BC Merkur

The Merkur name points to a now legendary Czech metal mechani­cal kit for small builders, manufactured since the twenties. The kit was conceived as a reply to similar products of foreign manufacture (Meccano, Erector, Trix), but soon surpassed its original intended use as a child toy and became a universal tool used everywhere where a simple construction mechanism needed to be created. The Czech scientist and inventor Otto Wichterle used a Merkur kit in 1961 to construct the first prototype of a machine used to make contact lenses, and thus sealed its immortality.


Marek drew the Merkur typeface in 1995 as a term project at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, on the theme of signage systems. He first created photograms of a mechan­ics play kit, then transferred these into Font Studio (1.4 MB capacity, Mac LCII). The pictograms were presented on Chromolux paper with perforated holes and white plastic sheets sprayed green; the edges had holes drilled in them and the symbols were copied by a laser printer. Everything was put together using real nuts and bolts. The first font in the Merkur System was Merkur Futur. Marek wanted to “bolt on” more styles to the Merkur theme, so in 1996 he designed Merkur Azbuk (Cyrillic) and Merkur Memphis, the latter being a paraphrase of the Memphis typeface. At the same time as the first Merkur font, Merkur Text was designed, which lacks the perforated holes in the letters, leav­ing the font with a clean appearance. The Merkur typeface became something of a hit in 1995 and made its appearance not only in magazines, but also on many posters, music records and at exhibitions. One of the most charac­teristic posters was created for the cyberpunk magazine Živel. It was originally a black and white advertisement, announcing a new cyber­punk magazine in the last issue of VOKNO (30) (a self-published magazine that was the main peri­odical of the cultural underground in the Czech Republic, published since 1979). The text, which was copied from the Internet, was a freely available manual for making a DIY atomic bomb.


Merkur brings to life the poetics of cranes, caterpillar tractors, trains, towers and bridges. It draws inspiration from circular shapes derived from geometrically constructed typefaces and “constructs” letterforms out of basic childern’s toy building blocks: perforated bars, wheels, caterpillar tracks, steer­ing wheels, metal nuts and bolts, hooks, keys and other indispen­sable material. The typical perforation of characters creates an original and timeless ornament, which enlivens the otherwise traditional Latin typeface with a play­ful experiment and results in an unmistakable style.


Similar to the original mechanics play kit, the Merkur font is also a kit in its own right. The type family has three styles which tie in identically to one another and can be combined among themselves. Styles Two and Three originate from the basic perforated one, and can be used individually or combined with the others.
In contrast to the majority of single-use fonts, Merkur offers a wide character set with exten­sive diacritics, ligatures, mathemat­ical symbols, arrows and practical construction kit ornaments.

 

BC Merkur 1

 

Merkur brings to life the poetics of cranes, caterpillar tractors, trains, towers and bridges. It draws inspiration from circular shapes derived from geometrically constructed typefaces and “constructs” letterforms out of basic childern’s toy building blocks: perforated bars, wheels, caterpillar tracks, steer­ing wheels, metal nuts and bolts, hooks, keys and other indispen­sable material.

 

BC Merkur 2

 

The original Merkur kit with accompanying leaflets, instructions and construc­tion examples. Manufactured in Police nad Metují, Czechoslovakia.

 

BC Merkur 3

 

The first font in the Merkur System was Merkur Futur. Marek wanted to “bolt on” more styles to the Merkur theme, so in 1996 he designed Merkur Azbuk (Cyrillic) and Merkur Memphis, the latter being a paraphrase of the Memphis typeface. 

 

BC Merkur 4

 

Merkur System, design for an signage system; term project at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague by Marek Pistora; 1995.

 

BC Merkur 5

 

DIY Atomic bomb – a poster for Živel magazine. This was originally an advert for the back cover of Živel; eventually, it was released as a limited edition poster printed with reflective and silver paint. Designed by Marek Pistora. Silkscreen; 1995.

 

BC Merkur 6

 

At the same time as the first Merkur font, Merkur Text was designed, which lacks the perforated holes in the letters, leav­ing the font with a clean appearance. The pictogram of the boy has a close relation with the toy kit so it was necessary to have a boy in glyph set.

 

BC Merkur 7

 

Marek made two posters called Home 1 and Home 2 with the real Merkur toy kit. Objects: 700x1000mm, cardboard, frames and loudspeakers; 1995.

 

BC Merkur 8

 

All-encompassing inspiration research made by Marek Pistora during his work on Merkur typeface; 1994.

 

Design: Marek Pistora
Number of fonts in a family: 3 (One, Two, Three)
Number of glyphs per font: 461
Release date: 2014

 

OpenType Features:
Slashed Zero (zero)
Ligatures (liga)
Case Sensitive Forms (case)
Localized Forms (locl)