FF Tundra takes a starring role in the newly redesigned ‘stern’

May 2nd, 2013

Newsstands in Germany have looked a little different since March 14, 2013 – the day the redesigned stern magazine premiered. A weekly news magazine, stern is one of the major journalistic publications serving the German-language market. Whenever a well-established brand changes its appearance, typography and typeface selection are two of the many factors to be considered. In this case, stern decided to use FF Tundra as its main text face. While this is just a small element of the magazine’s new guise, it plays the most essential part of its reading experience.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

The typography of the redesigned stern appears quite objective. A number of typefaces are used throughout its pages, but each font has a specific role to play. The magazine is printed on brilliant white paper, with most text being either black or red. Aside from FF Tundra, stern also uses Kris Sowersby’s Metric typeface. That family may be found in sub-headlines and image captions, for instance. A condensed sans serif with rounded corners, Soft Press by Patrick Griffin is used on the magazine’s cover and for the drop-caps at the start of articles. This has something of a woodtype poster feeling, but the letters’ rounded corners also tie into several currents common to contemporary digital design.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

The headlines for most of articles inside the magazine are set in Nimbus Roman by URW++. Like Metric, Nimbus helps root stern’s typography in a German graphic design tradition. It calls to mind the paperback covers designed by Willy Fleckhaus for the Suhrkamp publishing house in the 1970s.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

FF Tundra itself is a rather new creation. Designed for FontFont by Berlin-based Ludwig Übele in 2011, FF Tundra was intended for magazine-setting right from the drawing board. The principal tenant of its design is its stress on horizontal movement. FF Tundra’s letterforms are rather narrow, but their long, flat serifs seem to stretch them out somewhat. The curved elements of some letters have been simplified and flattened. This increases the size of the letters’ counterforms, which is a common method to improve legibility, as well as strengthening the horizontal-ness of the typeface. A pleasant effect of FF Tundra’s reinforcement of the horizontals is that its letters appear to push the reader’s eye forward across lines of text. 

Since FF Tundra is stern’s new text face, it appears throughout the magazine in just a single point size. The features of its family are however employed in full. FF Tundra’s Italic is used in articles when necessary, as is the Bold weight and the fonts’ oldstyle figures.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

As is common for European magazines of its kind, stern is printed on gravure presses, instead of with an offset lithography technique. Gravure printing really allows colour photographs to look their best, giving them more depth than offset presses typically would. stern uses a thin coated paper stock, like that seen in many gravure-printed magazines. While the combination of gravure printing and this stock are great for images, they can really kill text; offset printing allows text to be printed much more clearly and sharply. Designers specifying typefaces for gravure printing must be extra careful, and it is here where the decision to apply FF Tundra to the redesign really pays off. Despite all of the little dots that appear around each letter – a typical hallmark of gravure printing – the images of FF Tundra’s letters remain clean and readable.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

This redesign of stern was coordinated by the magazine’s editorial team and supported by the art director, Johannes Erler (a FontFont-designer in his own right), as well as by Luke Hayman from Pentagram’s New York office. Ludwig Übele also revised the new logotype for stern. We’d like to congratulate the stern design team on the successful stern redesign, and for selecting FF Tundra in the process.

Learn more about the redesign process on Pentagram’s website.