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DIN ... info needed urgently

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Soren Olsen's picture
Joined: 6 Dec 2001 - 1:40am
DIN ... info needed urgently

Hi all —

By Tuesday 20th August I have to know what there’s to know about the German DIN fonts, i.e. Mittelschrift, Engschrift, Neuzeit Grotesk … (I guess that sums them up?).

At least I should give the _impression_ of knowing everything.  :-)

Any pointers to information? Considering the short notice, I prefer information on the web. But book titles you know of will be greatly appreciated as well.

Soren O

Jacques Le Bailly's picture
Joined: 21 Dec 2001 - 2:09pm

At least I can tell you what DIN stands for: Deutsche Industrie Norm.

The DIN-institute is an organ organ which defines norms. e.g. DIN-A4(!). Not only for printing, but for all kinds of industry.


Soren Olsen's picture
Joined: 6 Dec 2001 - 1:40am

Well, that much I knew … and Fontshop’s website offers a little info as well. For instance, the ‘designer’ credited is ‘Linotype staff’. Is this another way of saying “We don’t know the designer”?

Of of the things I would like to know is what year the fonts was created.

Soren O

Stephen Coles's picture
Joined: 14 May 2001 - 11:00am
Jonathan Hise Kaldma's picture
Joined: 5 Apr 2002 - 10:38am

My experience with the typeface ‘on the road’ is that the ‘t’ is almost indistinguishable from the ‘l’ when looking from a distance and/or travelling at a high speed

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am

Soren, you need to talk to Albert-Jan Pool (pool@farbton.de) — he’s the DIN-meister.


Soren Olsen's picture
Joined: 6 Dec 2001 - 1:40am

Hrant et al —

Thanks for your help! I will contact Albert-Jan Pool (as well as the D.I.N. Institute in Berlin).

Soren O

Soren Olsen's picture
Joined: 6 Dec 2001 - 1:40am

Albert-Jan Pool gave me the following answer. (For your information, my employer is presently writing a book called ‘Wayshowing’ on the subject of signage, signage typography etc. This was the reason for my questions in the first place).

thanks for your interest in the DIN subject. 1995 Erik Spiekermann asked me
if I would be interested in doing a redesign of DIN Mittelschrift, and have
it released by FontShop. We thought it a good idea to create a family of at
least 3 or fou weights. I came up with five, the medium resembles FF DIN
Mittelschrift in weight. The regular is suited for longer reading text. DIN
Mittelschrift is far too heavy for text. I started designwork by creating
the light and the black version, and took care that the medium, which was to
be generated by interpolation would be close to the original DIN
Mittelschrift. Most of this, and a lot more interesting stuff can be found
in the broschure »FontFontFocus FF DIN« available through FontShop.
You can also find some details on their website.

Unfortunately I do not know who ever designed the original DIN. I made
several attempts, without any result.

DIN was originally designed for signage. Most likely in the early thirties.
Most countries tried to establish industry-standards by that time. The
Germans were pretty much ahead by that time, probably because the fascists
were already thinking of streamlining everything for mass-production of
anything needed for the war that was planned. The idea was that most sign
makers would construct the characters by ruler and compass, and scale the
measurements from a grid. This was thought to be easy. Unfortunately this
theory ignores that most signmakers are quite good at drawing by hand. This
is one of the ideas behind FF DIN. It combines strict rules with
craftmanship and provides letterforms which are a bit more fluent than DIN.
FF DIN also has a bit more contrast in stroke weight, the horizontal strokes
are thinner than the vertical ones. Therefore it is a bit more readable than
DIN Mittelschrift.

When you write a book about signage it would be interesting to contact
Gerard Unger. He knows a lot about it because he designed a typeface for the
Dutch traffic signs.
Also interesting:
URW has digitized a fair number of traffic types. They did the previous
dutch version (a derivate of the american one), also the spanish, the
danish, the french, and I believe also the english and the austrian ones.
They also digitized the original version of the american “highway gothic”,
which is not Interstate. Interstate is a redesign. Some of them maybe not
available as postscript fonts because the character sets do not have
accents, currency symbols an so on. They were sold to Signus customers, a
former signage software package with an Ikarus-based proprietary fint
format. Signus used to be very popular because of its extreme accuracy.
Unfortunately the Windows version never really made it. But maybe they would
like to convert the missing ones when you mention them as a source in the

Joe Pemberton's picture
Joined: 8 Apr 2002 - 3:36pm

The short answer: it was designed for the German
roadway. (DIN stands for the German Industrial Standard.)

The medium answer: the different weights were not
designed at once, as a family (think the original
Helvetica vs. the original Univers). They’re a loosely
related bundle of faces. Frankly, this becomes obvious
as you try to use them together.

The solution: use the FontFont version. The weights are
all reworked (by Albert-Jan Pool) to maintain the spirit
of DIN (compare the Mittelschrift to the FF DIN family)
while creating a unified family. http://www.fontfont.com/shop/

If you want the full history just hope Erik Spiekermann
reads your plea. =)