Heinz König (1856–1937) was born in Lüneburg, Northern Germany. The son of a letterpress printer and lithographer, he started a three-year apprenticeship as a typesetter in his father’s printing shop at 16, followed by two decades of employment at various printing companies. In 1881 Hamburg’s Gensch & Heyse foundry commissioned his first type designs – two series of decorative initials. Four years later the company produced his first text face, a blackletter type called Münchener Renaissance-Fraktur. König returned to his hometown in 1887 to take over his father’s printing house, and resumed his career as a type designer only a decade later. König became one of the first specialized type designers in Germany, providing drawings to half a dozen foundries, including Genzsch & Heyse, Klinkhardt, Klingspor, and German Linotype.
Among his most spectacular type designs are his last ones, drawn in the 1920s for J.D.Trennert & Sons in Hamburg: Alarm and Wiking. Both are robust, extra-bold advertising faces in a style that had become popular across Germany. Alarm (1928) was clearly designed as a competitor to successful heavy faces such as Louis Oppenheim’s Fanfare
(Berthold, 1927) and Rudolf Koch’s Neuland
(1923). Wiking (1925) was a surprisingly playful blackletter variation on similar ideas, preceding both Fanfare and Alarm.
Alarm was first digitized in 2017 in a collaboration between Berlin’s Fust & Friends and type designer Andreas Seidel.