Among the countless typefaces available today, the Modern Face style is relatively underrepresented. During the 19th century and then later with the competition from the mechanized hot metal types and film setting, a number of attractive headline types appeared in this style. For text, however, the available types were limited to those based on tried and true classics like Walbaum, Didot and Bodoni, which were created between 1780 and 1830, as well as a few variations from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The demand for new Modern text types remained nonexistant until the 1960s.
Such was the situation when the Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei (Haas Type Foundry) commissioned me to come up with a concept and sketches of a new hot metal type. I was able to convince the director of the foundry that there was a niche to be filled with contemporary Modern typography. Another reason for the production of a new type was of a technical nature: the introduction of a new setting technique should not be limited to existing typefaces, but instead should lead to innovative text types suited to the demands of the new applications.
André Gürtler, Basilia's designer: I began to work on the concept and initial designs of the new text type in 1968. I wanted to give the type a classical look, expressed above all in the strong stroke contrast between the robust verticals and fine horizontal strokes and serifs. This is one of the main characteristics of Modern typography."
"This new typeface, Basilia, is distinguished by its soft, open appearance as well as a number of details which together mark a departure from historical models. For example, it has nothing of Bodoni's round letters and their angular, narrow spacing, and displays instead round forms with a much softer stroke in the curves. It was very important to me to avoid the Modern characteristic of stiff, vertical, grid-like strokes and to create instead a lighter, more transparent type. I retained the Modern style by using straight horizontal serifs at right angles to the strokes to still give the type its sense of rigidity."
Three sketches for Basilia (normal, italic, and bold) were finished in 1973. Only the 9-point size was produced at first. In the following years, basic weights were made and adapted to filmsetting."