100 Years of Novarese: Stadio Now
2020 is not only the year of Covid. For typography lovers it also marks the 100th birth anniversary of Aldo Novarese, Italian master of type design. To celebrate it, Zetafonts is going to release the digital revival of Stadio, a forgotten reverse contrast masterpiece designed by Novarese in 1974 and published only as rub-on transfer. Our revival, Stadio Now, is a full family with nineteen variants that explore all the possibilities of the original design space. It is available for pre-release on Zetafonts website, with exclusive perks for supporters.
Who is Aldo Novarese?
Also Novarese is considered Italy’s most prolific type designer, driven by an exuberant passion for the re-invention of traditional letterforms in a restless exploration of typographic possibilities. When he was only 17 years old, he joined the Turin based Nebiolo type foundry, directed at that time by Alessandro Butti. In the many years to follow, he would become director and would design dozens of typefaces, including his masterpiece Eurostile.
Aldo Novarese at his desk in Nebiolo in the fifties (source)
Still, he is not very well known outside Italy: for the international design community he’s probably in the same league of Motter or Excoffon – a rather obscure through passionate and prolific author of display typefaces. Of him, design historian Paul Shaw wrote: “Aldo Novarese is one of the often-overlooked maestros of 20th-century type design. His work veers from the sublime (Nova Augustea) to the goofy (Estro); from the ingenious (Stop) to the clumsy (Ritmo); and from the swoonily romantic (Fontanesi) to the severely utilitarian (Eurostile). Novarese is a designer one can simultaneously love and hate, but he cannot (and should not) be ignored”.
Novarese typefaces quoted by Paul Shaw
One of the most ignored parts of Novarese career is the one regarding his long collaboration with an italian rub-on transfer brand: Reber.
Rub-on happiness, the italian way
Developed by Letraset in 1961, dry transfer letters have been for almost three decades an essential tool to graphic designers, architects and illustrators. Applying pressure with a stylus on the rub-on transfer designs, one could quickly produce quality lettering on paper: something that made rub-on transfer letters a hit with hobbyists and stationery lovers. In Italy the most famous alternative to Letraset was the R41 line produced by Reber, who acquired directly from Novarese the rights of his most famous designs.
Two sheet of dry transfer lettering from R41 featuring Stadio typeface
R41 offered dry transfer versions of many Nebiolo classics by Novarese, including Eurostile, Estro, Stop and Forma; but produced also some of his less known and newest designs like Metropol, Center or Divulga. Many of these typefaces were never digitized or cast in lead and exist only in R41 catalogue.
The discovery of Stadio
Stadio is one of the most striking designs of Novarese for R41: an extra bold grotesque typeface that is notable for its reverse contrast, with the horizontal lines being thicker than the vertical. In traditional Latin-alphabet writing and especially printing, the vertical stems are usually the other way round. Therefore, the reverse contrast letterforms, historically called “Italian”, result in a dramatic effect, in which the letters look slightly odd.
In his never-ending quest for interesting letterforms, Novarese was intrigued by this style and created some successful and interesting variations on the idea, from the calligraphic slab Estro to the sci-fi Sintex.
In his book Il Segno Alfabetico Novarese described Stadio as a “decorative display typeface, in the so-called nineteenth century ‘Italian’ style, but sans serif. Horizontal proportions have been visibly enlarged, offering a very intriguing graphic effect”.
Stadio Now: the centenary revival
For Aldo Novarese’s 100th birth anniversary, Zetafonts is working on a revival of Stadio that will expand the original design into a 18-weights versatile family, with text and display variants and a variable version to fully explore its reverse contrast design space.
Animation showing the full design space of Stadio Now
The family, called Stadio Now, has been launched as a “work in progress”, taking inspiration from projects like Kickstarter and Future Fonts. Fans of Novarese and typeface lovers can pre-order Stadio Now on on Zetafonts website, through a pre-release support campaign that allows the choice between the pre-release edition, and a deluxe edition including a Stadio Now fan scarf and two original R41 transfer sheets.
On the occasion of Novarese centenary and of the digital revival of Stadio, Zetafonts is also launching a collaborative project with graphic designers from all over Italy: Coppa Stadio, the first Italian football poster design cup. We have invited a studio from each one of the twenty regions of Italy. All the participants will play with us and with Novarese’s letterforms to create a poster dedicated to a football team of their choice.
Logo of Coppa Stadio and a mockup of the Stadio Now scarf
We also partnered with Allfontsarebastards to produce a special Stadio Now fan scarf, that will be available to buyers of the deluxe pre-release edition on our website.