Kabel is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by German typeface designer Rudolf Koch, and released by the Klingspor foundry in 1927. Today the typeface is licensed by the Elsner+Flake GbR foundry.
The face was not named after any specific cable, although the Zugspitze cable car had been completed in 1926, and a Berlin-Vienna facsimile telegraphy line opened in 1927. The name had techy cachet in its day (Piet Zwart's NKF kabel catalogue of 1927 is well-known) and is primarily metaphorical and allusive, a pun referring to both the monolinear construction of the face, and the role of type as a means of communication.
Like its contemporary Futura it bears influence of two earlier geometric sans-serif typefaces; the 1919 Feder Schrift, drawn by Jakob Erbar, and more so his 1922 design called Erbar. Still, Kabel is as much Expressionist as it is Modernist, and may be considered as a sans serif version of his 1922 Koch Antiqua, sharing many of its character shapes and proportions, most notably its peculiar 'g'. Stroke weights are more varied than most geometric sans-serifs, and the terminus of vertical strokes are cut to a near eight-degree angle. This has the effect of not quite sitting on the baseline and making for a more animated, less static feeling than Futura. Uppercase characters are broad and show influence of monumental roman capitals. The capital W is splayed and the G has no terminal. Lowercase characters a, e, and g show a link with Carolingian script.
Kabel is used extensively for title and logo work. It is employed by the NBC network in its logof, possibly its most prominent and iconic application. NBC also used a heavy weight Kabel in the onscreen graphics of its sports coverage in the late 80s. It has also been used by the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, L’eggs pantyhose, MTV, and in the titling of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.
The general reception of Kabel upon its release was positive, although its contemporary, the Futura font family, stole a lot of its thunder. Harry Carter, famed typographer and writer, called it “almost as good as Johnston’s sans”, referencing the Johnston Sans™ font family, a popular sans serif of 1916 used most famously for the London Underground.
Not all public reaction was positive. Many modernists wanted formal geometry at the core of a design, whereas Kabel seemed created by “eye” rather than mathematical principle. Jan Tschichold, author of the modernist classic, Die Neue Typographie, found it too “designed” to be a perfect typeface.