Graph

Lubalin Graph was named for its designer, Herb Lubalin, who followed up his success with Avant Garde by creating this serif font. Lubalin Graph is a slab serif typeface that has chunky square serifs. Like Avant Garde, Lubalin Graph is a geometric typeface and was originally designed to be a headline font. The strokes of the letters are all the same weight, which gives the font an overall open appearance while the serifs suggest stability. Lubalinn Graph is a highly readable font. In 1992, the Lubalin Graph typeface family was extended by Helga Jörgenson and Sigrid Engelmann, who created condensed weights of the font. They also added small caps and old-style figures, which are numerals that sit partially below the baseline.

Groovy Fonts

Many of the psychedelic fonts of the late 1960s, such as Keep on Truckin' and Bellbottom, continued to hold over into the early 1970s. These fonts featured large, heavy serifs, often irregularly shaped. In 1976, Candice was designed in 1976 by Alan Meeks. Candice was a heavy display font that featured large swashes on its capital letters but had a sensible set of lowercase letters. As the decade progressed, display font styles moved away from heavy serifs and towards geometric shapes, much as the text fonts did. Umbra, a three-dimensional geometric sans serif typeface designed in 1935 by R. Hunter Middleton, became popular again in the 1970s. Disco fonts abounded: some looked like chrome letters while others looked like multiple parallel lines that made up the letter shapes. Many disco fonts looked three-dimensional.

About the Author

Karen S. Garvin has been a professional writer since 1988, when "Dragon" magazine published her first article. Her recent work includes encyclopedia entries on historical subjects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and is pursuing a master's degree in European history. Her interests include photography, science, history and Steampunk.

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