Karlgeorg Hoefer

Portrait: Karlgeorg Hoefer
Karlgeorg Hoefer
Otmar Hoefer

Karlgeorg Hoefer

From the universal quill to a calligraphy workshop for everyone

As a young boy in Hirschberg, Silesia, my father was fascinated by the local stationary shops with their affiliated printing plants. He saved his first pocket money to buy his own fountain pen and to have personal business cards printed. His father was furious about this. But it shows just how early he developed this fascination for writing and printing.

Otmar Hoefer on his father Karlgeorg Hoefer

After an apprenticeship as a typesetter in Hamburg, Karlgeorg Hoefer completed his training as a graphic designer at Offenbach’s Hochschule für Gestaltung academy where he went on to teach as a professor of typography. He was assigned that post in 1946 in Offenbach’s municipal Meisterschule for design-based craft. In 1950 he developed the Brause 505, a universal fountain pen nib which served as the basis for his many type creations. His first design, the Salto font, released in 1952, was followed, over the course of four decades, by successful variants such as Prima (1957), Zebra (1963) and Omnia (1990). In 1972, Hoefer developed a simplified Latin handwriting script for use in primary school readers called the Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift (basic letter form) which he used in the creation of his book Unsere neue Fibel (Our First Primer).

In the wake of the terrorist threat posed by the Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction or RAF), the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) gave Hoefer the task of designing a font for motor vehicle licence plates that would be next to impossible to forge. He produced a typeface that served that very purpose, although it was only put into use in 1994 after a long series of alterations. In his older years Hoefer, with the support of his wife Maria, concentrated his efforts on bringing the concept of typographical design to the masses, organising international workshops and starting the Klingspor writing workshop in Offenbach which is aimed at the general public.