Hans Reichel 1949–2011

November 29th, 2011

Hans Reichel
Photo: Marc Eckardt

The Wuppertal musician, instrument builder, graphic designer and type designer Hans Reichel suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in his studio last Tuesday. Designers and typographers know him as the creator of the popular Barmeno and the world-renowned FF Dax family. Other type designs by Reichel are FF Daxline, FF Sari, FF Schmalhans, and FF Routes.

Hans Reichel appeared on the type scene with his first design Barmeno, an idiosyncratic sans serif released in 1983 by Berthold. He would revisit this concept of a rounded spurless design in 1999 with FF Sari. Expanding on his original ideas he devised a more versatile and complete interpretation, with a wider range of weights and a comprehensive character set.

Although Barmeno and FF Sari enjoyed seizable success, Hans Reichel’s real breakthrough as a type designer came with the typographic powerhouse FF Dax. Slightly more angular and systematic than its predecessor, this immensely popular type family has become arguably one of the most used advertising faces worldwide since its release fifteen years ago. The FF Dax family was gradually augmented with compact, condensed and wide versions, and italics for all variants.

Also FF Dax was subsequently revisited. Seeing Akira Kobayashi’s lecture about Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir Next at TYPO Berlin 2004 inspired Hans Reichel to start working on FF Daxline. The improved proportions and decreased stress make it better suited for text use. Personally Reichel thought FF Daxline to be the better typeface – it is clearer, airier and more versatile. Reichel toyed with the idea of creating a condensed version, but wasn’t sure if he’d still be able to swing it at his “retirement age”. Sadly, now we will never know.

Through the music he created, through the instruments he built, and through the typefaces he designed Hans Reichel shone as a fiercely original voice. With the disappearance of this multitalented maverick artist the type and music world is left a little poorer, a little less wondrous.