Rudolf Koch (20 November 1876 – 9 April 1934) was a German type designer. He was also a master of lettering, calligraphy, typography and illustration. Commonly known for his typefaces created for the Klingspor Type Foundry, his most widely used typefaces include Neuland and Kabel.
Koch spent his teenage years working in Hanau as an apprentice in a metal goods workshop, whilst also attending art school, where he learned to draw, and soon after went to the Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg. Between 1897 and 1906 he worked for various businesses in the book trade in Leipzig, illustrating and designing book covers in the Art Nouveau style that was popular at the time. In 1906 Koch began working for the Rudhard Type foundry in Offenbach, later known as the Klingspor Type foundry. Other notable designers who worked for the foundry include Otto Eckmann and Peter Behrens. Koch was deeply spiritual and a devout Lutheran, spending much of his time working on religious publications and manuscripts, of which he completed nearly a hundred in his lifetime. Koch viewed the alphabet as humanity’s ultimate achievement. He died prematurely of a heart attack in 1934, aged 59.
Career and influences
Koch greatly admired William Morris. Speaking at a meeting in London, he expressed his disbelief that Morris was not of German descent: “I feel such a closeness to him that I always have the feeling that he cannot be an Englishman, he must be a German.”
The teachings of Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement are evident in Koch’s use of hand-lettering and wood-cutting techniques. At the same time, his book illustrations are evocative of Art Nouveau. Koch prized craftsmanship in his type design and printing methods, a principle deeply rooted in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Yet Koch was working in a period of rapid development in print technology, which saw the invention of the Linotype machine in 1886, the Monotype System in 1887, and the offset press in 1907, all of which were antithetical to his artisanal ethos.